Daily Update: Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

07-02 - La Amistad

We have no Saints to honor today, at this half-way point of the civil year, but on this date in 1839, Sengbe Pieh (later known in the United States as Joseph Cinqué) led 56 fellow Africans (52 adults and 4 children) captives being transported aboard La Amistad from Havana to Guanaja in a revolt against their captors.

In the main hold below decks on La Amistad, the captives found a rusty file; the captives freed themselves, and they quickly ascended the stairs to deck. Armed with machete-like cane knives, they were successful in gaining control of the ship, and demanded to be returned home to what is now Sierra Leone. The ship’s navigator, Don Pedro Montez, deceived them about which direction their course was on and sailed the ship north along the North American coast to the eastern tip of Long Island, New York. The United States Revenue Cutter Service discovered the schooner and took it and its occupants into custody. They took the Africans to Connecticut to be sold as slaves. A widely publicized court case ensued in New Haven, Connecticut, about the ship and the legal status of the African captives, which became a cause célèbre among abolitionists in the United States. At the time, the transport of slaves from Africa to the Americas was illegal, so the ship owners had fraudulently described the Africans as having been born in Cuba. The court had to decide if the Africans were to be considered salvage and the property of Naval officers who had taken custody of the ship, whether they were the property of the Cuban buyers or of Spain as Queen Isabella II of Spain claimed, or if the circumstances of their capture and transportation meant they were free. On appeal, the Amistad case reached the US Supreme Court, which in 1841 ruled that the Africans had been illegally transported and held as slaves, and ordered them freed; the Amistad survivors returned to Africa in 1842. The ship was auctioned off by the U. S. Marshall, renamed Ion, and was sailed between New England and the islands of Bermuda and Saint Thomas for a few years. After Ion was sold in Guadeloupe in 1844, all records of the ship were lost, and she sailed into oblivion. I would also like to note that today is the half-way point of the civil year; there were 182 days before today since January 1, and there will be 182 more days before we reach December 31st. The precise midpoint of the year will occur at 12:00 pm, or at 1:00 pm in locations that observe some sort of daylight savings time (like my own location, here in SouthWestCentral Louisiana).

This morning I woke up at 8:30 am, and did my Bathroom Devotional Reading. Richard had gathered up the trash and wheeled the trash bin out to the curb. He then went out to get bacon biscuits for us and to deposit a check that Michelle had given us into our checking account. I did my Internet Devotional Reading, then read the Thursday papers, ate bacon biscuits, and put nail polish on my toenails. I then went to the computer, and worked on Advance Daily Update Drafts for this weblog. At 1:00 pm was the Half-Way Point of the year. Richard finished mowing the grass, and I ate a leftover lunch salad for lunch while continuing my reading of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley. I then did some more Advance Daily Update Drafts, and at 4:30 pm I watched Jeopardy! Michelle sent me the photos she had taken on her trip via text message, and I came to the computer to do today’s Daily Update. When I finish I will do some reading before going to bed. I will note that the top of my left foot is swollen, which makes it painful for me to try to walk fast (I have had this for the past week or two; Tuesday I was wondering if I should invest in a cane), and I have been having minor lower back spasms this afternoon.

Tomorrow is the First Friday of the month, dedicated to devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and tomorrow is the Feast of Saint Thomas, Apostle (died c. 72). And because Independence Day (July 4th) is on a Saturday, tomorrow will be the Federal Observance of Independence Day (no mail delivery or other Governmental services). I will put the flag out, and Richard and I will head to the Casino for the beginning of our work week. Tomorrow will be the first of two Heavy Business Volume Days at the casino in honor of Independence Day. On my breaks I will organize the photos Michelle sent me of the baby, and I will continue reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. On our way home from work we will stop at Wal-Mart so that I can get my salad supplies and some other items, and I will make my lunch salads for Friday and Sunday (and eat one of the salads) when we get home. In the afternoon I plan to call Nedra in Tennessee.

Our Parting Quote this Thursday afternoon comes to us from Dame Beryl Bainbridge, English novelist. Born in 1932 (she consistently gave her year of birth as 1934) in Liverpool, she was raised in nearby Formby. She enjoyed writing, and by the age of 10 she was keeping a diary. She had elocution lessons and, when she was 11, appeared on the Northern Children’s Hour radio show. Bainbridge was expelled from her girls’ school because she was caught with a “dirty rhyme” (as she later described it), written by someone else, in the pocket of her gym uniform. At the Cone-Ripman School (now the Tring Park School for the Performing Arts) she found she was good at history, English and art. The summer she left school she fell in love with a former German POW who was waiting to be repatriated. For the next six years, the couple corresponded and tried to get permission for the German man to return to Britain so that they could be married. But permission was denied and the relationship ended in 1953. The next year she married artist Austin Davies. The two divorced soon after, leaving Bainbridge a single mother of two children; she later had another child by another man. In 1958 she attempted suicide by putting her head in a gas oven. She had been doing some acting since 1953, and appeared in one 1961 episode of the soap opera Coronation Street playing an anti-nuclear protester. To help fill her time while raising her children, Bainbridge began to write, primarily using incidents from her childhood as her source material. Her first novel, Harriet Said…, was rejected by several publishers, one of whom found the central characters “repulsive almost beyond belief”. A Weekend with Claude (1967) and Another Part of the Wood (1968) were then published before Harriet Said… in 1972. For the rest of her life she continued writing novels; she became known as “The Booker Bridesmaid” because five of her novels were shortlisted for the Booker Prize, but never won. However, she did win the Whitbread Prize for Injury Time (1977). In the late 1970s she wrote a screenplay based on her 1975 novel Sweet William; the movie of the same name, starring Sam Waterston, was released in 1979. Her 1989 novel, An Awfully Big Adventure, was adapted into a film in 1995 starring Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant. From the 1990s Bainbridge also served as a theatre critic for the monthly magazine The Oldie. Her reviews rarely contained negative content, and were usually published after the play had closed. Her 1996 novel Every Man for Himself (about the 1912 Titanic disaster) again won the Whitbread Prize. In 2000 she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). In 2003 she was awarded the David Cohen Prize for Literature together with Thom Gunn. In 2008 The Times newspaper named Bainbridge among their list of “The 50 greatest British writers since 1945″, and in 2011 she was (posthumously) awarded a special honour by the Booker Prize committee (died 2010): “Everything else you grow out of, but you never recover from childhood.”

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