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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June 17, 1789
In France, the members of the Third Estate (the Commons), tiring of the fruitless manoeuvres that have followed the calling of the first Estates General since 1614, take matters into their own hands. They declare themselves the National Assembly, invite the other two estates (the aristocracy and the clergy) to join them if they wish, but make it clear that they intend to start conducting the nation’s affairs with or without them.
The king attempts to thwart them by shutting down the Salle des États, but the Assembly moves to a nearby indoor tennis court, where on June 20, they swear the Tennis Court Oath, vowing not to separate until they have given France a constitution.
Related Topics: AssembliesFrench Revolution
June 17, 1838  
The Trail of Tears: The Cherokee Nation, forcibly expelled from their lands in North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, begin the 2000-kilometre forced march to the west to Oklahoma later known as the Trail of Tears. An estimated 4,000 Cherokee die en route.
This is one of a long series of forced “Indian Removals” in the United States.
June 17, 1852  
Refugees welcomed by some, but not by others: A letter to a Toronto newspaper complains that “every boat arriving from the United States seems to carry fugitive slaves.”
Related Topics: Anti-SlaveryFugitivesRefugees
June 17 - July 8, 1940
Portuguese consul Aristides de Sousa Mendes issues visas to thousands of mainly Jewish refugees attempting to escape France as it falls under Nazi occupation.
June 17, 1953
A workers’ uprising erupts in East Germany. It begins when construction workers in East Berlin walk out after being informed of increased quotes and pay cuts. The unrest spreads through the city and other cities and towns in Soviet-occupied East Germany.
The uprising is put down by Russian troops assisted by police. More than 500 people die; more than 5,000 are arrested.

Afterwards, Bertolt Brecht writes a poem:
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

June 17, 1972  
Five intruders are caught breaking into the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building in Washington.
The incident eventually leads to the resignation of President Richard Nixon and the trial and conviction of dozens of members of the Nixon administration.
June 17, 2006
After a police attack on striking teachers in Oaxaca on June 14, teachers and their supporters build barricades and take over the centre of Oaxaca, and, on June 17, declare themselves Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (APPO) (the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca).
The Assembly includes teachers as well as representatives of Oaxaca’s state regions and municipalities, unions, non-governmental organizations, social organizations, and cooperatives. It encourages all Oaxacans to organize popular assemblies at every level: neighbourhoods, street blocks, unions, and towns and declares itself “movement of the bases, not of leaders.”
Related Topics: AssembliesOaxaca, MexicoStrikesTeachers

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