Reader's Almanac: March 20, 2017

On this day in 1778, King Louis XVI of France recieved at court two representatives of the newly declared United States, Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin. Their reception by an absolute monarch was an astonishing coup for a fledgling nation rejecting the very notion of monarchy, but Louis' hatred of Great Britain trumped concerns about encouraging rebellion againts kings. The fact that one of the emissaries was Benjamin Franklin made Louis' decision easier: Franklin was the equivalent of a rock star in eighteenth-century France. His groundbreaking experiments with electricity made him the first American international celebrity.  Franklin's fame and diplomatic skills helped secure French military and financial assistance that was essential for American victory against Great Britain. 

Related reading at SPL:  Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson. Call # 9 F831i. (I found this book compulsively readable) and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France and the Birth of America by Stacey Schiff.  Call # 973.32 SC. (An excellent book!).

On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson informed Alabama Governor George Wallace that he was ordering that state's national guard to protect participants in a planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery. The clash between Johnson and the anti-civil rights Wallace was a key turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

Related viewing at SPL: The critically acclaimed film Selma. Related reading at SPL: Taylor Branch's magnificent book, At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-1968.

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