The Night the Stars Fell - 1833, USA

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Date: [unknown] [unknown]
Location: United Statesmap
Surnames/tags: US Black Heritage Project African-American
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"They thought it was judgment day’: The night the stars fell on the US south"

While reading the "Slave Narratives", interviews taken by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) in the 1930s, a number of the formerly enslaved people who were interviewed mentioned "The Night the Stars Fell". It seems many who viewed this event thought it might signal the end of the world.

It was an extreme showing of the Leonid meteor showers. Some estimates put the number of falling stars seen during that night as over 200,000.

"Abraham Lincoln witnessed the meteor storm, as did Frederick Douglass. Harriet Tubmann, another great abolitionist, said in later life that it had showed her to always follow the Northern Star to freedom." This quote is from the link at the top of this text, from The Irish Times, dated Monday, November 11, 2019.

Gahn-22 created this Free Space on July 21, 2021.

Known references to The Night the Stars Fell:

  1. Harriet (Ross) Tubman (1822-1913) is mentioned in the article linked above. She was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, leading many people to freedom from enslavement.
  2. Frederick Augustus Washington (Bailey) Douglass (abt.1818-1895) is mentioned in the article linked above. He was born into slavery but escaped to become a leader in the abolitionist movement.
  3. Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), 16th President of the United States, is mentioned in the article linked above as a witness to the event. [No source.]
  4. Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844), founder of Mormonism and the Latter Day Saint movement, recorded the event in his diary. (As mentioned in the article linked above.)
  5. Denison Olmsted (1791-1859), American physicist and astronomer, presented his investigation of the event in the American Journal of Science and Arts, published in the first quarter of 1834.

Others who witnessed and described the event:

  • Eliza Washington (1860-) - Eliza figured her mother's age from the event, as her mother told Eliza that she was fourteen when the stars fell.
  • Laura (Eford) Thornton (1833-) - Laura was interviewed by the WPA about 1938 when she may have been 105 years old - quite elderly in any case. Laura said her mother had one child on the night the stars fell. It is unclear if Laura was that child.

Images: 1
Leonid Meteor
Leonid Meteor

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Comments: 3

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My family has no record of the birthdate of my GG Grandmother, Malinda Young, except a story handed down and finally written down in the 1930s that she was "six years old the year the stars fell on Alabama."
NGP This is excellent! Will attach it to the WPA Slave Narrative pages...
posted by Gene Ellison
edited by Gene Ellison