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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Colson Whitehead.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Underground Railroad” is the story of a young slave named Cora who escapes from a Georgia cotton plantation.

Fai Mathews makes her way from Garfield high school to Westlake Park during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day march on Monday, January 15, 2018, in Seattle.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Thousands gathered on Monday, January 15, 2018, to participate in the 50th anniversary Martin Luther King Jr. Day march. An opportunity fair, workshops and a rally preceded the march at Garfield High School. Demonstrators marched from Garfield to Westlake Park. 

Last week, Oprah Winfrey's speech at the Golden Globes brought many in the audience to tears and to their feet. She was accepting an award for contributions to the world of entertainment, but the billionaire broadcaster and philanthropist decided to use her moment to tell the story of a far less celebrated woman: Recy Taylor.

If the United States were more like the rest of the world, a McDonald's Quarter Pounder might be known as the McDonald's 113-Grammer, John Henry's 9-pound hammer would be 4.08 kilograms, and any 800-pound gorillas in the room would likely weigh 362 kilos.

One reason this country never adopted the metric system might be pirates. Here's what happened:

In 1793, the brand new United States of America needed a standard measuring system because the states were using a hodgepodge of systems.

Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Looking back at a year that was tumultuous in so many ways, this talk by author Walter Isaacson stands out as something that has almost nothing to do with our modern day trials and tribulations. 

Activist group Backbone Campaign hung this banner in September 2015. Chief Seattle is often quoted by environmental groups.
Flickr Photo/Backbone Campaign (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/yJnSzW

“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.”

These words are from an 1854 speech that made Chief Seattle famous, inspiring environmental movements in the city that bears his name and beyond.

Except, he never really said that.


Julia Yesler, pictured, is the offspring of a Duwamish woman and white settler Henry Yesler.
Courtesy of Kathie Zetterberg

Chief Seattle was the leader of the Duwamish tribe in the days when white settlers were entering the region that would eventually bear his name.

The chief had an unusual way of brokering peace: encouraging his family members to marry the settlers.


Senator Patty Murray in the KUOW offices, Jan. 2016.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Minnesota Senator Al Franken said today he'll resign in the coming weeks. He's repeatedly apologized as several women accused him of sexually inappropriate behavior.

Portrait of Mary Elizabeth Bowser, Union spy in the home of Jefferson Davis.
Courtesy of Melinda Mueller

Bill Radke talks with poetry correspondent Elizabeth Austen about Seattle-based poet and science teacher Melinda Mueller’s poem “Covert Acts.”

The three-part poem is set in the American Civil War, and illuminates the lives of Union soldier Private Mary Galloway, field surgeon Mary Edwards Walker, and freedwoman and Union spy Mary Bowser — three women who defied the constraints of their time.

Fred Appelbaum first read about Don Thomas' use of marrow transplantation to treat leukemia. After reading that article, 'I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,' said Appelbaum.
Courtesy of Fred Hutch News Service

Dr. Fred Appelbaum started his career in the 1970s when leukemia patients were given months to live. He worked with Dr. Don Thomas, a researcher at Fred Hutch who pioneered bone marrow transplantation. The procedure was considered radical at the time, but it would save tens of thousands of lives and change the course of cancer treatment.

Joe DiMaggio, Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, and patient Darrell Johnson in LAF (laminar airflow) room, 1978
Courtesy of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

There was a time when the cure for leukemia was almost as lethal as the disease. Before bone marrow transplants, patients were treated with arsenic or radiation — and the outlook was often considered hopeless.

MOHAI, Cary W. Tolman Photographs, [2002.68.9.10]

In the 1960s, an era when activism across racial lines was uncommon, four Seattle activists became allies. They were called the Gang of Four.

Larry Gossett, Roberto Maestas, Bernie Whitebear and Bob Santos collaborated and supported each other’s efforts throughout their activism careers.

November 2, 1972, two days after the groundbreaking ceremony of the Kingdome, Bob Santos led a protest. The rallying cry: HUMBOWS NOT HOT DOGS!
Courtesy Eugene M. Tagawa

The 1960s brought marches, boycotts, and moments of unrest to Seattle as the battle for civil rights played out across the country.

That was also when four local activists — Roberto Maestas, Bob Santos, Bernie Whitebear and Larry Gossett — joined together to give voice to Seattle’s minority communities. Their nickname was the Gang of Four.

Nellie Cornish, founder of the school that became the Cornish College of the Arts, taken in the 1920s.
Courtesy Cornish College of the Arts

When Nellie Cornish arrived in Seattle in 1900, she was a 24-year-old piano teacher looking to make a living in a city that was more hospitable to Gold Rush prospectors than it was to the fine arts.

