Tuesday, September 16, 2014



Plymouth, England (JFK+50) The merchant ship, Mayflower, with 102 passengers on board, departed from here at the English port of Plymouth 394 years ago today, September 16, 1620, bound for America.

The passenger list included a number of religious dissenters*, who referred to themselves as Saints, and entrepreneurs who were known by them as Strangers.

The Separatists were in quest of establishing a new colony in America far from the control of the state Church of England.

The Mayflower, which was about 100 feet in length and 25 feet wide, was commanded by Master Christopher Jones.  He had been with the ship for eleven years. 

Despite being a ship of trade, the Mayflower was heavily armed for protection. On this voyage she carried a cargo of 180 tons.

The Mayflower had 3 masts and 3 levels:  main deck, gun deck and cargo hold. Her crew numbered about 50 men. 

Crewman on the Mayflower II
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Photo by John White (1986)

On the voyage to America, the Mayflower was blown 500 miles off course and landed on Cape Cod on November 21, 1620.

One month later, the Mayflower docked off the coast of what would become Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Master Jones died less than 2 years later returning from a voyage to France and the Mayflower herself passed into history by 1624.

Mayflower II
Plymouth, Massachusetts
Photo by John White (1986)

*Governor William Bradford of the Plymouth Colony referred to his group in his Journal as "pilgrimes," but the term Pilgrim was not applied to these people until the early 1800s.


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) Fifty-one years ago today, September 16, 1963, President John F. Kennedy issued the following statement in response to the previous day's bomb explosion at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church  in Birmingham, Alabama which took the lives of four African-American girls.

"I know I speak on behalf of all Americans in expressing a deep sense of outrage and grief over the killing of the children yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama. 

It is regrettable that public disparagement of law and order has encouraged violence which has fallen on the innocent. 

 If these cruel and tragic events...can only awaken this entire Nation--to a realization of the folly of racial injustice and hatred and violence, then it is not too late for all concerned to unite in steps toward peaceful progress...

Assistant Attorney General Burke Marshall** has returned to Birmingham to be of assistance...and bomb specialists of the FBI are there to lend every assistance in the detection of those responsible...

This Nation is committed to a course of domestic justice and tranquility--and I call upon every citizen, white and Negro, North and South, to put passions and prejudices aside and to join in this effort."

Burke Marshall
Assistant Attorney General

**Burke Marshall (1922-2003) was born in Plainfield, NJ.  He served in the US Army intelligence corps during WWII and received his law degree from Yale in 1951.  

Marshall worked 10 years at the Covington and Burling Washington, D.C. law firm specializing in anti-trust law and was appointed assistant attorney general by RFK in 1961.

From 1961-1964, BM was head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department.  He died at his home in Newtown, Connecticut.


"Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:  John F. Kennedy, 1963," United States Government Printing Office, Washington, 1964.