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Cecil Whig - - ACCENT -

This week’s his­tory chron­i­cle be­gins on a somber note.

On Nov. 9, 1938, Ger­man Nazis be­gan a reign of ter­ror over Jews in Ger­many and Aus­tria, ini­ti­at­ing “Kristall­nacht,” trans­lated to “Night of Bro­ken Glass,” in which storm troop­ers van­dal­ized or de­stroyed thou­sands of Jewish es­tab­lish­ments.

Kristall­nacht rep­re­sented a dras­tic up­turn in the an­tiJewish rhetoric per­pet­u­ated by Adolf Hitler, who had be­come Ger­many’s chan­cel­lor in 1933. The Nazis used the mur­der of a Ger­man diplo­mat in Paris, by a 17-year-old Jewish boy from Poland, as rea­son to dev­as­tate the en­tire pop­u­la­tion. For the diplo­mat’s death, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment charged the Jewish peo­ple the equiva- lent of $400 mil­lion in 1938 dol­lars, and as re­pay­ment seized their prop­erty and with­held in­sur­ance money owed them.

The Holo­caust, in which an es­ti­mated 6 mil­lion Euro­pean Jews died at the hands of Ger­many’s Nazis, fol­lowed in the years af­ter.

On a lighter, more pos­i­tively ed­u­ca­tional note, the TV show “Se­same Street” de­buted al­most 50 years ago — on Nov. 10, 1969.

A now-world renowned sta­ple of ed­u­ca­tional tele­vi­sion, “Se­same Street” pi­o­neered the type of chil­dren’s pro­gram­ming that still rules many shows to­day. It had a mem­o­rable theme song, em­pha­sized the value of di­ver­sity and taught the rudi­ments of read­ing and count- ing to prob­a­bly mil­lions of chil­dren. It was the brain­child of Joan Ganz Cooney, a ge­nius in her own right, who sought to de­velop a bet­ter way to pre­pare un­der­priv­i­leged 3- to 5-year-olds for kinder­garten.

Cooney likely had no rea­son to ex­pect the show would have the kind of im­pact it has over the decades. “Se­same Street” still runs on PBS and HBO, with first-run episodes air­ing on the lat­ter.

More than 100 years ear­lier, an­other woman best known for her work in a sim­i­larly youth-fo­cused genre — Louisa May Al­cott — pub­lished her first story.

On Nov. 11, 1852, Al­cott, who would go on to write the clas­sic book “Lit­tle Women,” pub­lished her story “The Ri­val Pain­ters: A Story of Rome” in the Satur­day Evening Gazette. This suc­cess­ful pub­li­ca­tion would kick off a cou­ple decades-long ca­reer in which she made a liv­ing for her fam­ily by sell­ing some­what melo­dra­matic tales.

Then, start­ing in 1862, she served as a nurse for Union troops in the Civil War, and from her ex­pe­ri­ences there she pub­lished a book called “Hos­pi­tal Sketches” (1863), which es­tab­lished her rep­u­ta­tion as a lit­er­ary au­thor. A pub­lisher in search of a best­seller asked her to write about chil­dren, and 1868’s “Lit­tle Women” was the re­sult. She went on to write more books and sto­ries for both chil­dren and adults, and some of her bib­li­og­ra­phy is still read to­day.

In other lit­er­ary his­tory, “Moby-Dick,” which is con­sid­ered one of the quote-un­quote great Amer­i­can nov­els, was pub­lished on Nov. 14, 1851, to luke­warm re­cep­tion. Its writer, the New York Ci­ty­bred Her­man Melville, was at the time al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing his ca­reer’s de­cline.

Melville had found it dif­fi­cult to repli­cate the sur­prise suc­cess of his first novel, the sea­far­ingth­emed “Typee,” which he pub­lished in 1846. The four nov­els in be­tween it and “Moby- Dick” were met with un­der­whelm­ing sales and mixed re­views. “Moby- Dick” was no ex­cep­tion.

Be­cause he made so lit­tle from his writ­ing, Melville even­tu­ally moved to New York to serve as a cus­toms in­spec­tor, where he worked al­most un­til his death in 1891. Some 30 years later, the lit­er­ary com­mu­nity be­gan to rec­og­nize him as a ma­jor fig­ure, and that’s largely how he’s seen to­day.

Al­most 60 years ago, the king him­self made his film de­but. The film “Love Me Ten­der,” which starred ris­ing singer Elvis Pres­ley, pre­miered on Nov. 15, 1956.

Over­all, the film was a suc­cess for Pres­ley, though his films would be crit­i­cized for much of his ca­reer as too for­mu­laic and unin­spired. Re­gard­less, they helped so­lid­ify his pop cul­ture le­gacy.

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