TIME History

You Can Now Own a Vial of Winston Churchill’s Blood

Sweat, toil and tears not included in the sale.

Looking for the perfect present for the history buff who has everything? A vial of Sir Winston Churchill’s blood is going up on the auction block.

Churchill famously said he had nothing to offer but “blood, toil, tears and sweat” and now some of that blood is to be auctioned off to the highest bidder by Duke’s Auctioneers on March 12.

The blood was collected when Churchill was in the hospital for a fractured hip in 1962. Typically vials of blood are discarded when they are no longer medically necessary, but the nurse who collected it, an apparent fan of the former Prime Minister, received special permission to keep the vial. Upon the nurse’s death, it was bequeathed to a friend who decided to sell the historical medical waste to mark the 50th anniversary of Churchill’s death.

The market value of the vial “is a very difficult thing to estimate,” Timothy Medhurst, an auctioneer and appraiser at Duke’s, told the New York Times. The vial is “the most poignant and unique memorabilia we’ve ever had,” he adds, saying that the blood sample “is the closest you can get to Churchill.”

Keeping all that in mind, he expects the blood to sell for at least 1,000 GBP ($1,550 U.S.) The blood will be sold together with a signed declaration by the nurse detailing the circumstances in which she acquired it.

MONEY Markets

Oil Prices: Freaking Investors Out for 150 Years and Counting

Oil derricks moving up and down
Getty Images

The entire oil and gas industry has pretty much maneuvered from crisis to crisis since its inception.

Whenever I read or watch financial media coverage of oil prices lately, the image that comes to mind is a bunch of kids who just ate half their weight in candy, washed it down with a gallon of Red Bull, and then run around the playground at warp speed. They both move so fast and sporadically that is almost impossible to keep up with them.

Here is just a small example of headlines that have been found at major financial media outlets in just the past week:

  • Citi: Oil Could Plunge to $20, and This Might Be ‘the End of OPEC’
  • OPEC sees oil prices exploding to $200 a barrel
  • Oil at $55 per barrel is here to stay
  • Gas prices may double by year’s end: Analyst

What is absolutely mind-boggling about these statements is that these sorts of predictions are accompanied with the dumbest thing that anyone can say about commodities: This time it’s different.

No it’s not, and we have 150 years worth of oil price panics to prove it.

Oil Prices: From one hysterical moment to another

The thought of oil prices moving 15%-20% is probably enough to make the average investor shudder. The assumption is that when a move that large happens, something must be wrong with the market that could change your investment thesis. Perhaps the supply and demand curves are a little out of balance, maybe there is a geopolitical conflict that could compromise a critical producing nation.

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s just what oil prices do over time.

Ever since 1861 — two years after the very first oil well was dug in the U.S. — there have been:

  • 88 years with a greater than 10% change, once every year and a half
  • 69 years with a greater than 15% change, or once every 2.25 years
  • 44 years with a greater than 25% change, once every 3.5 years
  • 13 years with a greater than 50% change, once every dozen years or so

Also keep in mind, these are just the change in annual price averages. So it’s very likely that these big price pops and plunges are even more frequent than what this chart shows.

Investing in energy takes more stomach than brains

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of basing all of your energy investing decisions on the price of oil and where it will go. On the surface it makes sense because the price of that commodity is the lifeblood of these companies. When the price of oil drops as much as 50% over a few months, it will likely take a big chunk out of revenue and earnings power.

As you can see from this data, though, the frequency of major price swings is simply too much for the average investor to try to time the market. Heck, even OPEC, the organization that is supposed to be dedicated to regulating oil prices through varying production is bad at predicting which way oil prices will go.

The reality is, being an effective energy investor doesn’t require the skill to know where energy prices are headed — nobody has that skill anyways. The real determining factor in effectively investing in this space is identifying the best companies and holding them through the all the pops and drops.

Let’s just use an example here. In 1980, the price of oil — adjusted for inflation — was at a major peak of $104. From there it would decline for five straight years and would never reach that inflation adjusted price again until 2008. For 15 of those 28 years oil prices were one-third what they were in 1980. If we were to use oil prices as our litmus test, then any energy investment made in 1980 would have been a real stinker.

However, if you had made an investment in ExxonMobil in 1980 and just held onto it, your total return — share price appreciation plus dividends — would look a little something like this.

XOM Total Return Price Chart

So much for all those pops and drops.

What a Fool believes

The entire oil and gas industry has pretty much maneuvered from crisis to crisis since its inception, we just seemed to have forgotten that fact up until a few months ago because we had two years of relative calm. The important thing to remember is that the world’s energy needs grow every day and the companies that produce it will invest and make more money off of it when prices are high and less money when prices are low.

