23
Feb
09

On This Day, February 23: Woody Guthrie

February 23, 1940

Guthrie writes “This Land is Your Land”

Folk singer Woody Guthrie writes one of his best-known songs, “This Land is Your Land.”

Born in Okemah, Oklahoma, in 1912, Guthrie lived and wrote of the real West, a place of hard-working people and harsh environments rather than romantic cowboys and explorers. Though he was a son of a successful politician and businessman, during his early teens his mother fell ill and the family split apart. For several years, Guthrie spent his summers working as a migrant agricultural laborer. When he was 15, he left home to travel the country by freight train. Among his meager possessions were a guitar and harmonica. Guthrie discovered an eager audience among the hobos and migrant workers for the country-folk songs he had learned in Oklahoma.

In 1937, he traveled to California where he hoped to become a successful western singer. He appeared on several West Coast radio shows, mostly performing traditional folk songs. Soon, though, he began to perform his own pieces based on his experiences living among the vast armies of the poor and dispossessed created by the Great Depression. While in California he also came into contact with the Communist Party and became increasingly sympathetic to its causes. Many of his songs reflected a strong commitment to the common working people, and he became something of a musical spokesman for populist sentiments.

“This Land is Your Land,” reflected not only Guthrie’s support for the common folk, but also his deep love for his country. The verse celebrated the beauty and grandeur of America while the chorus drove home the populist sentiment that the nation belonged to all the people, not merely the rich and powerful. Probably the most famous of his more than 1,000 songs, “This Land is Your Land” was also one of his last. Later that year Guthrie moved to New York where his career was soon after interrupted by World War II. After serving in the Merchant Marines, he returned to New York, where he continued to perform and record his old material, but he never matched his earlier prolific output.

Guthrie’s career was cut short in 1954, when he was struck with Huntington’s Disease, a degenerative illness of the nervous system that had killed his mother. His later years were spent in a New York hospital where he received visitors like the adoring young Bob Dylan, who copied much of his early style from Guthrie. Guthrie died in 1967, having lived long enough to see his music inspire a whole new generation and

“This Land is Your Land” become a rallying song for the Civil Rights movement.”Guthrie writes “This Land is Your Land”.” 2009. The History Channel website. 23 Feb 2009, 10:20 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4438.

Woody Guthrie

This Land is Your Land

On This Day

1574 – France began the 5th holy war against the Huguenots.

1792 – The Humane Society of Massachusetts was incorporated.

1836 – In San Antonio, TX, the siege of the Alamo began.

1847 – Santa Anna was defeated at the Battle of Buena Vista in Mexico by U.S. troops under Gen. Zachary.

1861 – U.S. President-elect Lincoln arrived secretly in Washington to take his office after an assassination attempt in Baltimore.

1861 – Texas became the 7th state to secede from the Union.

1870 – The state of Mississippi was readmitted to the Union.

1898 – In France, Emile Zola was imprisoned for his letter, “J’accuse,” which accused the government of anti-Semitism and wrongly jailing Alfred Dreyfus.

1904 – The U.S. acquired control of the Panama Canal Zone for $10 million.

1919 – The Fascist Party was formed in Italy by Benito Mussolini.

1945 – The 28th Regiment of the Fifth Marine Division of the U.S. Marines reached the top of Mount Surabachi. A photograph of these Marines raising the American flag was taken.

1958 – Juan Fangio, 5-time world diving champion, was kidnapped by Cuban rebels.

1963 – The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. It prohibited poll taxes in federal elections.

1991 – During the Persian Gulf War, ground forces crossed the border of Saudi Arabia into the country of Iraq. Less than four days later the war was over due to the surrender or withdraw of Iraqi forces.

1997 – It was announced by scientists in Scotland that they had succeeded in cloning an adult mammal. The animal was a lamb named “Dolly.” 

February 23, 1955

First council meeting of SEATO

In the first council meeting of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles declares the United States is committed to defending the region from communist aggression. The meeting, and American participation in SEATO, set the stage for the U.S. to take a more active role in Vietnam.

SEATO had been established in Manila in 1954, at a meeting called by Secretary Dulles. The United States, Great Britain, France, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Pakistan, and the Philippines became the member states of the regional defense organization. The U.S. established SEATO primarily in response to what it viewed as a deteriorating situation in Southeast Asia. Earlier in 1954, the French, who had been fighting to regain control of their former colony since 1946, agreed to withdraw from Vietnam. The country was divided, and the communist forces of Ho Chi Minh took control in North Vietnam pending nationwide elections for reunification in two years. U.S. policymakers believed that North Vietnam was the first “domino” to fall to communism in Southeast Asia, and that other nations in the region would also soon come under threat of communist control. Dulles pointed to communist China as the main threat to peace and security in the region. Communist China responded by claiming that SEATO was another part of “United States aggression against Asian nations.

“SEATO became more important to the United States as the situation in Vietnam eventually resulted in the commitment of U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam in 1965. Unfortunately for U.S. officials, only a few of the SEATO member countries actively supported the U.S. action. Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and the Philippines sent troops or other assistance, but Great Britain, France, and Pakistan refused to become involved. Eventually, France, Pakistan, and Australia withdrew from the organization. SEATO faded away as a component of U.S. policy in Asia during the 1970s. It formally ceased operations in 1976.

“First council meeting of SEATO.” 2009. The History Channel website. 23 Feb 2009, 10:15 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2586.

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