February 12: The Beating of Isaac Woodard, Colgan Air Flight 3407 Crash, and Other Events of the Date
A number of important events have taken place on February 12 in U.S. history. Here is our take on the most interesting and valuable of them.
1924 - Rhapsody in Blue premiers
One of the most influential musical compositions of its time, Rhapsody in Blue is a 1924 piece written by composer George Gershwin for solo piano and a jazz band, combining elements of classical music with jazz-influenced effects. It is a true masterpiece of the Roaring 20’s!
The composition was commissioned by bandleader Paul Whiteman. It was orchestrated by Ferde Grofé several times, including the original 1924 scoring, the 1926 "theater orchestra" setting, and the 1942 symphony orchestra scoring, though completed earlier. The piece received its premiere in the concert, An Experiment in Modern Music, which was held on February 12, 1924, in Aeolian Hall, New York City, by Whiteman and his band with Gershwin playing the piano.
The editors of the Cambridge Music Handbooks also opined that "The Rhapsody in Blue (1924) established Gershwin's reputation as a serious composer and has since become one of the most popular of all American concert works."
Two audio recordings exist of Gershwin performing an abridged version of the work with Whiteman's orchestra: an acoustic recording made for the Victor Talking Machine Company on June 10, 1924, running 8 minutes and 59 seconds (including the original clarinetist, Ross Gorman, playing the glissando) and a Victor electrical recording made on April 21, 1927, running 9 minutes and 1 second (about half the length of the complete work).
1946 - The Beating of Isaac Woodard
Today marks a very important date in the history of the struggle for the civil rights, or, to be more precise, the way these civil rights were violated in post-War America. Isaac Woodard Jr. (March 18, 1919–September 23, 1992) was a decorated African American World War II veteran. On February 12, 1946, just hours after being honorably discharged from the United States Army, he was attacked while still in uniform by South Carolina police as he was taking a bus home. The attack and his injuries sparked national outrage and galvanized the civil rights movement in the United States.
The worst thing was that the attack left Woodard completely and permanently blind. Due to South Carolina's reluctance to pursue the case, President Harry S. Truman ordered a federal investigation. The sheriff was indicted and went to trial in federal court in South Carolina, where he was acquitted by an all-white jury.
Such miscarriages of justice by state governments influenced a move towards civil rights initiatives at the federal level. Truman subsequently established a national interracial commission, made a historic speech to the NAACP and the nation in June 1947 in which he described civil rights as a moral priority, submitted a civil rights bill to Congress in February 1948, and issued Executive Orders 9980 and 9981 on June 26, 1948, desegregating the armed forces and the federal government. Yet, African Americans still had to struggle against the racist American reality mostly on their own, as white people didn’t care about their problems much at that point of time.
2009 - Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash
It’s already been ten years since this tragedy occurred in New York. Colgan Air Flight 3407, marketed as Continental Connection under a codeshare agreement with Continental Airlines, was a scheduled passenger flight from Newark, New Jersey, to Buffalo, New York, which crashed on February 12, 2009. The aircraft, a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400, entered an aerodynamic stall from which it did not recover and crashed into a house in Clarence Center, New York at 10:17 p.m. EST (03:17 UTC), killing all 49 passengers and crew on board, as well as one person inside the house.
The National Transportation Safety Board conducted the accident investigation and published a final report on February 2, 2010, which found the probable cause to be the pilots' inappropriate response to the stall warnings. As of 2019, Flight 3407 is the most recent aviation incident resulting in mass casualties involving a U.S.-based airline.
Families of the victims lobbied Congress to enact more stringent regulations for regional carriers, and to improve the scrutiny of safe operating procedures and the working conditions of pilots. Although it did nothing to address the specific causes of the crash – improper stall recovery technique and pilot fatigue – the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administrative Extension Act of 2010 (Public Law 111-216) required some of these regulation changes.
These are the most notable events in U.S. history that occurred on February 12, at least in our view.