Based on the historical trends of oil, analysts will continue to go on their sugar-high proclamation streak and say that oil will go to absurd highs and lows so they can get their name in a financial piece, and they will try to tell you that this time it’s different because of xyz. We know better, and they should as well.

There’s 150 years of evidence just waiting to prove them wrong.

TIME Retail

3 Shocking Facts You Didn’t Know About Presidents Day

A Sliding Scale
MPI—Getty Images A satirical cartoon showing the sliding scale of worth of American politicians, circa 1896.

It's really just a result of smart branding

This Monday, Americans will enjoy their annual celebration of Presidents Day, a vague commemoration of all things presidential, one might think.

Think again. Here are three things you might not have known about Presidents Day:

Technically, it’s still “Washington’s Birthday”

According to section 6103(a) of title 5 of the U.S. Code, this Monday commemorates “Washington’s Birthday,” not “Presidents Day.”

The name change coincided with a Congressional initiative to attach federal holidays to the weekend, thereby creating an uninterrupted, three-day stretch of leisure time.

The Uniform Monday Holiday Bill, which hit the voting floor in 1968, nudged “Washington’s Birthday” from a fixed date, February 22, to every “third Monday in February,” i.e. not Washington’s birthday. But the name stuck.

Presidents Day is a brilliant stroke of branding

The ever-shifting holiday also happened to dance around Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, which several states marked as a separate holiday on February 12. Retailers, eager to promote discounts on both days, seized on the name “Presidents Day” to lure in shoppers regardless of which president they might happen to be celebrating. Gradually the catch-all term fell into common use.

It’s also not quite a holiday

Calling it a “holiday” doesn’t make it so. Yesware, an email analytics firm, crunched the numbers on 23 million emails circulating through corporate inboxes over the course of one year. Their finding: Open and reply rates on Presidents Day exceeded other federal holidays, and even a typical workday.

This is partly a function of workers receiving fewer emails overall, making a quick scan through the inbox a bit easier. It also suggests that when it comes to federal holidays, Presidents Day is the least sacrosanct.

TIME Civil Rights

How Marriage Equality in Alabama Is Not Like the Civil Rights Movement

Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) fa
OFF / AFP/Getty Images Alabama's governor George Wallace (L) faces General Henry Graham, in Tuscaloosa, on June 12, 1963, at the University of Alabama

"The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful," says one historian of the Civil Rights era

Here’s an SAT-level analogy question: Is Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court to the marriage equality movement what Alabama Governor George Wallace was to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s?

The comparison is an easy one to make, and numerous outlets drew the connection on Monday, in the aftermath of Moore’s attempt to halt same-sex marriages in his state. Facing integration of the University of Alabama in 1963, which had been mandated years earlier by Brown v. Board of Education, Wallace tried to block the change and was met by National Guard troops. This week, Moore defied a federal District Court ruling by ordering local probate judges not to license same-sex marriages, a bold challenge to the established principle of federal supremacy over state courts. In short, both Wallace and Moore relied on states’ rights claims to defy the federal government’s demand for social change.

Still, while some may see Moore’s last stand as a symbolic stand like Wallace’s, historians say the difference in context suggests that Moore is more likely to disappear with a whimper than a bang. Wallace was a martyr for a population heavily invested in the status quo. Moore is a martyr for a population resigned to change.

“Wallace was riding the segregation wave at its height,” says Dan Carter, author of George Wallace biography The Politics of Rage. “The fundamental difference is that accepting gays and lesbians and their rights is not nearly as painful. I think the gay issue, even in the deep South, in the most conservative areas, it’s kind of a resigned acceptance.”

An analysis of demographic and voting data by the New York Times suggests that two-thirds of state residents are likely opposed to the unions. But opposition today is not nearly as strong as white southerners’ opposition to civil rights for black Americans was in 1963, Carter says, pointing to Southern newspaper coverage. In the 1960s, few Alabama newspapers would dare publish anything sympathetic to civil rights, according to Carter. On Monday, when same-sex marriages began, the state’s largest newspaper said it was an “extraordinary day.”

And, though a conflict between the state and federal governments persists — probate judges in some Alabama counties aren’t issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, citing Moore’s guidance — it remains unclear how the federal government will respond. At this point, it seems unlikely that such a response would mirror what happened in the 1960s.

“Bobby Kennedy was willing to bring in federal marshals, willing to nationalize the National Guard in states,” says University of Alabama history professor Glenn Feldman, referring to the then-Attorney General’s response to Wallace in the 1960s. “I’m not sure if the federal government today has the political backbone or will to make people respect it.”

