The famous Sycamore (Acer Pseudoplatanus) tree on Tolpuddle Village Green, Dorset is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of trade unionist every year.
It is not only the largest Sycamore in Dorset, it is also growing on the smallest village green in Dorset.
The Tree planted in the 1680’s has secured its place in history, because under its vast spreading branches, generations of agricultural labourers from Tolpuddle, (barred from local church hall and other indoor venues) debated late into the night their plight and how to remedy it.
Apart from small talk, they would also have addressed the key issues of the day such as religion and their non conformist faith, no doubt they discussed the many pros and cons of emigration to America and Canada.
However, it would be discussions in 1833 about how they could best address the grinding poverty they and their fellow Dorset agricultural workers found themselves in, that would lead them to a conclusion that they would need to invite travelling delegates from the newly established Grand National Consolidated Trade Union, and ultimately to the fateful decision to form the Tolpuddle Lodge of the Agricultural Labourers Friendly Society in October 1834.
Approximately, forty men joined the union, but the local squirearchy would have non of it and agricultural labourers James Brine, James Hammett, George Loveless, George’s brother James Loveless, George’s brother in-law Thomas Standfield, and Thomas’s son John Standfield were sentenced to transportation to Australia for their part in forming a union.
The Tolpuddle Tree witnessed the formation of the union, the Martyrs’ being taken away in shackles to Dorchester and their ultimate return in triumph after their full pardon.
It has also witnessed the growth of the annual march and rally to celebrate the Martyr’s courageous stand.
Sophie Scholl, the daughter of Robert Scholl, the mayor of Forchtenberg, was born on 9 May, 1921. The family moved to Ulm and in 1933 Sophie joined the Hitler Youth.
At first she was enthusiastic but, influenced by the views of her father, she became increasingly critical of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi government.
Sophie’s brother, Hans Scholl, was also growing disillusioned with Nazi Germany and in 1937 he was arrested and briefly jailed after being accused of subversive activities.
Later that year her father was imprisoned for making critical comments about Adolf Hitler to one of his employees. He was found guilty of saying: “this Hitler is God’s scourge on mankind, and if this war doesn’t end soon the Russians will be sitting in Berlin.”
Hans Scholl was also at the University of Munich and in 1942 he had formed the White Rose group.
Committed to opposing to the government of Nazi Germany members included Hans Scholl, Inge Scholl, Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf and Jugen Wittenstein. Kurt Huber, a philosophy teacher at the university, was also a member of the group.
In Passive Resistance to National Socialism, published in 1943 the group explained the reasons why they had formed the White Rose group:
“We want to try and show that everyone is in a position to contribute to the overthrow of the system. It can be done only by the cooperation of many convinced, energetic people – people who are agreed as to the means they must use.
The White Rose group believed that the young people of Germany had the potential to overthrow Adolf Hitler and the Nazi government.
Do you and your children want to suffer the same fate that befell the Jews? Do you want to be judged by the same standards as your traducers? This included “Down With Hitler”, “Hitler Mass Murderer” and “Freedom”.
On 18th February, Sophie Scholl and Hans Scholl began distributing the sixth leaflet produced by the White Rose group.
It included the following: “The day of reckoning has come – the reckoning of German youth with the most abominable tyrant our people have ever been forced to endure. The Hitler Youth, the SA, the SS, have tried to drug us, to regiment us in the most promising years of our lives. The name of Germany is dishonoured for all time if German youth does not finally rise, take revenge, smash its tormentors.”
They were searched and the police found a handwritten draft of another leaflet. This they matched to a letter in Scholl’s flat that had been signed by Christoph Probst.
Found guilty of sedition they were executed by guillotine a few hours later.
Sophie’s last words to her cell mate were, “It is such a splendid sunny day, and I have to go. But how many have to die on the battlefield in these days, how many young, promising lives. What does my death matter if by our acts thousands are warned and alerted.”
On June 18, 1964, black and white protesters jumped into the whites-only pool at the Monson Motor Lodge in St. Augustine, Florida.
In an attempt to force them out, the owner of the hotel poured acid into the pool.
Martin Luther King Jr. had planned the sit-in during the St. Augustine Movement, a part of the larger civil rights movement.
The protest — and the owner’s acidic response — is largely forgotten today, but it played a role in the passing of the Civil Rights Act, now celebrating its 50th anniversary.
J.T. Johnson, now 78, and Al Lingo, 80, were two of the protesters in the pool that day. On a visit to Atlanta, the pair recalled the hotel owner, James Brock, “losing it.”
“Everybody was kind of caught off guard,” J.T. says. “The girls, they were most frightened, and we moved to the center of the pool,” Al says.
“I tried to calm the gang down. I knew that there was too much water for that acid to do anything,” J.T. says.
“When they dragged us out in bathing suits and they carried us out to the jail, they wouldn’t feed me because they said I didn’t have on any clothes. I said, ‘Well, that’s the way you locked me up!’
“But all of the news media were there, because somehow I guess they’d gotten word that something was going to happen at that pool that day. And I think that’s when President [Lyndon B.] Johnson got the message.”
The following day, the Civil Rights Act was approved, after an 83-day filibuster in the U.S. Senate.
“That had not happened before in this country, that some man is pouring acid on people in the swimming pool,” J.T. says. “I’m not so sure the Civil Rights Act would have been passed had [there] not been a St. Augustine. It was a milestone. We was young, and we thought we’d done something — and we had.”
J.T. went back to St. Augustine 40 years later, he tells Al. By then, the Monson Motor Lodge had been replaced with a Hilton Hotel.
“I sat and talked with the manager. I said to him that, ‘You know, I can’t stay in this hotel. You don’t have any African-Americans working here,’ “ J.T. recalls.
“He said, ‘Well, I promise you that next time you come down here it’ll be different.’ He immediately got busy,” J.T. continues. “But he was one of the few people in St. Augustine, I think, that did some of the things that we had been talking about.”
“So, to go back to St. Augustine, and it’s still somewhat the same — now, that does make me feel bad. The lifting is still kind of heavy, but I’ll continue to work as hard as I can, as long as I live,” J.T. says. “I won’t ever stop, and I won’t ever give up.”