Here is a glance at the several important events of our history that occurred this week many years ago, and the impact they have had on American culture and character.
On Dec. 3, 1947, 72 years ago, “A Streetcar Named Desire” opened on Broadway. Argued to be one of the greatest American plays ever written, Tennessee Williams’ masterpiece tells the painful story of the relationship between Stanley Kowalski, his wife Stella and her sister, Blanche DuBois, following her arrival at their home in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Stanley and Blanche’s immediate dislike for one another progresses throughout the story, turning violent in the climax of the play where Stanley rapes Blanche and she is committed to a mental hospital. Not exactly the feel good show of the year. Regardless, the play stunned audiences on opening night, resulting in a 30 minute standing ovation for the phenomenal cast, led by the previously unknown actor Marlon Brando. This play brought theatre into a new era, as one of the first instances where dark and risque topics were brought onto the light-hearted and glitzy Broadway stage. Today, the famous cry, “STELLA!,” is well-known nationwide and “A Streetcar Named Desire” is among the most read books in high school English classes.
On Dec. 5, 1933, 86 years ago, Prohibition ended following the ratification of the 21st Amendment. This repealed the 18th Amendment which had decreed “the manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors” within the United States. Passed in 1919, the goal of the 18th Amendment was to stop the widespread consumption of alcohol. Later that year, Congress passed the Volstead Act, which established a special police unit to enforce Prohibition. Today, Prohibition is regarded as one of the greatest failures of American politics, as it allowed for organized crime to flourish, with famous bootleggers like Al Capone making millions selling alcohol on the black market. 14 years after going into effect, Prohibition ended, much to the delight of the American people.
On Dec. 7, 1941, 78 years ago, Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japanese warplanes, ultimately bringing the United States into the Second World War. The “date which will live in infamy,” coined by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, began on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 7 when 360 Japanese bombers launched a brutal assault on the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. In total, 19 ships were sunk or severely damaged, 188 aircraft were destroyed and approximately 2,400 Americans were killed, with an additional 1,200 left wounded. The following day, Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress to address the surprise attack and the new state of war with the Empire of Japan. An hour after his speech, Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan almost unanimously, with only a single dissenting vote against war from a lone Montana representative. If only Congress could agree on everything this easily. While the Pacific naval fleet was left severely crippled, the aircraft carriers of Hawaii would exact their revenge in Japanese waters following many decisive battles that would change the tides of World War II in the Pacific.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.