Whether or not the White House ultimately cracks down on wayward Alabama judges, it’s hard to imagine that the situation would escalate as it did in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy sent in the National Guard to force integration. That’s because, in all likelihood, such measures would probably be unnecessary. Some of the judges under Moore’s purview ignored his order, and others said they’re waiting for clarification. Furthermore, Moore only has authority over the state’s judicial employees, not the state troopers and others whom Wallace used to fight integration.

Today, conservative Alabama Governor Robert Bentley seems sympathetic to Moore and hasn’t tried to restrict him. (He’s said he doesn’t want to “further complicate this issue.”) But he also seems likely to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The issue of same sex marriage will be finally decided by the U.S. Supreme Court later this year,” he said in a statement. “I have great respect for the legal process, and the protections that the law provides for our people.”

For his part, President Obama — who has addressed the comparison to Wallace — also seems to believe that the courts can take care of this issue on their own, without the kind of intervention that was necessitated five decades ago. “I think that the courts at the federal level will have something to say to him,” he told BuzzFeed News about Roy Moore this week.

So, the states’-rights justifications for Wallace and Moore may be the same, but historical distinctions mean the resolution to Moore’s defiance is likely to be far less dramatic than Wallace’s was.

There is one more difference between them, however, and it suggests that such a resolution may not be the end of Moore’s story: Moore may not be ready to give up, even when moving on makes political sense. Wallace’s opposition to integration was driven by a political desire to win over his constituents, Feldman and Carter note, so he changed his views when it was no longer advantageous for him to oppose civil rights. Looking at Moore, however, they see someone whose deeply-held religious beliefs may lead him to push his authority further, even as the opinions of those around him evolve.

“He actually believes this stuff,” says Feldman. “He actually believes in his heart of hearts that the federal government is not a position to tell states what to do.”

TIME History

See the Photos That Gave Americans Their First Glimpse of Apartheid in 1950

On the 25th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's release from prison, a historian examines the LIFE photo essay that introduced Americans to South Africa's devastating system of segregation

A photograph of two muscular young black men dominated the page. Their faces and shirtless torsos, drenched with sweat, filled the frame, giving them an almost palpable physical presence. Hard hats, tilted back to expose their faces, encircled their heads like halos. Lanterns on the hats and the dark rock behind the men told LIFE’s readers that they were miners.

The two men averted their eyes from the camera, their expressions composed but inscrutable. Who were these men behind their enigmatic masks? LIFE’s caption provided no answers. It identified them only as “Gold Miners Nos. 1139 and 5122,” the numbers the mine had assigned these “units.” On the opening page of “South Africa and Its Problem,” the photo essay that introduced America to apartheid, the men were symbols rather than individuals, emblems of oppression and exploitation.

“Apartheid,” a word that means, simply, “apart-hood,” will forever be associated with South Africa’s notorious system of racial domination and with the freedom struggle that brought it to an end. In 1950, when LIFE published its exposé, the word was still unfamiliar to most Americans. The term itself had begun to gain currency only after the South African National Party’s electoral victory in 1948.

Although 300 years of colonialism had created a racial hierarchy, the party promised that apartheid would be more comprehensive than anything that had come before, ensuring that white supremacy would survive for generations to come. LIFE’s editors viewed apartheid as a troubling development. South Africa was an American ally, and this new, more virulent form of racism had the potential to destabilize the Cold War order. They assigned Margaret Bourke-White to produce the pictures that would explain apartheid to Americans.

Bourke-White was an obvious choice for such an important assignment. Her compelling reportage for LIFE from the Soviet Union during World War II, from India at the time of independence and from throughout the United States during the Great Depression had made her one of the most famous and respected photojournalists of her era. She arrived in South Africa in late 1949 and left in mid-April 1950, traveling widely in South Africa proper and visiting South West Africa (now Namibia, then South Africa-governed) and Bechuanaland (now Botswana, then a British colony). She produced over 5,000 photographs, covering subjects that ranged from landscapes to cabinet ministers to “native” women in colorful costumes.

Margaret Bourke White in South Africa, 1950
Margaret Bourke-White—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

As her time in South Africa lengthened, Bourke-White increasingly turned her attention to the farms and gold and diamond mines that underpinned South Africa’s economy. She made some of the first photographs that captured the grueling conditions deep inside South Africa’s gold mines. She photographed convict laborers — most of whom had been found guilty of minor offenses — being marched at gunpoint to white farmers’ fields.

Her images exposed the wine farms’ infamous “tot system,” a practice that paid workers, some of them children, partly in cheap wine, thereby addicting them to alcohol and creating a dependent labor force. She showed African men queuing for passbooks, the degrading internal passports that allowed them to move around in the country of their birth. She photographed women and children amid the dirt and decay of urban shantytowns.

