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History Book: The Darfur genocide


WORLD Radio - History Book: The Darfur genocide

Plus, a labor strike in Ohio turns violent and the first photo of a black hole

A mother and daughter at a refugee camp for internally displaced people (IDP) in North Darfur, Sudan, June 11, 2014 Associated Press/Photo by UNAMID, Albert Gonzalez Farran, File

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday April 8th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up next, the WORLD History Book. Today, the first photo of a black hole. And, a humanitarian agreement ends in bloodshed. But first, one of the biggest strikes in U.S. history sparks a five-day melee …

Here’s WORLD Executive Producer Paul Butler:

PAUL BUTLER: In the 1930s, Toledo, Ohio is in the grips of the great depression—like the rest of the country. Unemployment is high. The city had been an industrial powerhouse for nearly a century before the economic downturn. Now, it’s struggling. Historian Lou Hebert describes the situation on C-SPAN.

HEBERT: So we have thousands, thousands, maybe one out of three workers out of work in this city. So there was a lot of tension, there was a lot of pressure.

On April 12th, 1934, hundreds of angry workers gather outside the Electric Auto-Lite Company. They demand higher wages and better working conditions.

Tensions had been building for months between the employer and union leaders. When the Auto-Lite Company refuses to meet the union demands, workers begin picketing outside the factory.

HEBERT: They would amass at the gates and they would try to stop the strike breakers from going in.

A court injunction tries to limit the amount of picketers allowed on the grounds, but the unions defy the order. So the Auto-Lite Company hires hundreds of replacement workers. By May, 6,000 strikers and sympathizers surround the complex. When police arrest a union leader and four picketers, the Battle of Toledo begins.

HEBERT: There was an incredible amount of violence going on. There were bricks thrown, there were punches thrown, there was tear gas.

Workers barricade themselves within the buildings as the rioters set fire to cars and hurl bricks and stones. The Ohio National Guard arrives to settle the dispute.

HEBERT: The national guard was given orders that they could fire. And they did. Two people were killed in that gunfire, and probably as many as fifteen were wounded.

The conflict rages for another four days. Finally, the Auto-Lite Company agrees to a 5% pay increase, and rehires the employees, ending the strike. It also empowers workers to unionize across the country.

Next, we jump ahead 70 years to Northeast Africa. By 2004, the nation of Sudan has been at war with itself for more than a decade. The conflict is often referred to as the Land Cruiser War—due to the prevalence of the vehicles as military transports. Though in more recent years, it’s been called the Darfur Genocide. Audio here from a 2021 VICE interview with a refugee.

AUDIO: They burned our village in the middle of Al-Jabal. They bombed the area with airstrikes and ammunition.

Since the 1990s, the non-Arab indigenous peoples of Sudan had been under severe persecution by the Sudanese government and an allied Islamist militia known as the Janjaweed. The forces displaced millions of civilians—using a scorched earth strategy, bombing villages from the air, burning homes and crops, killing livestock. The campaign pushed thousands of Sudanese tribal villagers to neighboring Chad or deeper into the country.

Here is refugee Fisa Hussein describing a 2003 attack. Audio from Journeyman Pictures:

AUDIO: They burned our houses, took our money, and using planes and tanks they killed our children and brothers.

The villagers form rebel armies and attempt to fight back.

On April 11th, 2004, most of the forces on both sides agree to a ceasefire. The 2004 Darfur Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement stipulates a 45-day truce, an exchange of prisoners of war, and humanitarian aid for the hundreds of thousands of refugees in and around Darfur. But the ceasefire doesn’t turn into lasting peace. War continues in various skirmishes and even chemical warfare for more than a decade.

On April 11th, 2019—15 years to the day after the failed ceasefire—Sudanese militants depose al-Bashir in a coup d’etat. Audio courtesy of Channel 4 News.


Al-Bashir has been indicted for crimes against humanity, genocide, and murder by the International Criminal Court, but has yet to stand trial. Last year, war in Sudan began again, and the humanitarian crisis is once again severe as millions are displaced and facing famine.

We end on April 10th, 5 years ago, when scientists reveal what they believe to be the first photo ever taken of a black hole. At the Event Horizon Telescope Project, astronomers point eight telescopes around the world at a particular point in the Messier 87 galaxy where scientists believe there is a black hole.

Here’s lead astrophysicist Shep Doeleman for the project speaking at a conference in 2019.

DOELEMAN: To see this black hole, you need a telescope as large as the earth if you’re going to see it in a radio spectrum.

To fix this problem, the team records data through the telescopes for one entire rotation of the Earth. Then a computer splices the images together for a full picture.

DOELEMAN: This is called Earth rotation aperture synthesis.

Astronomers believe black holes have light and hot gas swirling around its event horizon…the gravitational point where all matter is sucked in. The image of the black hole shows this intense light as a fiery, golden ring around the dark event horizon.

Doeleman again at a 2019 TED Talk:

DOELEMAN: That dark region is the signature of the event horizon. There’s reason we don’t see light from there—is that the light that would come to us from that place is swallowed by the event horizon.

Three years later, astronomers snap another picture of a supermassive black hole using the same technique. This time much closer to home, in our own Milky Way Galaxy. These grainy photographs are helping scientists build a more complete model of the mysterious nature and behavior of these cosmic objects.

That’s this week’s WORLD History Book with reporting from Emma Perley. I’m Paul Butler.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


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