This Day in History
December 8-9th: The Infamy Speech, P. B. S. Pinchback Becomes the First African-American Governor of Louisiana and Other Events of the Dates
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December 8-9th: The Infamy Speech, P. B. S. Pinchback Becomes the First African-American Governor of Louisiana and Other Events of the Dates


A number of interesting events have taken place on December 8th and 9th in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.

December 8, 1941 – The Infamy Speech

As Militarist Japan attacked Pearl-Harbor back on December 7, 1941, the American government, despite all the inner controversies it had between different parties, had to react. And this reaction could only be a declaration of war on Japan. President Roosevelt addressed a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress with words that made history. The speech was also broadcast live by radio and attracted the largest audience in US radio history, with over 81 percent of American homes tuning in to hear the President.

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in the American island of Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to our secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack…

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched as attack against Malaya. Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong. Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam. Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands. Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island. And this morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island…

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. But always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us…”

Just within an hour of the speech (in just 33 minutes!), the U.S. Congress passed a formal declaration of war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into World War II. The only Representative who voted against the War was Republican Jeannette Rankin.

December 9, 1775 – American Revolutionary War: Southern Theater: Battle of Great Bridge

The battle was fought near Great Bridge, Virginia, and was one of the important clashes of the early period of the American Revolutionary War. The victory achieved by the colonial Virginia militia forces led to the departure of Royal Governor Lord Dunmore and any remaining vestiges of British power over the Colony of Virginia during the early days of the conflict.

Following increasing political and military tensions in early 1775, both Dunmore and colonial rebel leaders recruited troops and engaged in a struggle for available military supplies. The struggle eventually focused on Norfolk, where Dunmore had taken refuge aboard a Royal Navy vessel.

During the battle Dunmore's forces had fortified one side of a critical river crossing south of Norfolk at Great Bridge, while rebel forces had occupied the other side. In an attempt to break up the rebel gathering, Dunmore ordered an attack across the bridge, which was decisively repulsed. Colonel William Woodford, the Virginia militia commander at the battle, described it as "a second Bunker's Hill affair."

Up to 102 British soldiers were killed during this battle, while the Virginia Committee of Safety had just one soldier slightly injured to the thumb. What a humiliating loss it was for the Brits!

December 9, 1872 - P. B. S. Pinchback becomes the first African-American governor of Louisiana

Louisiana was one of the key states to go through the Reconstruction of the South Era after the end of the Civil War, the aim of which was to annihilate the remnants of the old era of slavery in the area making the newly freed slaves citizens with civil rights apparently guaranteed by three new Constitutional amendments. Despite these conditions the fact that P. B. S. Pinchback managed to become governor of Louisiana is, beyond any doubt, both unbelievable and remarkable.

Pinchback never was a slave, as he was born free in Macon, Georgia to a mulatto woman and a white planter. His father, William Pinchback, raised the younger Pinchback as his own son on his plantation in Mississippi. After the death of his father in 1848, Pinchback and his mother fled to the free state of Ohio. After the start of the American Civil War, Pinchback traveled to Union-occupied New Orleans and raised several companies for the 1st Louisiana Native Guard, becoming one of few African American commissioned officers in the Union Army.

In 1872, the legislature filed impeachment charges against the incumbent Republican governor, Henry Clay Warmoth, over disputes over certifying returns of the disputed gubernatorial election, in which both Democrat John McEnery and Republican William Kellogg claimed victory. And this was the moment Pinchback used to become governor of Louisiana. The Governor election held had been marked by violence and fraud, the situation throughout the state was quite difficult as well. State law required Warmoth to step aside until his impeachment case was tried. Pinchback took the oath as acting governor on December 9, 1872, and he served for about six weeks, until the end of Warmoth's term.

Author: USA Really