John’s Believe It Or Not… March 20th

Picture of John Fioravanti at the front of his classroom.

It’s Momentous Monday! Did you know…

* 1851 – Edward Serell’s Queenston-Lewiston suspension bridge formally opened this day. ( It was a 318m span supported by stone towers. The current arch bridge replaced the old suspension bridge called the Queenston-Lewiston Bridge which was located seven-tenths mile (1.1 km) north. Coincidentally, the suspension bridge was originally built near the location of the present-day Rainbow Bridge and was moved to Queenston in 1898 by R.S. Buck and engineer L.L. Buck, after the completion of the Rainbow Bridge’s predecessor, the Upper Steel Arch Bridge. The suspension bridge was dismantled in 1963. There are a couple of reminders of the earlier bridge. First are two columns that lie within the Earl W. Brydges Artpark State Park. Second is the original brass plaque, now located midspan alongside the road, right at the border between the two countries. The plaque is flanked by an American and a Canadian flag.)

Picture of the old suspension bridge taken in 1915.
The original suspension bridge spanning the Niagara River taken in 1915.

* 1965 LBJ sends federal troops to Alabama. (On this day in 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson notifies Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he will use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. Intimidation and discrimination had earlier prevented Selma’s black population–over half the city–from registering and voting. On Sunday, March 7, 1965, a group of 600 demonstrators marched on the capital city of Montgomery to protest this disenfranchisement and the earlier killing of a black man, Jimmie Lee Jackson, by a state trooper. In brutal scenes that were later broadcast on television, state and local police attacked the marchers with billy clubs and tear gas. TV viewers far and wide were outraged by the images, and a protest march was organised just two days after “Bloody Sunday” by Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). King turned the marchers around, however, rather than carry out the march without federal judicial approval. Furious, Johnson told Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to write a press release stating that because Wallace refused to use the 10,000 available guardsmen to preserve order in his state, Johnson himself was calling the guard up and giving them all necessary support. Several days later, 50,000 marchers followed King some 54 miles, under the watchful eyes of state and federal troops. Arriving safely in Montgomery on March 25, they watched King deliver his famous “How Long, Not Long” speech from the steps of the Capitol building. The clash between Johnson and Wallace–and Johnson’s decisive action–was an important turning point in the civil rights movement. Within five months, Congress had passed the Voting Rights Act, which Johnson proudly signed into law on August 6, 1965.)

Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivering his speech.
Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivering his speech.

* 1345 Black Death is created, allegedly. (According to scholars at the University of Paris, the Black Death is created on this day in 1345, from what they call “a triple conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in the 40th degree of Aquarius, occurring on the 20th of March 1345″. The Black Death, also known as the Plague, swept across Europe, the Middle East and Asia during the 14th century, leaving an estimated 25 million dead in its wake. By the time the worst was over in 1352, one-third of Europe’s population was dead. Devastation on this scale brought out the worst in people. Often, it was not the movement of stars that was blamed for the disease, but the minorities in the community. Witches and gipsies were frequent targets. Jewish people were tortured and burned to death by the thousands for supposedly causing the Black Death. Preachers claimed that the disease was God’s punishment for immorality. Many turned to prayer and those that did survive ascribed their good luck to their devotion, resulting in the rise of splinter religions and cults in the aftermath of the plague’s destruction. Alternatively, some resorted to useless home cures to try to avoid the disease, bathing in urine or menstrual blood in an attempt to deter it.)

Truck loaded with plague victims in Elliant drawn by a woman with tattered clothes.
Truck loaded with plague victims in Elliant drawn by a woman with tattered clothes.

* 1852 Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published. (Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is published. The novel sold 300,000 copies within three months and was so widely read that when President Abraham Lincoln met Stowe in 1862, he reportedly said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” While living in Cincinnati, Stowe encountered fugitive slaves and the Underground Railroad. Later, she wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in reaction to recently tightened fugitive slave laws. The book had a major influence on the way the American public viewed slavery. The book established Stowe’s reputation as a woman of letters. She travelled to England in 1853, where she was welcomed as a literary hero. Along with Ralph Waldo Emerson, she became one of the original contributors to The Atlantic, which launched in November 1857. In 1863, when Lincoln announced the end of slavery, she danced in the streets. Stowe continued to write throughout her life and died in 1896.)

Picture of Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin Historic Site.

* 1995 Tokyo subways are attacked with sarin gas. (Several packages of deadly sarin gas are set off in the Tokyo subway system killing twelve people and injuring over 5,000. Sarin gas was invented by the Nazis and is one of the most lethal nerve gases known to man. Tokyo police quickly learned who had planted the chemical weapons and began tracking the terrorists down. Thousands of checkpoints were set up across the nation in the massive dragnet. The gas attack was instituted by the Aum Shinrikyo (which means Supreme Truth) cult. The Supreme Truth had thousands of followers all over Japan who believed in their doomsday prophecies. Because it claimed the personal assets of new cult members, the Supreme Truth had well over a billion dollars stashed away. Shoko Asahara, a forty-year-old blind man, was the leader of the cult. Asahara had long hair and a long beard, wore bright robes, and often meditated while sitting on satin pillows. His books included claims that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ and that he had the ability to travel through time.)

Former Aum Shinri Kyo leader, Shoko Asahara, whose sect was responsible for a 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway, accompanied by top disciple.
Former Aum Shinri Kyo leader, Shoko Asahara, whose sect was responsible for a 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, accompanied by a top disciple.

Look who was born on this date!

Head shot of Carl Reiner.* Carl Reiner in 1922. (He is an American actor, director, producer, and writer of comedy whose career spans nearly seven decades. During the early years of television comedy, from 1950 to 1957, he co-wrote and acted on Caesar’s Hour and Your Show of Shows, starring comedian Sid Caesar. In the 1960s Reiner was best known as the creator, producer, writer, and actor on The Dick Van Dyke Show.[3][4] He also had great success as a film director and writer and partnered with Steve Martin in the 1970s when Reiner co-wrote and/or directed some of Martin’s most successful films, including 1979’s The Jerk. Reiner played a comedy duo in “2000 Year Old Man” with Mel Brooks, and acted in films such as The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966) and the Ocean’s Trilogy (2001-2007). Reiner has won twelve Emmy Awards[5] and one Grammy Award during his career. He is the father of actor and director Rob Reiner and author Annie Reiner.)

Head shot of Fred Rogers.* Fred Rogers in 1928. (American TV Host:  Most famous for creating and hosting “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (1968–2001), which featured his gentle, soft-spoken personality and directness to his audiences. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.)


Head Shot of Bobby Orr.* Bobby Orr in 1948. (Canadian Ice Hockey Legend: Played in the NHL for 10 seasons with the Boston Bruins. Widely acknowledged as one of the greatest hockey players of all time. As a defenceman, he used his ice skating speed and scoring and play-making abilities to revolutionise the position. Remains the only defenceman to have won the league scoring title with two Art Ross Trophies and holds the record for most points and assists in a single season by a defenceman. Won a record eight consecutive Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenceman and three consecutive Hart Trophies as the league’s most valuable player. His career was cut short because of serious knee injuries caused by constant hits by attacking players. After this, the NHL adopted a “hands off” policy to protect future superstars like Wayne Gretzky.)




Author: John Fioravanti

I'm a retired History teacher (35 years), husband, father of three, grandfather of three. My wife, Anne, and I became business partners in December, 2013, and launched our own publishing company, Fiora Books (, to publish my books. We have been married since 1973 and hope our joint business venture will be as successful as our marriage.

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