The photographs LIFE published in “South Africa and Its Problem” spoke eloquently about the indignities that blacks endured, the wealth that they created but did not enjoy, and about the political and economic structures that kept them in their place. It cast blacks as workers and “natives,” who were essentially passive in the face of an oppressive system. “The Whites Won the Land, the Blacks Work It,” one of LIFE’s headlines proclaimed. There seemed to be little hope for change

It was a convincing argument, but it was profoundly incomplete.

Modern readers are likely to wonder, after flipping through the essay, Where is Nelson Mandela? And where is the African National Congress (ANC) he led to power in 1994? More broadly they might ask, Where is any evidence at all of black activism? The evidence, in the form of Bourke-White’s photographs, existed. LIFE’s editors chose not to publish almost all of it and to minimize the rest.

“South Africa and Its Problem” contains only the slightest hint of the activism that would ultimately transform the country, despite the fact that the 1940s and early 1950s were a time of tremendous cultural and political dynamism among black South Africans. The last photograph in the essay, and by far the smallest, was an image of an ornamental plinth in front of Johannesburg’s city hall. On it, somebody had scrawled, “God is Black.” LIFE explained the scene by saying that the words were written by “a resentful Native.” Bourke-White understood its deeper significance. In a note to her editors, written while she was still in South Africa, she explained that the message was “[s]ymptomatic of the growing racial self-consciousness of the black folk of South Africa.”

Bourke-White was aware of the changing self-consciousness because she had photographed and spoken with black activists and intellectuals. She photographed a rally that had been called to protest “Police Terror” and the hated passbooks. A close-up of Phillip Mbhele, one of the protestors, showed him wearing a badge that read, “We Don’t Want Passes.” She also photographed union meetings and a campaign that urged better education for African children. She made portraits of several anti-apartheid leaders, although not Nelson Mandela.

It is likely that LIFE’s editors chose not to publish these photographs because many of the demonstrations and activists that organized them were associated with the Communist Party of South Africa. (At this time, the ANC and most of its members, including Mandela, were hostile to communism. Neither ANC members nor activities appear in Bourke-White’s photographs.) Given the anti-communist fervor that pervaded American culture at the time, editors may well have believed that they were doing black South Africans a favor by remaining silent about activism. Ties to communism would have made it difficult for many readers sympathize with the freedom struggle.

The editors’ decision to hide what they knew about black activism did Bourke-White, their readers, and black South Africans — the vast majority of whom had nothing to do with communism — a disservice. It compromised an analysis of South African society that was otherwise as moving as it was convincing. “South Africa and Its Problem” created a flattened, one-dimensional representation of black communities by failing to reveal the cultural and political dynamism that would eventually free them.

Six decades after its publication, the photo essay remains a compelling analysis and explicit condemnation of racial injustice at the dawn of the apartheid era. If not for its omissions, though, it could have been so much more.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

TIME society

MLK, Civil Rights and The Fierce Urgency of Now

What can the Civil Rights Movement and President Johnson's "Great Society" teach us about legislative action today?
Getty Images

What can the Civil Rights Movement and President Johnson's "Great Society" teach us about legislative action today?

What’s in a moment?

At the 1963 March on Washington and elsewhere, Martin Luther King, Jr spoke of “the fierce urgency of now,” the need for immediate, “vigorous and positive action” on civil rights. Princeton historian Julian Zelizer has borrowed King’s words for the title of his new book to re-examine the Lyndon Johnson presidency, the power of Congress, and the birth, and fate, of the Great Society.

On a recent Thursday evening Zelizer and Jonathan Alter (the two are a kind of Simon and Garfunkel of modern politics) engaged in wide ranging discussion of civil rights, grass roots activism, and the nature of leadership, past and present. It was a moment for moments, exploring larger historiographical questions about how we mark and measure progress, how insights into one era help us make sense of our own.

In The Fierce Urgency of Now, Zelizer recounts the astonishing achievements of a brief three-year window, 1963-1966: the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid, the War on Poverty, national investments in education and infrastructure, and a series of groundbreaking environmental and consumer protection laws. Challenging what has become, a half century later, received wisdom about the Great Society, Zelizer shifts the lens from Johnson to the Congress to explode what he calls two “myths”: that much of the country and the federal government had become, ineluctably, liberal, and that LBJ’s famous “Treatment” – the force of his personality – willed legislation into being.

“Johnson deserves his share of the credit,” Zelizer contends, “but less for being an especially skilled politician who could steamroll a recalcitrant Congress than for taking advantage of extremely good legislative conditions when they emerged.” By 1966, deteriorating conditions in many American cities, the resurgence of a strong conservative coalition, mounting concern over Vietnam on the left and right, and sweeping losses for the Democrats in the midterm elections, meant Johnson’s window was shut. At that point, notes Zelizer, “all the Treatment and parliamentary tricks in the world had little practical effect on Congress.”

