Thursday, September 25, 2008

On September 25

On this day in ...
... 1995, Dr. Bessie Delany (left), died at age 104 at her home in Mount Vernon, New York. She and her elder sister, daughters of emancipated slaves, had moved "from Jim Crow-era North Carolina" to New York during World War I; in 1923 she earned her DDS from Columbia University, the only African-American woman, and 1 of only 11 women, in the class. "Dr. Bessie" became a fixture in Harlem, a dentist who "treated the rich and poor equally." Late in life the sisters published a popular memoir, Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years (co-authored with Amy Hill Hearth and Emily Mann, 1992). Her sister Sadie Delany (above right), an accomplished schoolteacher, would die 4 years later, at age 109.
... 1983 (25 years ago today), 38 Irish prisoners escaped from an "H"-block of a prison outside Belfast, Northern Ireland, that was variously known as Long Kesh or the Maze -- a prison that British authorities had called the continent's most secure. A prison officer was killed in the mass breakout. Half the escapers were soon caught; a few remain at large to this day. Several were found in California in the 1990s. Among them was Jimmy Smyth, whom I helped to represent in extradition proceedings. Smyth won in the federal district court, but lost in the Court of Appeals. (My essay on the case begins at page 622 here.) Closure of the prison (right) occurred in 2000 as a result of the 1998 Good Friday peace accords.

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