Today in Labor History April 27, 1521: On this day, Philippine Natives fought the battle of Mactan against Ferdinand Magellan. Lapulapu’s warriors ambushed him and overpowered the Spanish forces, killing Magellan with a poison arrow. As a result, their victory delayed Spanish colonization by forty-four years. However, the Spanish prevailed. And for centuries, Muslim Filipinos fought wars against them. The Spanish saw these as a continuation of the Reconquista of Spain from the Moors. They brought in conscripts from Latin America, including Native Americans. Mortality was high on both sides. Many conscripts fled into the countryside, or joined with the Filipino rebels. Yet, despite all the slaughter and repression, the colony was never profitable to Spain. During the 1800s, Filipino immigrants fought alongside Latin Americans in their wars for independence from Spain. And in 1896, Filipinos fought their own war for independence from Spain.
When the U.S. initially landed in the Philippines, in 1898, they supported Filipinos in their uprising against Spain. However, by August, 1898, the U.S. had ended their collaboration and soon annexed the country. American rule was brutal. In 1899, America went to war against its colonial subjects. The war was far deadlier and more costly than their war against Spain. As a result, 4,200 American soldiers, up to 20,000 Philippine soldiers, and at least 200,000 civilians died.
The Japanese occupation during World War II was also brutal. In the most infamous example, the Bataan Death March, 10,000 Filipino and 1,200 U.S. soldiers died. However, during the occupation, Filipino guerillas fought an insurgency against the Japanese. Consequently, the Philippines became the costliest theater of war for the Japanese. Nearly 500,000 Japanese died fighting in the Philippines. But it was much worse for Filipinos, with over 1 million dying during World War II. The Battle of Leyte Gulf, toward the end of World War II, was the largest naval battle in history.
Today in Labor History April 27, 1667: John Milton sold Paradise Lost to a printer for £10, so that it could be entered into the Stationers’ Register. He was blind and impoverished and died a few later from tuberculosis.
April 27, 1759: Mary Wollstonecraft, was born. She was an English philosopher, historian and early feminist. In her book, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), she argued that women are not naturally inferior to men, but only appeared to be because they lacked education. She married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the first modern proponents of anarchism. She was also the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein
Today in Labor History April 27, 1813: The U.S. burned down the town of Toronto. They were trying to gain control of Lake Ontario during the Battle of York.
April 27, 1825: The first strike for the 10-hour workday was started by carpenters in Boston. At the time, employers often forced people to work over fourteen hours a day. Boston workers struck again in 1827. Both strikes were unsuccessful. However, in 1835, they struck again for the 10-hour workday. This time, they organized a traveling committee to expand the movement. Influenced by their comrades in Boston, Irish workers on the Schuylkill River coal wharves, joined the strike. They threatened to kill anyone who crossed their lines and attempted to unload coal. These actions led to the 1835 Philadelphia General Strike, the first General Strike in America. 20,000 workers participated. And it spread quickly to other cities. By the end of 1835, the 10-hour workday had become the norm in most major U.S. cities.
Today in Labor History April 27, 1825: Robert Owen set up his Utopian Socialist Colony at New Harmony, Indiana.
April 27, 1865: The Sultana steamship blew up on the Mississippi River. This was the worst shipping disaster in American history. The Sultana was built to carry 376 passengers. It was carrying 2,137. Furthermore, it was equipped with tubular boilers which were not well-suited for use in the muddy waters of the lower Mississippi. The boat sank near Memphis, Tennessee. 1,168 people died, many of them emaciated Union soldiers returning north after being released from Confederate prison camps.
Today in Labor History April 27, 1882: Jessie Redmon Fauset was born. She was an African-American editor, poet, essayist, novelist, and educator. Her emphasis on portraying an accurate image of African-American life and history inspired literature of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. In her fiction, she created black characters who were working professionals. This was inconceivable to white Americans at the time. Her stories dealt with themes like racial discrimination, “passing”, and feminism. From 1919 to 1926, she was literary editor of The Crisis, a NAACP magazine.
April 27, 1904: Congress extended the Chinese Exclusion Act indefinitely. They first passed the law in 1882 and revised it in 1902. The law made it unlawful for Chinese laborers to enter the U.S. and it denied citizenship to those already here.
Today in Labor History April 27, 1907: The IWW won their strike in Skowhegan, Maine. They also won reinstatement of everyone who had been fired.
Today in Labor History April 27, 1978: A cooling tower for a power plant under construction in Willow Island, WV, collapsed, killing 51 construction workers. This was likely the deadliest construction accident in U.S. history. As a result, OSHA cited contractors for 20 violations, including failures to field test concrete. The Company had to pay $85,500 for the violations, roughly $1,700 per worker killed.
April 27, 1998: Carlos Castaneda died. He was a Peruvian-American anthropologist and author who wrote “The Teachings of Don Juan.” He wrote the book in the first person and describes his training in shamanism.