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Written by Cory Campanizzi, Assassination Historian

For over a decade now, I have been approached by people who know my research interest and have been asked, “What did Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say, if anything, about a concern for the environment?” To be honest, it has been a question I had asked also, and as someone that researches the U.S. political assassinations of the 1960s and environmental sustainability, I knew I had to find the answer! And after careful contextual consideration of Dr. King’s work, I determined that he had much to say about the larger biosphere and how environmental justice deeply affected his views during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Environmental studies, for which I’m formally trained, widen environmental sustainability's purview into a broad multi-disciplinary approach, including areas within the social sciences. As a social science, psychology can provide a profound understanding of how humans function within the environment through an emerging discipline known as the psychology of sustainability. Within this emerging discipline, I discovered the deepest connection to how Dr. King orchestrated his thought toward commencing a global concern for all that inhabit this small planet.

Dr. King’s concerned approach would question the conscience of the government and corporate interest involved in the Vietnam war during his April 4, 1967 speech at Riverside Church in New York, New York. This speech, titled “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” would come exactly one year before his assassination and brought forth the conditions of environmental devastation, and his greater pathos- the destruction of the family and village. King reminded the audience, “They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops, they must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees.” King then concludes, “We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village.”

Again, Dr. King would provide a greater connection during his September 1967 keynote speech at the annual APA (American Psychological Association) convention. In a room full of Ph.D. psychologists and psychiatrists he proclaimed, “you have given us a great word… maladjusted” he continued: “There are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we should never be adjusted.” “We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.” King further clarified and moved for “creative maladjustment”. He was striving towards a focus on how individuals must refuse to accept the way in which injustices are normalized and through ‘creative maladjustment’, correct conditions of economic inequality, oppression, racism, war, and the undercurrent of environmental injustice within these same communities that manifest by way of air pollution, multi-source point water contamination, and over-industrialized land usage.

In what would be his final act of evoking economic and environmental justice, Dr. King would work directly with striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee. On February 1, 1968, two garbage collectors, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, in an attempt to shelter from the rain, were crushed to death by a malfunctioning truck. Conditions worsened for black sanitation workers, as the new mayor, Henry Loeb refused to sideline unsound trucks and refused to pay overtime for men forced to work long into the evening. Worsening wage conditions also gave way to workers using welfare and food stamps to feed their families. Beginning on February 11, along with the local chapter of the NAACP, the sanitation workers unanimously decided to strike. King was asked on behalf of Reverend James Lawson, to peacefully lead a march after a sit-in for union recognition was rejected by mayor Loeb. After a speech on March 18 in Memphis, King then returned on March 28 to lead a march that ultimately ended in violence instigated by an outside group, and resulted in the death of a black teenager. Despite the tragedy, the strike would continue, and with his denouncing of the violence, King would return on April 3 to deliver his last speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” The next day, he would be assassinated on the balcony of the Loraine Motel. He was only 39 years old.

King’s lasting legacy of concern for the environment is captured in his insistence on caring for not only the physical environment but those that inhabit it as well. It is through the use of non-violent civil disobedience, coupled with the ability to use creative maladjustment that we can be led to resist perceived normality in fossil fuels used for energy production, the insistence on sensible and sustainable innovation for transportation, renewable energy technology, and energy storage development. It would also be pertinent to identify how King would respond to the ongoing transition to more sustainable development and how the effects of this transition weigh on not only this country’s natural resource reserves but the global community’s as well. It is this last question that perhaps is what eludes us the most.

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Written by Kristina Estle, President of the History Detectives of Belmont County

Based on the play The Legend of Santa Claus

As my 8-year-old, Tara, and I walked into the Ohio University Eastern Campus’ Shannon Hall Theatre, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew my daughter would love The Legend of Santa, but I was curious to see if the show could grasp the attention of the parents, grandparents, and other adults that filled the theatre. The answer is an outstanding YES! Ohio University Eastern, Belmont County Tourism Council, and the Saint Clairsville Chamber of Commerce sponsored this show. The instant that Santa began his tale, I was hooked.

