Francis Light

Captain Francis Light was a British explorer and the founder of the British colony of Penang and its capital city of George Town in 1786. He and Martina Rozells were the parents of William Light, founder of Adelaide in South Australia. Light was baptised in Dallinghoo, England on 15 December 1740, his mother was given as Mary Light. Taken in by a relative, the nobleman William Negus, he attended Woodbridge Grammar School from 1747. Researchers believed Light to be the illegitimate son of William Negus, but according to author Noël Francis Light Purdon, the six-times great-grandson of Francis Light, Negus received payment for looking after him and acting as his guardian throughout his education. Light began his service in the Royal Navy as a surgeon's servant on HMS Mars in February 1754, he started an apprenticeship in the Royal Navy in 1759 on HMS Captain, before being transferred after a few months to the newly-commissioned HMS Dragon. He was a midshipman on HMS Arrogant in 1761 before ending his service with the navy in 1763.

It was in the navy that he met James Scott, who would play an important part in his life and business dealings. His movements between 1763 and 1765 are not recorded, but it seems that he managed to amass enough of a fortune to bequeath a considerable amount of property in a will to William Negus and three other men. In 1765 Light embarked the East India Company's ship Clive, captained by John Allen, bound for Madras and Bombay. In India, he secured command of a "country ship" belonging to Madras trading firm Jourdain, Sulivan & Desouza, the Speedwell. Setting up a base in Thalang in Siam, he traded there, in Aceh and the Malay Peninsula, learning the local languages. Basing himself in Thalang, he met Martina Rozells, together they set up a trading post in Kuala Kedah, he soon gained an influential position with the Sultan of Kedah. For about ten years he had his headquarters in Thalang, where he revived a failed French trading post. While in Thalang he learned to speak and write several languages, including Malay and Thai, became family friends with Than Phu Ying Chan and her husband, the Governor of Thalang.

In 1785, he warned the island administrators of an imminent Burmese attack. Light's warning enabled the islanders, led by Chan and her sister Mook, to prepare for Thalang's defence and subsequently repel the Burmese invasion. In 1785, after the death of the Governor of Thalang, his widow Pia Pimons and other relatives proposed that Light assume the position. Light's interest in Penang had begun in 1771, when he proposed the idea of a British settlement in the neighbourhood of the Malay Peninsula to Warren Hastings, the East India Company's Governor of the Presidency of Fort William, he suggested that the island of Penang might serve as a "convenient magazine for the Eastern trade" but at that time his idea gained no ground. In 1776–7, Light arranged a large shipment of firearms for the Siamese Kingdom of Thonburi, ruled by Taksin the Great. Whereas his previous suggestion had brought no result, following the war that ended in the Peace of 1783 with France and Spain during which Britain had struggled with France for naval superiority, Light's suggestion took on a new significance.

In 1786, on behalf of the British East India Company, Light leased Penang Island from Sultan Abdullah Mukarram Shah, for the price of 6,000 Spanish dollars per annum. Under the administration of Governor-general Sir John Macpherson, Light was entitled Superintendent and put in charge of the settlement, styled Dewa Raja by the Malays, on 1 July 1786; the new colony was sparsely populated at this time: it was described as "one vast jungle of nearly 107 square miles, with a population of only fifty-eight souls". Pirates had to be discouraged from landing, forests were cleared. George Town was established, when two EIC ships appeared on the coast, Light took the opportunity of inviting the ships and crews to attend the declaration of the new colony of Prince of Wales Island on 11 August 1786, being the eve of the Prince of Wales's birthday; the Sultan, was bound under the Southeast Asian mandala political model in fealty to the King of Siam. Light had exceeded his authority with a promise of military aid should the Burmese or Siamese invade, despite the fact that Sultan Abdullah asked him not to land until the military aid had been confirmed in London.

Thus, when the Sultan's land was invaded and no aid was forthcoming, the Sultan attempted to take back the island as a refuge in 1790. The multicultural colony of Penang became extraordinarily successful from its inception and Light served as Superintendent of the settlement until his death in October 1794, apart from between 21 Nov 1789 and 9 Feb 1790, when John Glass acted in his place. By 1789 there were about 10,000 inhabitants, by 1795, 20,000. Accounts of his actions seem to indicate that he was a honourable man. In 1790, he asked for a higher salary, in order to allow him to live without having to engage in trade; this led to his business partnership with James Scott being dissolved. In 1794, he recommended that a proper system of justice should be instituted in Penang, as it should not be within the powers of the Superintendent to dispense "arbitrary judgement". Light died from malaria on 21 October 1794 and was buried at the Old Protestant

Joshua Houston

Joshua Houston was born into slavery in 1822 on the Perry County, Alabama plantation owned by Temple Lea and Nancy Moffette Lea, parents of Margaret Lea Houston. When Margaret married Sam Houston, Joshua moved to Texas with the newlyweds. Joshua worked on the construction of Raven Hill in Huntsville, Texas, he was elected to local public offices. He was the father of eight children, including Samuel Walker Houston. Joshua was a Texas delegate at the 1884 Republican National Convention, he helped establish Collegiate Institute. The story of Sam Houston freeing his slaves before his 1863 death, in particular Joshua, has been passed down through history, is recounted in various books. In From Slave To Statesman, author Patricia Smith Prather depicts Houston reading a newspaper story to his slaves in the fall of 1862, about Abraham Lincoln's September 1862 Emancipation Proclamation, telling them they would all be free as of January 1, 1863; the Emancipation Proclamation was not announced in Texas until June 1865, two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

In 1861, the Texas legislature amended its Constitution of 1845, making it illegal to free slaves in the state. No citizen, or other person residing in this State, shall have power by deed, or will, to take effect in this State, or out of it, in any manner whatsoever, directly or indirectly, to emancipate his slave or slaves; when Houston died in 1863, his slaves were part of the inventory of his estate and valued at $10,530. Joshua's son Samuel Walker Houston was born in February 1864, seven months after Sam Houston's death, is always referred to as having been born into slavery. Joshua Houston died in 1902 and was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Huntsville, the same cemetery where Sam Houston is buried. History of slavery in Texas Prather, Patricia Smith. From Slave to Statesman: The Legacy of Joshua Houston, Servant to Sam Houston. University of North Texas Press. ISBN 978-0-929398-87-7. Joshua Houston at Handbook of Texas Online Joshua Houston at Find a Grave

Mark Curtis (SWP member)

Mark Stanton Curtis is a former member of the American Socialist Workers Party. Curtis was the subject of a defense campaign by the SWP after he was charged and convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in 1988; the SWP and others of Curtis's defenders claimed that he had been framed by the police due to his politics and his trade union activities. Curtis was paroled in 1996 after serving eight years of a 25-year sentence in Iowa State Penitentiary; the SWP claimed that Curtis was arrested, beaten by the police and framed up for his work in organizing a campaign to defend 17 of his co-workers from Central America, seized in an INS raid of the Des Moines meatpacking plant at which they worked. Two police officers who arrested Curtis were found guilty of battery in 1992 and ordered to pay $11,000 in damages. Curtis claimed that he was stopped at a traffic light in Des Moines when a woman approached him, said she was being followed and asked for a ride home, he claims that on arriving at her house he accompanied her to the porch at which point police came from behind, handcuffed him and pulled down his trousers.

The 15-year-old girl, Demetria Morris, said she and her 11-year-old brother were watching television when Curtis knocked on their door asking for directions. According to the girl, Curtis asked her if her parents were home, she said they were not, he attacked her and attempted to rape her. Unbeknownst to Curtis, her brother had called the police who arrived on the scene; the Morris family was awarded $80,000 in damages after suing Curtis. Jayko, Margaret; the Frame-Up of Mark Curtis: A Packinghouse Worker's Fight for Justice. Pathfinder, 1989. ISBN 0-87348-545-9 McLaughlin, Martin; the Mark Curtis Hoax: How the Socialist Workers Party Tried to Dupe the Labor Movement. Mehring, 1990. ISBN 0-929087-46-1 Gaige, John; the Stakes in the Worldwide Political Campaign to Defend Mark Curtis. Mark Curtis Defense Committee, 1991. Crane, Naomi. Why Is Mark Curtis Still in Prison?: The Political Frame-Up of a Unionist and Socialist and the Campaign to Free Him. Pathfinder, 1995. ISBN 0-87348-806-7 Crane, Naomi. A Packinghouse Worker's Fight for Justice: The Mark Curtis Story.

Pathfinder, 1996. ISBN 9780873488440 Curtis: `Glad To Return To The Class Struggle', September 2, 1996 in "The Militant"