2019 National History Day: Triumph & Tragedy in History | Presbyterian Historical Society

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2019 National History Day: Triumph & Tragedy in History

Topics and Resources for NHD 2019:

Korea's March First Movement—The March First Movement, also called the Samil Movement, began in 1919 as a series of demonstrations calling for independence from Japan. Before the Japanese occupying government suppressed the movement, thousands of Koreans had been killed, tens of thousands arrested, and many homes and churches had been destroyed.

Taiku City Market, 1921 [detail, Pearl ID: 112931]


  • Digitized documents in Pearl: "Independence Movement: correspondence and background papers, 1919" (from PHS collection: Korea Mission Records, RG 140, Box 16)
  • Statements and correspondence on Korea situation, 1919 (in PHS collection: Executive Committee of Foreign Missions, General Secretaries Records, RG 505, Box 36)
  • Federal Council of Churches, The Korean Situation: Authentic Accounts of Recent Events by Eye Witnesses, v. 1 and 2 (Book at PHS: MS1 F317rk/MS1 F317rk; ebook at HathiTrust)
  • "Proclamation of Korean Independence" and "Aims and Aspirations of the Koreans," 1919 (in PHS collection: MS K838sp and MS K838sa)

Ben Weir—Ben Weir and his wife Carol were Presbyterian missionaries to Lebanon and Syria from 1953 to 1987. In 1984, Ben Weir was kidnapped in Beirut by Islamic Jihad, and held hostage for 18 months. After his release, he became a notable advocate for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

Ben Weir's Lebanese Residence Permit, c. 1981 [Pearl ID: 1532]


Sinking of the Lapsley—Beginning in 1901, the steamboat Samuel N. Lapsley traveled up and down the Congo River, carrying supplies between Leopoldville and Luebo Station, the center of Presbyterian mission activity in the Congo. In 1903, the steamer capsized and 24 people drowned. The original Samuel N. Lapsley was replaced in 1906 by a new, larger steamer, the Samuel N. Lapsley II.

Making a skiff for the Lapsley II, 1906 [Pearl ID: 141945]


  • Photographs, histories, and blueprints (in PHS collection: Vass Family Papers, RG 476, boxes 1, 3, and 10)
  • Digitized photographs in Pearl (items from the William H. Sheppard Papers and the Vass Family Papers)
  • Winifred K. Vass and Lachlan C. Vass III, The Lapsley Saga (Book at PHS: Poethig BV 3625.C6 V37 1997)
  • Model of Samuel L. Lapsley II on display at PHS

The Birmingham Tragedy—On the morning of September 15, 1963, a bomb exploded at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley, were killed, and many others were injured. This attack on a predominantly African American church shocked the country, drawing attention to the civil rights movement and fueling its progress.

James Baldwin and Reinhold Niebuhr discuss the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 [Pearl ID: 71692]


  • Video in Pearl: Meaning of the Birmingham Tragedy
  • Broken glass from the windows of the 16th Street Baptist Church and memorial program for Carol Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley (Collection at PHS: Dean Lewis papers,  18 1002 129J)
  • "Death in the Sunday School," Presbyterian Life, October 15, 1963, pp 4-5 and 46-47 (Periodical at PHS)
  • Journal of Presbyterian History (Spring/Summer 2012) special issue on Presbyterians and the struggle for civil rights (Journal at PHS; also available through JStor)