1979 – 5 protestors are killed in Greensboro, North Carolina

It is a sad feature of American history that two elements of it routinely succeed in drowning out the finer qualities and ideals for which that nation stands. These two elements are hubris and handguns.

The Greensboro Massacre is a case in point. The deaths of five civil rights marchers occurred in an 88 second long explosion of gunfire from counter-protestors – largely members of the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. But it’s never as simple as the good guys and the bad guys.

The two groups had clashed for months previous to the massacre, and both sides – imbued with the hubris that comes from knowing that when your cause is noble and true and just you don’t have to be – were to blame for the rising tensions. Furthermore, at least one witness claims that the first shots were fired by the civil rights marchers – and members of the KKK and the Nazis claimed at their trials that an undercover BATF agent had encouraged them to take their guns along to the rally.

Whoever is to blame – and it seems there’s plenty for all in this mess – the shootings were a senseless tragedy. Captured on film by news crews, their broadcast around the world showed that for all the civil rights advances of the Sixties, there was still a lot of work to be done before the goal was reached.

Referenced in:

88 Seconds… & Still Counting — Pop Will Eat Itself
88 Seconds (I Wanna Go To The Rodeo) — The Othermothers
88 Seconds in Greensboro — Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

1431 – Jeanne d’Arc burned at the stake

After a trial lasting from January 9 until May 24, Jeanne d’Arc was convicted of heresy by her somewhat less than unbiased prosecutors. Jeanne (the French original of her name, equivalent to the English Joan) had led the French to several victories over the English, claiming divine inspiration.

Her accusers and judges were, unfortunately for her, strongly influenced by English interests in the matter, and she was found guilty and forced to abjure. Finally, she was executed by being burnt at the stake in Rouen, France. After her death, the coals were raked back in order to expose her charred body – so that no one could claim she had escaped alive – and then her body was burned twice more to reduce it to ashes. Her remains, such as they were, were cast into the Seine to prevent any collection of relics.

Referenced in:

Joan of Arc – Leonard Cohen
Bigmouth Strikes Again – The Smiths
Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark