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Interactives -- Historical and Cultural Contexts Image of a Newspaper Pick another Interactive:


A speech is a formal talk which someone gives to an audience. Usually speeches are carefully crafted, contain persuasive language and convey a tone (joyful, mournful, angry, excited, for example). In the interactive below you will see three speeches, one at a time, about events of historical significance. Identify the region and era particular to each speech, and answer additional questions about the information it contains.

(Note: Region selections are based on using a current-day map for all stories. The location of publication and the location where the event took place might be different. In that case, identify the location where the event took place.)

Creek Chief Red Eagle: Address to General Andrew Jackson

Portrait of President Andrew Jackson attributed to Thomas Sully (1783-1872).

Portrait of President Andrew Jackson attributed to Thomas Sully (Late 19th century).

General Jackson, I am not afraid of you. I fear no man, for I am a Creek warrior. I have nothing to request in behalf of myself; you can kill me, if you desire. But I come to beg you to send for the women and children of the war party who are now starving in the woods. Their fields and cribs have been destroyed by your people, who have driven them to the woods without an ear of corn. I hope that you will send out parties who will safely conduct them here in order that they may be fed. I exerted myself in vain to prevent the massacre of the women and children at Fort Mims. I am now done fighting. The Red Sticks are nearly all killed.

I have done the white people all the harm I could. I have fought them, and fought them bravely. If I had an army I would yet fight, and contend to the last. But I have none. My people are all gone. I can now do no more than weep over the misfortunes of my Nation.

There was time when I had a choice and could have answered you; I have none now. Even hope has ended. Once I could animate my warriors to battle, but I cannot animate the dead. My warriors can no longer hear my voice. Their bones are at Talladega, Tallashatchie, Emunckfow and Tohopeka. If I had been left to contend with [your] Army, I would have raised corn on one bank of the river and fought them on the other. But your people have destroyed my Nation. I rely on your generosity.

Nelson Mandela's statement from the court dock at the opening of his defense against charges of treason and conspiracy.

In the 20th century, the government brought further charges including sabotage, high treason and conspiracy to overthrow the government. This is Mandela's statement from the dock at the opening of his defense trial.

I hold a Bachelor's Degree in Arts and practised as an attorney in ______ for a number of years in partnership with Oliver Tambo. I am a convicted prisoner serving five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting people to go on strike at the end of May ______.

Portrait of Nelson Mandela, this country's first president to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections.

Credit: Frederik W. de Klerk, 20th century (Ministère des Affaires étrangères — Service photographique)

Portrait of Nelson Mandela, this country's first president to be elected in fully-representative democratic elections.

At the outset, I want to say that the suggestion made by the State in its opening that the struggle in ______ is under the influence of foreigners or communists is wholly incorrect. I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in ______ and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said.

In my youth in the Transkei I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambata, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case.

Having said this, I must deal immediately and at some length with the question of violence. Some of the things so far told to the Court are true and some are untrue. I do not, however, deny that I planned sabotage. I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation that had arisen after many years of tyranny, exploitation, and oppression of my people by the Whites.

I admit immediately that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto we Sizwe, and that I played a prominent role in its affairs until I was arrested in August ______.

Racial segregation, apartheid sign on Durban beach in English, Afrikaans and Zulu (1989).

Credit: Taken and donated by John Mullen. www.johnmullen.org.uk

Racial segregation, apartheid sign on Durban beach in English, Afrikaans and Zulu.

In the statement which I am about to make I shall correct certain false impressions which have been created by State witnesses. Amongst other things, I will demonstrate that certain of the acts referred to in the evidence were not and could not have been committed by Umkhonto. I will also deal with the relationship between the African National Congress and Umkhonto, and with the part which I personally have played in the affairs of both organizations. I shall deal also with the part played by the Communist Party. In order to explain these matters properly, I will have to explain what Umkhonto set out to achieve; what methods it prescribed for the achievement of these objects, and why these methods were chosen. I will also have to explain how I became involved in the activities of these organizations.

I deny that Umkhonto was responsible for a number of acts which clearly fell outside the policy of the organization, and which have been charged in the indictment against us. I do not know what justification there was for these acts, but to demonstrate that they could not have been authorized by Umkhonto, I want to refer briefly to the roots and policy of the organization.