He began by calling names of children off of his Naughty and Nice list. The Legend of Santa Claus was not your typical Christmas show, but Santa Stories, from Saint Nicholas to Present Day. He begins by telling the story of the Elves. Santa claims that the Creator wanted entertainment, so on top of creating humans, he made Sprites and Dwarfs, gnomes and giants, dinosaurs and dragons, and of course, angels and fairies. As humans multiplied, disputes and arguments arose. Because of those, the mystical creatures decided to create their own world without humans and relocated to colder climates such as the Netherlands and Finland. Though, they missed the humans. The Dokeafore, also known as the Dark Elves, had a mission, and their main goal was to disrupt the celebration of Christmas. They did not want the children to receive gifts. Santa claims that if children misbehave or act up, they could have been influenced by the Dark Elves. Ultimately, the humans disrupted the Elves' villages in Finland, and they decided to relocate to Greenland. But, again, humans became masters of the sea and found their way to Greenland, disrupting the elves' villages. The elves made one final attempt at relocating, and that was to the polar ice cap, The North Pole.

How did the elves and Santa get together? To answer that question, Santa took us back to 280 AD to Asia Minor, or what today is known as Turkey. There existed a middle-aged couple who sold olive oil and grain and owned a fleet of ships. Their names were Nona and Theathones. They belonged to a group of Christians, and this group would meet in each other's homes, where they would pray and sing hymns. They would dance and enjoy each other’s company. Nona and Theothanes wanted children, but they were middle-aged. They prayed to God, and Nona became pregnant, and she gave birth to a little boy, which they named Nikolas, meaning “servant to the people.”

When Nikolas was a teenager, a plague broke out in his village. This plague would have been similar to the Covid pandemic that we have experienced recently. The traveling sea merchants who went port to port could have spread this plague. Nona and Theathones died from this plague. Nikolas had an uncle who was a monk. Due to his parents' wealth, Nikolas received a good education. He moved in with his uncle. Nikolas decided he could best serve the people by becoming a priest. His parents had left him a large fortune. He decided he would help the people of his village, especially the children, which he was very fond of. He wanted to take care of them. He wore a robe with his hood up, shadowing his face, and at night time, he would travel the streets, and if a family were in need, he would leave some grain, loaves of bread, or even a few coins. He was a generous soul, and the people loved him.

A merchant of the village had lost everything he had. He also had three daughters, who were reaching of age in which they could marry. During those times, in order to marry off their daughters, the parents had to put forth a dowry. A dowry was something of value, which could have been land, coins, horses, etc. The oldest daughter knew that her father did not have the money for the dowry, so she became an indentured servant to make money to save up for a dowry to give her father for her younger sisters to marry. Nikolas heard of this story, and one night he threw a bag of coins into the merchant's house. The sisters found it the following day and were overjoyed. They now had enough money to put together a dowry, and the daughters could marry. Ironically, the youngest daughter had hung her stockings by the fire in the chimney to dry them, and when Nikolas had tossed the coins into the chimney, they landed in her stocking. “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that Saint Nicholas would soon be there.” It is believed that this story enticed people, to this day, to hang stockings on their chimneys. The father of these three young women was determined to find out who was providing for his family. So one night, he waited and waited, and when Nikolas threw the bag of coins into the chimney, the merchant ran after him; when he finally caught up to him, he threw back his hood and exclaimed, “Father Nikolas!? I should have known it was you!” Nikolas begged the merchant to keep his secret. Ultimately, he could no longer keep the secret, and rumors quickly spread.

As a priest, Nikolas took annual voyages to the Holy Land. He would be there for weeks where he prayed. As he was returning while crossing the Mediterranean, a massive storm developed. The wind howled, and the waves were ferocious. Everyone aboard feared for their lives. The crewmen approached Nikolas and asked him to pray to God for their safety, which he did. They made it safely to the port of Paterra, their home port. They were so grateful they made it home safely that the crewmen praised Nikolas and told the wild tale to all who would listen. Because of this story, Nikolas became the Patron of Sailors. Even the Vikings believed in and prayed to Saint Nikolas and accepted him as their Patron. Nikolas’ fame spread. A group of elves’ in Finland heard of Saint Nikolas and his good deeds. They had been looking for a special person to help with a special project.