This thesis, supported in large measure by transcripts of oval office audiotapes, counters the more “Johnson-centric” and great man view of history. By implication, it also takes on the work of the “great man” historian who has helped shaped this narrative. Robert Caro’s exhaustively researched and highly decorated volumes on Johnson – in particular the Pulitzer Prize winning Master of the Senate – have become a kind of gospel of LBJ’s legislative prowess and potency. As President, “Johnson knew the limits of his skill,” Zelizer told the group assembled at New America NYC. “Johnson used to say, ‘I’m not a Master of a damn thing. The only power that I’ve got is nuclear, and I can’t use that.’”

The role of historical revision was more than subtext in the evening’s discussion. Alter, a defining historian of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Barack Obama, has explained of the craft, “writing contemporary history is tricky, like pulling pottery out of the kiln before the glaze has hardened.” In The Promise, his chronicle of Obama’s first year in office, Alter also writes of the importance of multiple drafts and subsequent “versions” of history. Accordingly, he probed how Zelizer’s version of the “battle” for the Great Society enriches our understanding of that moment, and illuminates issues of governance and leadership more broadly. Which raised, inexorably, the Obama comparisons. When asked by an audience member about the prospect of any American president ever achieving that kind of ’63-’66 legislative run, Zelizer replied, “we will need a different Congress to get a great society, not just a different president.” We may still be too close to our subject to conclude how Presidential temperament does – or does not – influence legislative outcomes. But it is useful to remember, as Zelizer noted, that some of the elements of our current political morass – large and consequential mid-term swings, a dysfunctional Congress – are not without precedent.

The publication of The Fierce Urgency of Now coincides with the release of Selma, Director Ava DuVernay’s new film about the marches for voting rights in 1965. The movie portrays how activists persisted in the face of brutal attacks from Alabama State troopers and local police, drawing the national attention to the moment and movement necessary to pass the Voting Rights Act. Members of the Johnson Administration and others have suggested that the filmmakers unfairly depict the President as hostile to voting rights. Zelizer supports this critique, and notes that Johnson, shortly after his election, instructed Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach and others to craft the framework and deal for a voting rights bill, both in place before Selma. Where LBJ disagreed with King, Zelizer suggests, was on timing. “Johnson was committed to voting rights,” Zelizer says. But “he was scared of the limits of his power… He was worried if he sent the Voting Rights bill so soon after the Civil Rights bill” he would lose the political support of moderate Democrats and others, and jeopardize other legislative priorities like Medicare and education.

“This is the fierce urgency of now debate,” Zelizer argues. “The movement, the protests, were critical in getting the bill out now rather than later.” According to Zelizer, the Selma film is “really exceptional in capturing the bravery and the courage of the movement, showing how the movement was moving the issue… This is a stunning portrayal of one of the themes of the book: the way that average people mobilize to change Washington.” In our current struggles for civil rights, and the need to shape movement from moment, there is no lesson more hopeful – or urgent.

Georgia Levenson Keohane is a Senior Fellow at New America and Director of the Program on Profits and Purpose, a new initiative that explores ways in which social entrepreneurship, innovation and finance can address some of our most pressing social and economic challenges. This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME movies

Selma Cast Will March in Alabama to Celebrate MLK Day

attends the "Selma" New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on December 14, 2014 in New York City.
Rob Kim—Getty Images From left: Oprah, David Oyelowo, and Ava DuVernay, attend the "Selma" New York Premiere at Ziegfeld Theater on Dec. 14, 2014 in New York City.

Director Ava DuVernay and stars Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo will be there too

Oprah Winfrey, who produced and appears in the Oscar-nominated movie Selma, will march in Selma, Alabama on Sunday with members of the film’s cast and crew to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday.

Director Ava DuVernay and star David Oyelowo will also be marching in the event to celebrate Dr. King’s contributions, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The film is about Dr. King and the voting rights protests of 1965 in Selma. Monday is MLK Day, a national holiday celebrating Dr. King’s birthday and his leadership in the civil rights movement.

Paramount is offering free screenings of Selma for students in 24 American cities on Monday, thanks to contributions by prominent African-American business leaders.

[THR]

TIME society

Growing Up in Atlanta, Every Day Was MLK Day

martin-luther-king-jr
Getty Images Martin Luther King, Jr.

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

"If you grow up black in King's hometown, you can't help but see his story intertwine with your own"

To grow up in Atlanta is to be always aware of the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., and to see it intertwine with your own fate.