I have already mentioned that I was one of the persons who helped to form Umkhonto. I, and the others who started the organization, did so for two reasons. Firstly, we believed that as a result of Government policy, violence by the African people had become inevitable, and that unless responsible leadership was given to canalize and control the feelings of our people, there would be outbreaks of terrorism which would produce an intensity of bitterness and hostility between the various races of this country which is not produced even by war. Secondly, we felt that without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle against the principle of white supremacy. All lawful modes of expressing opposition to this principle had been closed by legislation, and we were placed in a position in which we had either to accept a permanent state of inferiority, or to defy the Government. We chose to defy the law. We first broke the law in a way which avoided any recourse to violence; when this form was legislated against, and then the Government resorted to a show of force to crush opposition to its policies, only then did we decide to answer violence with violence...

Vyacheslav Molotov - June 22, mid 20th century, "The Nazi Invasion of Russia"

Today at 4 o'clock a.m., without any claims having been presented to ______ , without a declaration of war, German troops attacked our country, attacked our borders at many points and bombed from their airplanes our cities; Zhitomir, Kiev, Sevastopol, Kaunas and some others, killing and wounding over two hundred persons. There were also enemy air raids and artillery shelling from Rumanian and Finnish territory.

Nazi Troops invading an eastern country with whom they had a peace treaty.

Nazi Troops invading an eastern country with whom they had a peace treaty in the mid 20th century.

This unheard of attack upon our country is perfidy unparalleled in the history of civilized nations. The attack on our country was perpetrated despite the fact that a treaty of non-aggression had been signed between ______ and Germany and that the ______Government most faithfully abided by all provisions of this treaty. The attack upon our country was perpetrated despite the fact that during the entire period of operation of this treaty, the German Government could not find grounds for a single complaint against ______ as regards observance of this treaty. Entire responsibility for this predatory attack upon _______ falls fully and completely upon the German Fascist rulers.

At 5:30 a.m. -- that is, after the attack had already been perpetrated, Von der Schulenburg, the German Ambassador in _______, on behalf of his government made the statement to me as People's Commissar of Foreign Affairs to the effect that the German Government had decided to launch war against _______ in connection with the concentration of Red Army units near the eastern German frontier.

In reply to this I stated on behalf of _____ Government that, until the very last moment, the German Government had not presented any claims to _____ Government, that Germany attacked _____ despite the peaceable position of _____, and that for this reason Fascist Germany is the aggressor.

On instruction of the government of ______ I also stated that at no point had our troops or our air force committed a violation of the frontier and therefore the statement made this morning by the Rumanian radio to the effect that _____ aircraft allegedly had fired on Rumanian airdromes is a sheer lie and provocation.

Likewise a lie and provocation is the whole declaration made today by Hitler, who is trying belatedly to concoct accusations charging ______ with failure to observe the ______-German pact.

Now that the attack on the ______has already been committed, the _____ Government has ordered our troops to repulse the predatory assault and to drive German troops from the territory of our country. This war has been forced upon us, not by the German people, not by German workers, peasants and intellectuals, whose sufferings we well understand, but by the clique of bloodthirsty Fascist rulers of Germany who have enslaved Frenchmen, Czechs, Poles, Serbians, Norway, Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Greece and other nations.

Vyacheslav Molotov discussing politics with Dictator Joseph Stalin.

Credit: National Archives

Vyacheslav Molotov discussing politics with Dictator Joseph Stalin.

The government of the ______ expresses its unshakable confidence that our valiant army and navy and brave falcons of the _______ Air Force will acquit themselves with honor in performing their duty to the fatherland and to the ______ people, and will inflict a crushing blow upon the aggressor. This is not the first time that our people have had to deal with an attack of an arrogant foe. At the time of Napoleon's invasion of _____ our people's reply was war for the fatherland, and Napoleon suffered defeat and met his doom. It will be the same with Hitler, who in his arrogance has proclaimed a new crusade against our country. The ______ Army and our whole people will again wage victorious war for the fatherland, for our country, for honor, for liberty.

The government of ________ expresses the firm conviction that the whole population of our country, all workers, peasants and intellectuals, men and women, will conscientiously perform their duties and do their work. Our entire people must now stand solid and united as never before. Each one of us must demand of himself and of others discipline, organization and self-denial worthy of real _______ patriots, in order to provide for all the needs of the Red Army, Navy and Air Force, to insure victory over the enemy.

The government calls upon you, citizens of the ______, to rally still more closely around our glorious Bolshevist party, around our ______ Government, around our great leader and comrade, Stalin. Ours is a righteous cause. The enemy shall be defeated. Victory will be ours.


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