Irish Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th. The first, in 1601, was in St. Augustine, FL—then a Spanish colony. The town’s vicar was of Irish descent; the occasion was religious, but ubiquitous secular observance of the day–replete with parades and other festivities– didn’t come until more than 100 years later– in Boston and New York City, led by Irish soldiers serving in the British army.
The Irish immigrated to the U.S. to escape famine and oppression. Eventually, St. Patrick’s Day—along with its customs– were “absorbed” into America’s story, and it became an unofficial national holiday.
For more information about the role of Irish immigrants in America, the Grateful American Book Prize suggests Michael Coffey’s The Irish in America.
On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry’s voice boomed, “Give me liberty or give me death!” He delivered a rousing speech at the Second Virginia Convention, less than a month before the start of the American Revolution. Henry’s words ramped up the militia’s might, and Virginia’s venom; it was the largest American colony in favor of defying British rule. Henry’s plea resonated with his audience, all the other colonists—and–succeeding generations.
Henry’s story is an inspiration for young learners, says the Grateful American Book Prize, which recommends Thomas S. Kidd’s Patrick Henry: First Among Patriots.
Poliomyelitis has plagued mankind for centuries. It is a disease that attacks the nervous system and causes paralysis. In 1952 more than 58,000 new cases of polio were reported in the United States; of those, 3,000 died. Medical scientists were desperately seeking a vaccine. Finally, on March 26, 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk, head of the Virus Research Lab at the University of Pittsburgh, reported that he had devised a way to immunize the population against the scourge that favored children.
For more information the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Jeffrey Kluger’s Splendid Solution: Jonas Salk and the Conquest of Polio.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.