I was born there in 1978, less than a mile from the house where King grew up. As a schoolchild, I like others, visited Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue—the street where King was born, worked, died, and is honored. To see King’s neighborhood, and the home he was born in, humanized him for us children, letting us know that he was once young like us, wrestling with classes and playing with siblings. We went to the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King declared, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice,” and to the headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization he led until his death in 1968. We visited the King Center built by his widow to spread King’s nonviolent doctrine, and saw the eternal flame that burns near his tomb and reminds us that his work endures.

My grandparents—native Floridians who first came to Atlanta as college students in the late 1930s—and my mother tried to shield my brother and me from the indignities they suffered during the era of Jim Crow. They did this mostly by trying to give us a better life; I seldom spoke to them about the racism they endured. But the living history was everywhere in Atlanta, and the frequency with which I saw King’s lieutenants and associates on television reminded me of both the progress we’d achieved and the work still left to be done. John Lewis, for example, was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when he was gassed and beaten badly on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, in 1965, during the start of a march to the state capitol that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” But he went on to represent Atlanta as a U.S. congressman and has fought for decades to preserve the Voting Rights Act he, King, and hundreds of foot soldiers helped usher into law.

When I became a journalist, I found myself gravitating toward telling the stories of black people, and focusing specifically on the legacy of the civil rights movement. As a college student, I got my first reporting job at the Atlanta Daily World, a black newspaper first published in 1928. The office was on Auburn Avenue—the same street I’d first visited as a child. I was working blocks away from where King worked.

By taking on civil rights as a beat in Atlanta, I not only had a front row seat to history, but the ability to ask those who lived it how they felt about current-day racial struggles. It was an extraordinary opportunity.

Even though I have left Atlanta, I carry all this history with me. This fall, almost a half-century after the enactment of the federal Civil Rights Act that King supported, I spent a few weeks in Ferguson, Missouri, as a reporter for Fusion covering the Michael Brown shooting and the ensuing protests.

From the day I arrived, the parallels between the Ferguson context and that of King’s struggles were everywhere.

Even though segregation is no longer legal and discussion of the civil rights movement has appeared in textbooks for decades, I still found neighborhoods in Ferguson so divided along color lines that I thought I had stepped into those black-and-white TV images of the 1960s I had seen. In the same way Bull Connor referred to King and other protesters as “outside agitators” in Birmingham, authorities and some residents in Ferguson referred to “outsiders” and the “negative influence of the media” on the African-American community—as if this community had no grounds to be unhappy of their own volition with the status quo before August 9, 2014. I talked to people on both sides of the racial divide who did not know each other’s daily lives.

The way the police deployed tear gas, dogs, smoke bombs, and riot gear certainly reminded me of stories I’d been told by people like Lewis. Images of clashing police and protesters in Ferguson—and the real-time reactions on social media—reminded me of the nation’s horror at the sight of water hoses, clubs, and snarling dogs 50 years before.

The Ferguson rallies, both there and elsewhere in the country, were full of young people—much like those during the civil rights movement. But there were important differences, too. Unlike the masses who rallied around King in Alabama, there was no single leader of the protests I covered in Ferguson night after night. The shooting of Michael Brown had been the catalyst, but inequality—and specifically unequal treatment of black people in the criminal justice system—was the real subject, one with many stories to tell.

During the 1960s, the black church had a central role, serving as the moral foundation of the movement. In Ferguson, churches served as the site of several rallies and meetings, and preachers could regularly be seen keeping the peace on the front lines during protests. But the burgeoning movement was neither started nor maintained through the church.

And while the protesters on West Florissant Avenue were mostly peaceful demonstrators, there were some who would have disappointed King—looting, committing arson, firing guns.

There are some who think of the events in Ferguson as an isolated incident, simply a moment in time. But to me it seemed like part of the continuum in the struggle for progress in our country. When I interviewed King’s aides, they were always quick to mention that the civil rights movement didn’t die with King; it’s ongoing. While our nation has made racial progress, we still have far to go before we achieve full equality among America’s citizens. The reaction to what happened in Ferguson exposed that chasm anew.

Errin Whack is a journalist whose articles, essays, and interviews have appeared in numerous outlets, including Fusion News, The Guardian, The Associated Press, and The Washington Post. She currently serves as vice president of print for the National Association of Black Journalists and lives in Washington, D.C. She wrote this for What It Means to Be American, a national conversation hosted by the Smithsonian and Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

The History of Jews in France in 6 Key Moments

ISRAEL-FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-DEMO
Gali Tibbon—AFP/Getty Images A member of the French Jewish community holds a sign during a rally in Jerusalem on Jan. 11, 2015, to demonstrate Jerusalem's support for France and the Jewish community there.

