In 1618 – (398 years ago) – the Elizabethan courtier, politician, soldier, explorer, and poet Sir Walter Raleigh was executed by beheading in the Old Palace Yard of Westminster. In his sixty-five years, Raleigh had become one of the richest and most famous men of his time, having led troops in battle, headed expeditions to the Americas, founded an ill-fated colony in Virginia, and popularized the use of tobacco in England. But he’d also angered the wrong people, including Queen Elizabeth I, King James I, and the Spanish ambassador to England. Raleigh was imprisoned in the Tower of London more than once and spent several years of his life there, but he managed to use that time constructively — not only writing several books, but also conceiving a son. Raleigh’s execution drew a big crowd. When he was shown the ax blade that would kill him, he remarked: “This is a sharp medicine, a physician that will cure all my diseases and miseries.” He then lay down on the scaffold and yelled to the executioner: “Strike, man, strike!” Raleigh’s severed head was given to his wife, who carried it home in a leather bag and kept it in a cupboard until the day she died.
In 1929 – (87 years ago) – a rash of panic selling on the New York Stock Exchange, which had gone on for several days, reached its peak as the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 12 percent of its value in a single day. Known as “Black Tuesday,” it was the worst day of the most severe stock market crash in US history. This failure of capitalism ushered in the Great Depression, which wiped out fortunes, threw millions out of work, and created material deprivation across the industrialized world. The depression would not end until, several years later, some thirty national governments declared war on each other and put their citizens back to work building ships, airplanes, weapons, and equipment for a global bloodbath that would last six years and kill an estimated fifty to eighty million people.
In 1971 – (45 years ago) – the Southern blues-rock guitarist Duane Allman, co-leader of the Allman Brothers Band, who also did session work with Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and other soul greats, was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle through the streets of Macon, Georgia, when he plowed into the end of a flatbed truck that had stopped in the middle of an intersection. The impact threw Allman from his bike, which landed on top of him. He was hurried to a nearby hospital, where he died of internal injuries at the age of twenty-four.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi