This week in history (Sept. 3 - Oct. 23)

 On Sept. 3, 1838, Frederick Douglass made his final attempt at escaping slavery from Baltimore, Maryland. (West Chester University/Flickr Creative Commons)

On Sept. 3, 1838, Frederick Douglass made his final attempt at escaping slavery from Baltimore, Maryland. (West Chester University/Flickr Creative Commons)

Over the coming days, we will celebrate the anniversary of several important events that helped shaped the world we live in. Here is a quick rundown of this week in history.

On Sept. 3, 1838, Frederick Douglass made his final attempt at escaping slavery from Baltimore, Maryland. His previous escape plans had been foiled when he was betrayed by a fellow slave, and as punishment he was sent to work as a laborer in the dockyard in Baltimore Harbor. He posed as a member of a shipping crew and boarded a train headed for New York using a credential pass he borrowed from a friend, stating that he was a free man on shore leave. While evading detection, he then transferred to a ferry that eventually brought him to New York City. Even though Douglass had reached a state that had outlawed slavery, packs of hunters were roaming the city looking for runaways, and he was forced to hide with sympathizer David Ruggles until his wife-to-be, a free woman herself, could reach New York.

After Douglass was married, he settled down in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and started work as an abolitionist. He was able to officially buy his freedom after generous donations from supporters and wrote his autobiography in 1845. To protect the various people who had helped him on his journey and details regarding his escape, he did not reveal the true story until 1881, long after the Civil War had ended and slavery was abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment.

On Sept. 4, 1972, American swimmer Mark Spitz won his seventh gold medal of the Munich Olympics to become the first athlete to ever accomplish such a feat. This would only be surpassed by Michael Phelps and his eight medal performance at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The very next day at the Munich Olympics in 1972, eight members of the terrorist group known as Black September of the Palestinian Liberation Organization snuck into the Olympic Village where athletes were sleeping and took 11 members of the Israeli National Team hostage. Two men were killed while trying to resist capture, leaving the other nine as captives. The terrorists demanded that Israel release over 200 Palestinians prisoners before the athletes would be returned. The terrorists went back and forth with negotiators on several demands until deciding to trade the captives in exchange for transportation to Cairo.

The German authorities arranged for multiple helicopters to land near the apartment campus where the terrorists were located, but disaster struck while the hostages were being escorted to them. A shootout ensued between German police and the Black September members, leaving five terrorists, one policeman and all the hostages dead. The surviving three attackers were captured and imprisoned in Munich while awaiting trial for their crimes.

On Oct. 23 of the same year, Lufthansa Flight 615 was hijacked and was going to be blown up if the remaining terrorists were not released and allowed to return to Palestine. After they were let go, the Israeli government sanctioned their secret intelligence group, Mossad, to track down and kill the three remaining terrorists in Operation Wrath of God. It is believed that they found and killed two of the remaining terrorists while the last man reportedly died of natural causes.

This cycle of violence and death greatly damaged international relations and the integrity of the Olympic Games. The failure of the German Police to contain the situation and effectively stop the terrorists lead to the founding of the counterterrorism group GSG 9, which has subsequently become one of the best special forces teams in the world.


Seamus McKeever is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at seamus.mckeever@uconn.edu.