Understand how history shaped the Jewish community in France, from the French Revolution to today

The deadly assault on a kosher supermarket in Paris on Friday confirmed the fears of many French Jews that anti-Semitism is a persistent and growing threat in France. Already, thousands of Jews have departed for Israel in the wake of 2012 shooting at a Jewish day school and an attack last year on the Jewish museum in Belgium.

The history of the Jewish community in France has, in some ways, been shaped by anti-Semitism—but it is also shaped by the type of support that coalesced around the Jewish community over the weekend. Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared that “France without Jews is not France” and an estimated 3.7 million people took to the streets in solidarity with the victims of last week’s violence.

The Jewish community in France “is not as isolated as we thought,” said French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia after the march. “For months we have been asking where is France? Today we saw France, and the France we saw was a spitting image of biblical descriptions of Jerusalem, where brothers unite.”

To learn more about how the situation got the way it is for the Jewish population of France, TIME spoke with Maud S. Mandel, Dean of the College at Brown University and author of Muslims and Jews in France: History of a Conflict. Here’s a look at some of the key periods that have shaped the history of French Jews:

1. The French Revolution

Within two years of the Revolution, France became the first country in modern Europe to grant Jews equal rights under the law, setting a precedent for France and a new standard for Europe as a whole. At the time, there were only about 40,000 Jews in France, living primarily in the country’s eastern Alsace-Lorraine region, but the process of Jewish emancipation that largely began with the Revolution would have a lasting impact.

2. Napoleon and the Great Sanhedrin

Still, the question of if and how to integrate the Jewish community into French society—a problem known at the time as “the Jewish question”—persisted after the Revolution and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, who was named French Emperor in 1804. “The hope by enlightenment philosophes and revolutionaries that supported Jewish emancipation was that that Jews would integrate into the state like everybody else and that their differences would diminish,” says Mandel. “Napoleon believed that such change wasn’t happening quickly enough, that Jews weren’t fully blending into the surrounding populations.”

Proposing to put the question to the Jewish people, in 1806 Napoleon convened an assembly of important leaders in the Jewish community to clarify their political and religious loyalties. A year later, religious leaders gathered for what was called the Great Sanhedrin, named after the Jewish high court in ancient Israel, to ratify the declarations of the assembly. Through this process, Napoleon effectively asked whether the allegiances of French Jews lay in the Jewish community or in the larger society, says Mandel. “That was a big moment, the Sanhedrin, because it was during this moment of political theater when Jews declared themselves first and foremost French citizens, and that’s where their primary political allegiances were,” she says. “And after that, over a period that took decades, successive generations of Jews integrated more fully because now they were citizens.”

3. The Dreyfus Affair

The assumption that Jews had become an integral part of French society was rocked in the late 19th century. In 1894, Captain Alfred Dreyfus, who was Jewish, was convicted of spying for Germany, spawning a decade-long scandal. Dreyfus was eventually exonerated, but the period was marked by anti-Semitic riots and a vocal anti-Semitic press—as well as by equally vocal non-Jewish defenders of Dreyfus.

Jews in France interpreted the Dreyfus Affair in different ways, according to Mandel. For some, Dreyfus’s exoneration represented the triumph of French republican values over discrimination and xenophobia. “For many French Jews it was actually a sign that eventually the state would in fact side with justice and inclusion,” says Mandel. But for others, the scandal was proof that anti-Semitism was endemic to Europe. One of the people who felt that way was an Austro-Hungarian journalist reporting from Paris, Theodor Herzl—the man who would found the modern Zionist movement.

4. The Holocaust

The Second World War had a devastating impact on Jews in France, as it did on Jewish communities across Europe. Even before the war, the influx of Jewish refugees and immigrants from Germany and Eastern Europe had sparked an anti-Semitic backlash. (At the turn of the century, there were about 80,000 Jews in France; by 1939, there were about 300,000.) In the wake of the German invasion, the newly installed Vichy government willingly helped the Nazis round up Jews in France, particularly from recent immigrant communities. It was a stain on French history with tragic repercussions: by the end of the war, more than 70,000 Jews were deported from France, of whom only about 2,500 would survive.

On the other hand, the high number of Jews in France who did survive the war spoke to the public’s reluctance to participate in the Nazi deportation. “Of the Jews who survived, many, many of them owed their lives to French citizens who hid them, to officials who dragged their feet, to the very fact that they were French and they had all kinds of connections in French society that allowed them to avoid the worst outcome,” Mandel says. “That didn’t mean they didn’t lose property and suffer great losses and hardship over the period of World War II. I think that’s where you see the tension in the French story.”

