Something for the weekend. Nearer, My God, to Thee, sung by Mahalia Jackson. Written in 1841 by Sarah Fuller Flower Adams, it retells the story of Jacob’s Dream. A hymn of surpassing power in time of grief and loss, it was played by Confederate bands after Pickett’s Charge, and was sounded while the Rough Riders buried their dead. Its title was the last words said by a dying President McKinley and the band on the Titanic ended their heroic service by playing the hymn as the ship sank beneath the waves. Continue Reading
There’s something about the magnitude and timing of the sinking of the Titanic that makes it almost irresistible for people to turn it into a sort of fable. The sinking of the “unsinkable” ship, the largest ship of its kind built up to that time, seems like a perfect example of hubris, and the fact that the wreck occurred just two years before the outbreak of the Great War (which perhaps more than any event defines the beginning of “Modern Times”) allows the Titanic to serve as a symbol of all that was bad and good about the world before the world before the War.
One of the things that most people are pretty sure they know about the sinking of the Titanic is that many of the first class passengers survived while those traveling third class were kept below decks and perished in far greater numbers. This fits well with the image of rigid class stratification in the pre-War years.
It is certainly true that a much greater percentage of third class passengers died in the sinking than first and second class passengers, however, the images popularized by James Cameron’s movie of third class passengers being locked below decks by the viciously classist crew appear to be fiction. The question of whether third class passengers were actively kept from the lifeboats was examined during Lord Mersey’s official investigation of the wreck and his conclusions were as follows: Continue Reading