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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May 9, 1763
The start of Pontiac’s War. An alliance of indigenous Ottawas, Ojibwas, Potawatomis, and Hurons led by the Ottawa chief Pontiac lay siege to Fort Detroit, the British military stronghold in the Great Lakes area. They are angered at the British, who have recently moved into the area and are treating the native population as conquered people, while ever-increasing numbers of settlers move onto native land. The native alliance wins a number of victories, including the capture of eight other British forts in the area, but are unable to capture Fort Detroit.
In the course of the war, the British hit on the strategy of trying to infect the native population with smallpox by giving them contaminated blankets. The British commander, General Jeffrey Amherst, tells his subordinates that they should use this means, as well as “every other method that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”
The conflict ends in a military stalemate. The British are unable to defeat the native Americans, but the natives are unable to drive out the British. In October, the British issue a Royal Proclamation which recognizes native rights and territory, and restricts colonists to the area east of the Appalachians. The land west of the Appalachians from Florida to Quebec is recognized as an ‘Indian Reserve.’ The colonists' resentment of this restriction is one of the factors that leads to the American War of Independence thirteen years later.
Related Topics: Aboriginal HistoryRevolts
May 9, 1800
Birth of John Brown (1800-1859), American abolitionist who advocated and practiced armed insurrection as a means to end slavery.
Further Reading: John Brown, Abolitionist
Related Topics: Anti-Slavery
May 9, 1832  
The “Treaty of Payne’s Landing”: American colonists concoct a fraudulent ‘treaty’ under which the indigenous Seminoles of Florida supposedly agree to leave Florida.
May 9, 1921
Birth of Daniel Berrigan, American priest, peace activist, and poet.
May 9, 1934  
Start of the 1934 Waterfront Strike on the west coast of the United States. Longshoremen in every port on the west coast walk out; sailors on the ships go on strike a few days later. The employers bring in large numbers of strikebreakers, housing them on ships moored offshore or in fortified compounds. Many Teamsters refuse to handle cargo loaded by scabs, leaving the goods stranded. After a bloody police attack on striking workers in July, a general strike is called in San Francisco and Oakland. The strike eventually ends in a settlement in which both employers and workers gain on some issues and lose on others. For the workers, one of the most important victories is the recognition of their unions and the end of employer-run hiring halls.

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