I recently enjoyed watching the 2013 US film ‘the Butler’, based on the true story of Eugene Allen’s 34-year career as a butler in the White House. Aside from being an interesting biography, the film was a great recap of the history of the civil rights movement – the inspirational campaign against racial segregation in the US.
It’s hard to imagine that just a few decades ago, black people were barred from eating in certain restaurants and public spaces in the American South, and that even more shockingly, the state would essentially stand by as people were tormented and physically abused.
How do you respond to that sort of treatment, while keeping the moral high ground and winning the argument? The appropriate response to such discrimination is one of the major themes of the film, with Allen (portrayed by Forest Whitaker) favouring cautious adaptation to the status quo, and frequently clashing with his son Louis who experiments with more direct action (both violent and non-violent).
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, and is portrayed briefly in the film prior to his assassination in 1968. King’s non-violent model of protest ultimately proved highly effective in securing key pieces of legislatory change.
To rinse or not to rinse, that is the question… If you own a dishwasher you will certainly have considered whether to pre-rinse your dishes before stacking them. This is a matter of great controversy and whole internet forums have been devoted to the topic!
According to dishwasher manufacturers’ guidelines, ‘pre-rinsing’ as it is known, is unnecessary. Experts (i.e. dishwasher engineers) say quite categorically that you do not need to pre-rinse before loading the dishwasher: just scrape the leftovers from your dishes into the bin and stack them. The dishwasher will do its job and wash them.
First introduced to Europe and then North America in the 17th century, but having an established history before then in China and the east, tea has long been a drink of choice for cultures across the world. Here we list some claimed health benefits of tea derived from the camellia sinensis plant, that is, green, black, white and oolong varieties.
1. Tea contains antioxidants called ‘flavonoids’. These compounds inhibit certain reactions in the body that release free radicals that can cause cell damage and even cancer.
2. Tea has negligible levels of carbohydrate (and calories), and provided it’s not sweetened, no sugar either. Given the numerous studies that have linked sugar to weight gain, tea is the perfect drink for inclusion in weight-loss diets where you want something a little more interesting than plain water.
This is the second of two posts on the ‘Top Progressive Achievements of the 20th Century’ in the UK. You can read the first part here.
7. Pay Equality (1970)
The Equal Pay Act of 1970 (implemented in 1975) made it illegal to discriminate between men and women in pay and work conditions, provided it could be proved that a claimant’s work was broadly the same as another employee. Although the Labour Party and trade unions had previously promised support for equal pay legislation, it was the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 (dramatised by the 2010 film ‘Made in Dagenham’) that energised the issue and encouraged MP Barbara Castle to push through the act.
6. Race Relations Act (1965)
Significant as not only the first piece of racial equality legislation in the UK, but also the precursor for several pieces of liberal legislation from the 1960s onwards. The new law made it a civil offence to publicly discriminate on the grounds of colour, race, ethnic or national origins, but was criticised for its weakness in failing to cover key areas such as employment and housing. It was strengthened by an amendment in 1968 and replaced in 1976. Post-war immigration from the Caribbean and former empire nations had raised awareness of racial discrimination in Britain.
The OU’s provision of distance learning and its open entry policy, stating that previous academic achievement was no bar to course enrollment, allowed thousands of adults to gain qualifications while still in full or part-time employment. By widening access to higher education, the OU has arguably been a significant contributor to social mobility. Today the OU is the largest academic institution in the UK, with over 250,000 people enrolled in its courses.
14. Defeat of the Poll Tax (1990)
The Community Charge, also known as the poll tax, was introduced by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government from 1989. A campaign of opposition, including an infamous riot in London’s Trafalgar Square, expressed the huge unpopularity of the tax, and contributed to the resignation of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in November 1990. John Major announced the poll tax’s replacement by council tax in his first speech as Prime Minister.