Updated Oct. 27, 9:50 p.m. ET

The 2,891 records relating to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy released by the National Archives Thursday contain many interesting tidbits.

  • The FBI tried to track down a stripper known as "Kitty" who may have been an associate of nightclub owner Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald two days after Oswald killed Kennedy.

The JFK Files: Calling On Citizen Reporters

Oct 26, 2017

The government has released long-secret files on John F. Kennedy's assassination, and we want your help.

The files are among the last to be released by the National Archives under a 1992 law that ordered the government to make public all remaining documents pertaining to the assassination. Other files are being withheld because of what the White House says are national security, law enforcement and foreign policy concerns.

The first Boeing airplane, the Bluebill, B&W Model 1, assembled and launched from Seattle's Lake Union
photo courtesy Boeing Historical Archives

On any given weekday morning, thousands of young professionals flood the streets in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood. Their identical black backpacks and swinging lanyards mark them as employees of the global retail behemoth Amazon.

Hamilton Beale stands in the doorway of an elevator in the lobby of Smith Tower on Wednesday, October 18, 2017, in Seattle. Beale has been operating elevators at Smith Tower for 19 years.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Smith Tower, Seattle's oldest skyscraper, is getting some renovations this spring. 

Participants at UW Reads the Constitution 2017
KUOW Photo/John O'Brien

Twelve years ago the University of Washington Libraries staff started a tradition. They invited UW students, staff, and the general public to join them on a given day to read the U.S. Constitution.

Some very special search dogs have been getting a workout in the Northwest. They’re trained to sniff out the remains of people buried as long as 9,000 years ago. This past week, their assignment was to find burials from the early Oregon Trail days.

You don’t know Seattle until you see these gritty scenes

Sep 27, 2017
Along with houses of prostitution, First Avenue became home to arcades with coin-operated machines to watch racy moving pictures.
'First Avenue, Seattle' exhibit. Photo by Nancy Walz. ©Pike Place Market PDA 1981.

If you check into most hotels on First Avenue tonight, it'll run you at least $400. Not so in 1981, when low-income people found affordable rooms up and down "Skid Road" in single-room-occupancy hotels — for a night, or for the rest of their lives.

KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Bill Radke talks with Thanh Tan and James Hong about the lasting impact of the Vietnam War on the children of Vietnamese refugees. Tan is host of KUOW's new podcast Second Wave. Hong is executive director of Seattle's Vietnamese Friendship Association.

In the latest episode of Second Wave, Tan interviews filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick about their new documentary "The Vietnam War."

R
Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

Every day, Seshat Mack wakes up and takes the bus to school. She’s a doctoral student in science, from Harlem. Every morning, the bus drops her off in front of a statue of a man looking down kind of heroically, kind of benevolently at passers by.

Seshat can’t stand the statue.

Dr. J. Marion Sims, born in South Carolina, is considered the father of modern gynecology — a status memorialized in that statue. He started his work in the mid 19th century.

Marchers held signs at the Black Lives Matter rally in Seattle on Saturday, April 15, 2017.
Daniel Berman for KUOW

To mark the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit rebellion, Seattle Public Library hosted a discussion of the factors that create inequality, repression and resistance.

There are more than 60 schools in the U.S. with names tied to the Confederate South. One school, Robert E. Lee Elementary, is right here in the Northwest.

Courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

Jeannie Yandel talks to University of Washington associate professor Joe Janes about the Golden Records, a NASA project that compiled sounds and images from earth to send up with NASA's Voyager spacecraft in the hopes of it reaching extraterrestrial life.

Confederate flag
Flickr Photo/pixxiestails (CC BY NC 2.0)

Jeannie Yandel talks to Melanie McFarland, T.V. critic for Salon, and Mike Pesca, host of The Gist, about a proposed HBO show called Confederate. The show imagines a world where the South won the Civil War, slavery still exists in parts of the United States and the country is on the brink of it's third civil war. 

How the Old South is felt in the Northwest

Aug 17, 2017
The gates are locked at Lake View Cemetery on Thursday, August 17, 2017, in Seattle, where a monument to the Confederacy has become controversial after protests turned violent in Charlottesville last weekend.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

We originally aired this story on January 19, 2007. Statues commemorating Confederate figures have been the source of tension, protests and removal this last week – making an argument that can feel far from the Northwest top of mind.

A World War II veteran from the Inland Northwest traveled to a village in rural Japan Tuesday to personally return a "good luck flag" he picked up from the body of a fallen Japanese soldier on the Pacific island of Saipan in the summer of 1944.

"Taking the flag kind of bothered me because it is so special,” said Marvin Strombo, 93.

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