Seeds of Fire: A People’s Chronology

Recalling events that happened on this day in history.
Memories of struggle, resistance and persistence.

Compiled by Ulli Diemer

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January 10, 1776
Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, is published in Philadelphia. Writing in a time of ferment in the American colonies, when most people are undecided about whether to seek independence from Britain and fearful of revolutionary means, Paine makes an unequivocal case for independence, and argues that revolution is justified when people are oppressed by an unjust government. Because its contents are treasonous, the first edition is published anonymously. Common Sense is enormously popular: 120,000 copies are sold in the first three months; 500,000 in the first year. It goes through 25 editions in the first year alone, and, in proportion to population at the time, it has the largest sales and circulation of any book in American history. Passages from the pamphlet are read aloud at public meetings, bringing its message of revolution even to people who are illiterate. Historians consider it crucial in turning the tide in the colonies toward revolution; one says “It would be difficult to name any human composition which has had an effect at once so instant, so extended and so lasting.” Paine makes no money on Common Sense: he donates all the royalties to the revolutionary army.
January 10, 1859
Birth of Francesc Ferrer i Guardia (1859-1909), Catalan Spanish free-thinker and anarchist, founder of the Escuela Moderna (The Modern School).
Related Topics: AnarchismSpain
January 10, 1864  
The Metropolitan Railway, the world's first underground line, opens in London. It uses gas-lit wooden carriages hauled by steam locomotives.
Related Topics: London, EnglandSubways
January 10, 1908
In South Africa, Mohandas Gandhi is jailed for the first time, for refusing to register as an “Asian”.
Related Topics: ApartheidGandhi, MohandasSouth Africa
January 10, 1966
Vernon Dahmer, a businessman and farmer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, offers to pay the poll tax for those who can’t afford the fee that was then required before a citizen could vote. The night after a radio station broadcasts Dahmer’s offer, his home and store are firebombed. Dahmer dies later from severe burns. The man responsible for the arson attack, Ku Klux Klan Wizard Sam Bowers, is finally charged and convicted 32 years later.
Related Topics: De-segregationKu Klux KlanMurder

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For more information about people and events in Seeds of Fire, explore these pages: