Angels in America Timeline: Part One
The script for Angels in America draws heavily from crucial junctures in World history. To help guide you through some of the references made in Angels in America, we have constructed a timeline - this week's installment is the first half, 300 B.C.E - 1969 C.E.
300 B.C.E. - The development of the Hebrew alphabet. Beginning with the appearance of a pictograph of an ox head, the aleph glyph becomes the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and the initial letter of God’s name at the time of Creation. The aleph is one of the three words alluding to His Ineffable Name.
68 or 95 C.E. - John of Patmos writes The Book of Revelation (named after its first word, apokalypsis), creating the most common Christian image of the end of the world.
525 C.E. - The Anno Domini dating system is invented by the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguous (Dennis the Small). To make cosmic history coincide with the Roman Diocletian calendar, he assigns Jesus’ birth as December 25, so the assumed date of his circumcision fell on January 1, 1 AD.
1348 - The Black Plague enters Europe. By the end of 1350, one-third of the population of Europe is dead. Prophecies of the End of the World abound.
1525-75 - Nostradamus, an astrologer, physician, and mystic, makes his numerous predictions about events in world history, many of which come to fruition. One of his quatrains is said to predict the End of the World beginning July 1999.
1665 - The Great Plague sweeps London; nearly 70,000 die in four months. The contagion is finally stemmed when most of central London burns to the ground in February, 1666. Prophecies of the End of the World abound.
1776 - Thirteen English colonies declare their independence from England as a result of violation of “inalienable rights” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Some colonial theologians see the new country as a harbinger of the Millennium, which they place around the year 2000.
Sept 22, 1823 - The angel Moroni appears to seventeen-year-old Joseph Smith in a series of visions which lead him to a set of golden plates buried at the Hill Cumorah in upstate New York. These tablets will become The Book of Mormon, the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
1830-1831 - Alexis DeTocqueville visits the United States to study the structure of the United States government, democracy and “the absolute sovereignty of its people.” DeTocqueville’s critique of Jacksonian egalitarianism, which he termed “the tyranny of the majority,” became the basis for his book, Democracy in America.
June 27, 1844 - Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum are killed by a lynch mob in Carthage, Illinois.
July 20, 1847 - Brigham Young establishes Salt Lake City on the shores of the Great Salt Lake as a haven for the Mormon faith after a three-month, one thousand mile exodus from Iowa.
1859 - Abolitionist John Brown, intending to spark a slave revolt, leads an integrated raiding party that briefly captures the U.S. Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. U.S. troops under Robert E. Lee defeat Brown’s force, and he is hanged for treason, arousing the wrath of Northern abolitionists.
1861-65 - The U.S. Civil War, “John Brown’s Body” is a popular Union marching song.
1873 - The "Angel of the Waters," the first public work of art commissioned from a woman (Emma Stebbins), is unveiled in New York City's Central Park.
1881 - As a result of Russian pogroms, a panic flight of Jews from Eastern Europe begins at a rate of fifty-thousand people per year. The following year, the Statue of Liberty is commemorated with a poem by Jewish-American Emma Lazarus entitled “The New Colossus:” “Give us your poor, your tired, your huddles masses yearning to be free...” By 1911, two-and-a-half million Jews will have emigrated to the United States.
Feb 20, 1927 - Roy Cohn is born in New York City.
1951 - As a young Assistant U.S. Attorney, Roy Cohn helps in the prosecution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, a married couple accused of participating in a spy ring responsible for transmitting details of the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union during World War II.
June 19, 1953 - Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are executed by electrocution at Sing Sing Prison, New York. Ethel is only the second woman executed by the U.S. government in history. Shortly before her death, Ethel writes to her attorney: “Know then, you warped, gross eaters of dust, your abominations upon this beauteous earth…The savage reprisal you visited upon me shall pursue you to the edge of your graves and beyond, and your names shall be anathema wherever love is the First Commandment!”
May-June 1954 - The U.S. Army charges that Roy Cohn and Sen. Joseph McCarthy exerted pressure on the Army to give preferential treatment to their friend, Private G. David Schine. The Senate orders hearings, which are broadcast on the television. Senator McCarthy attempts to smear one of attorney Joseph Welch’s aides, causing Welch to exclaim, “Have you no shame, sir?” Senator McCarthy is stripped of his subcommittee chairmanship.
July 27, 1969 - The evening of Judy Garland’s funeral. Gay patrons at the Stonewall Inn in New York’s Greenwich Village decide to fight back in response to police and public harassment. The incident sparks three days of rioting and the emergence of Gay Liberation in the United States.
In a 1994 interview with The New York Times, Kushner explains that "The aleph is th first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the seed word, the God letter. This is why, in the play, God is referred to by the Angel os the 'Aleph Glyph.' The real name of God is, of course, unutterable."
The Bethesda statue, NYC.