5. Jewish Migration from North Africa

In the decades following the war, as France pulled out of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, large populations of Jews in those countries fled along with it. Many left for the newly established state of Israel, but others went to France. The migration north was most pronounced in Algeria, where the people already had French citizenship because of the special status of Algeria as a French colony; 90% of Jews in that country headed for France. The influx from North Africa doubled the Jewish population in France and introduced new customs to the increasingly diverse Jewish community. The North African Jews were also more willing than their predecessors in France to engage in politics along ethnic lines, coming out in force, for example, in support of Israel during the 1967 Six-Day War.

“Since that time, the Jewish community has been much more visible in support of Israel,” says Mandel. “It’s also been much more comfortable with expressing an ethnic politics within mainstream French political discourse.”

6. Jewish-Muslim Tensions

The arrival of Jews from North Africa coincided with a massive influx of Muslim migrant laborers, also largely from North Africa. While there were occasional clashes between these two immigrant populations, Jewish and Muslim immigrants often lived side-by-side in the early years, says Mandel. Beginning in the 1980s, however, tensions began to emerge, especially as the state failed to fully integrate the Muslim community into French society. “The difference was visible, and it caused resentment and interfered with their ability to work together because the needs of the two communities were so different,” says Mandel. Those tensions were only heightened by the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Still, Mandel distinguishes between those lingering tensions and the high profile attacks against Jews that have fueled fears of escalating anti-Semitism since the 2000s. Those, says Mandel, are linked to global Islamic terrorism. “I want to be really clear, that phenomenon does not run through and through France’s very diverse and large Muslim population,” she says. “It is one fringe element.”

Meanwhile, French Jews—the third largest Jewish population in the world after America and Israel—are more integrated into French society than ever before, says Mandel. “The tragic irony is that at the very moment at which we’re talking about the greatest spike in anti-Semitism in Europe since World War II,” she says, “is also a moment where we can underscore the ways in which prior former forms of anti-Semitism have significantly diminished.”

TIME History

The History of French-Muslim Violence Began in the Streets of Algeria

When the Algerian War ended with a ceasefire in March 1962, LIFE was there to capture both the celebration and the violence

It’s not difficult to situate the horrific massacres in Paris last week— which claimed the lives of 17 victims — within the broader context of terrorism carried out by Islamic extremist groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and greater Syria (ISIS). But there’s another context in which the attacks should be understood, and it dates back to the 1950s and early ‘60s, when the Algerian War had France fighting to maintain its colonial hold on the North African country, and Algeria fighting for independence.

The chaotic scenes last week echoed a history of violence between the French and the Algerian Muslims who lived under Paris’s rule for more than a century. In the words of Robert Fisk, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, “the desperate and permanent crisis in Algerian-French relations” is “like the refusal of a divorced couple to accept an agreed narrative of their sorrow.” Though the Algerian War took place in the middle of the 20th century, its foundation was laid by the 19th century French invasion of Algeria, which was followed by efforts to convert the Muslim population to Christianity. French rule fomented a growing resentment among Algerians that in the 1950s would escalate to revolt.

Though exact death tolls don’t exist, there are estimates that hundreds of thousands to more than a million Algerian Muslims died in the war, with tens of thousands of French military and civilians perishing in the conflict. The peace that followed the ceasefire in 1962 was, as Fisk puts it, “a cold peace in which Algeria’s residual anger, in France as well as in the homeland, settled into long-standing resentment.” Many of the hundreds of thousands of people of Algerian descent living in France today are poor and feel the specter of discrimination in government policies like the 2010 ban on face coverings.

In March 1962, LIFE photographer Paul Schutzer was on the scene in Algiers as the Algerian War came to an end with a tenuous ceasefire and a path to Algerian self-determination. Part of that city witnessed jubilant celebration—a truce had finally been reached between French President Charles de Gaulle and the Muslim-led National Liberation Front. But in other corners of town, a gruesome massacre was underway, as a group of French army officers called the Organisation de l’armée secrète (O.A.S.) in favor of French rule in Algeria killed innocent Muslims in a last-ditch effort—a mutiny of sorts—to thwart independence.

LIFE explained the motivations of the O.A.S.:

A cynical hope underlay the O.A.S. attacks: if by killing innocent people the O.A.S. could provoke all-out communal war, sympathetic elements of the French army might throw in with the Algerian Europeans against the Moslems and even against De Gaulle. But this wretched hope was in vain; retaliating, the French forces boldly struck, while air force jets strafed O.A.S. sniper positions. De Gaulle, “Le Grand Charlie,” had spoken.

The photographs above capture both the celebration and the bloodshed that coincided on the streets of Algiers as one historical chapter ended and another began. And the paradox Schutzer captured on that day — the intersection of violence and peace and a new and complicated independence—reverberates even today.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

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