An opening became available in Mira, and a group of priests decided that Nikolas would be a perfect candidate to become the Bishop of Mira. There he was anointed as the youngest Bishop in history. Nikolas continued with his good deeds. Emperor Diocletian struggled with ruling this region during this time, and he needed someone to blame. Therefore he blamed the Christian leaders. He jailed, persecuted, and tortured these leaders, many of which lost their lives. Nikolas was too famous for killing. Therefore, he was left in prison for many years. Eventually, Diocletian died, and Constantine came to power. Constantine released the Christian leaders. Nikolas was released. He was so grateful that he decided to help the generals of that territory with the people of that territory. Nikolas inspired equal justice for all. A battle transpired, and Constantine and his men were outnumbered. Before the war, Constantine looked into the sky and saw the Christian Cross in the sky, which inspired his men to fight with great ferocity. After winning the battle, Constantine began leaning toward Christianity and ultimately decided to convert the Roman Empire.

Nikolas continued helping others, and he became known worldwide. One of Nikolas’ many talents was craving. The first figure he ever carved was a wooden cat. That may have been the first toy. His reputation continued to spread as trade routes began to expand. The leader of the Elfon Council decided that Nikolas, indeed, was the person they were searching for. They needed someone to spread hope and joy and bring the elves and humans back together. They told Nikolas that they possessed special powers and admitted that he might not live forever, but they could ensure that his reputation would continue infinitely. On December 6th, 343 AD, Nikolas passed away. The elves lived up to their word, and the name of Santa Claus continues today. In 800 AD, the Catholic Church admitted Nikolas to sainthood, and he came to Saint Nikolas.

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Honoring Veterans in Belmont County And Beyond

History Detectives of Belmont County member Kim Kuthy, Director of the Tri-State Military Veterans Museum in Belmont, talks about how she became involved in the museum and why it is important to honor our veterans.

How did you get involved with the museum?

The late Floyd Simpson asked me to help develop a museum in the American Legion Post 312 building. He passed away six years ago, and I asked Cheryl Skinner to be the assistant director, as I was still working full-time. Cheryl continues to help me, and many of the displays at the museum were ideas she found at other museums, such as the pictures on the back wall.

How has the museum changed since its opening? It began as a military veterans museum for all of Belmont County and has since expanded to include the tri-state area. Our mission is to honor our county’s veterans and to educate future generations on the price of freedom.

Other additions to the museum include the Heroes Wall containing the names of veterans, the remodeling of the building, and the acquisition of many uniforms and full-dress uniforms from World War I.

The museum’s collection also includes a Civil War reenactor costume. We have items from every war, beginning with the Civil War.

What can visitors expect when they visit the museum?

When they first walk in the door, they are amazed by how much we have, especially all the photos on the back wall. Visitors are amazed by all the mementos and that Cheryl and I know so much of their history. I love that we have the history behind the objects. For example, we have Civil War discharge papers that list the monetary compensation the soldier received for losing some of his fingers.

Ninety-seven percent of what is on display has been donated. A Coast Guard uniform is one exception. It was purchased and belonged to Dr. Hill from Ohio, who served in the Vietnam and Korean Wars.

Many veterans visit first, then bring their families back with them. They are surprised that the little town of Belmont has such an extensive collection of veterans' items.

Why is it important to honor our veterans?

It is important to honor our veterans because they are the reason we have what we have today. They are the reason we have freedom, and freedom is not free. It is our history, and we need to know our history.

What is your favorite display at the museum, and why?

The Vietnam War era display is my favorite because it was going on when I was a teenager. My brother was drafted when I was in seventh grade, but I didn’t understand the consequences of that at the time.

I also like the Civil War wall because all the newspaper articles are original.

We also have money from all the war periods. I collect coins, so I like that, too.

What exhibits or events do you have planned for next year?

The museum was recently awarded an Ohio Arts Council grant to purchase a bronze military dog statue to be created by Zanesville artist Alan Cottrill. The statue should be ready for display for Memorial Day events in 2023, including hosting participants in Run For The Wall, a journey from California to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., then on to the Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.

The museum will be open for Veterans Day and serves as a pick-up location for fruit baskets that the Village of Belmont gives to veterans each year.

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