On This Day, Sept. 23, 1952 – Richard Nixon Delivers the Checkers Speech

1952 – Richard Nixon gave his “Checkers Speech”. At the time he was a candidate for vice-president. The Checkers speech or Fund speech was an address made on September 23, 1952 by the Republican vice presidential candidate, California Senator Richard Nixon. Nixon had been accused of improprieties relating to a fund established by his backers to reimburse him for his political expenses. With his place on the Republican ticket in doubt, he flew to Los Angeles and delivered a half-hour television address in which he defended himself, attacked his opponents, and urged the audience to contact the Republican National Committee (RNC) to tell it whether he should remain on the ticket. During the speech, he stated that regardless of what anyone said, he intended to keep one gift: a black-and-white dog who had been named Checkers by the Nixon children, thus giving the address its popular name. Nixon’s speech...

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On This Day, Sept. 22, 1961 – JFK Signs Act Establishing the Peace Corps

1961 – President John F. Kennedy signed a congressional act that established the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps program was an outgrowth of the Cold War. President Kennedy pointed out that the Soviet Union “had hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, and nurses . . . prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism.” The United States had no such program, and Kennedy wanted to involve Americans more actively in the cause of global democracy, peace, development, and freedom. A few days after he took office, Kennedy asked his brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver, to direct a Peace Corps Task Force. Shriver was known for his ability to identify and motivate creative, visionary leaders, and he led the group to quickly shape the organization. After a month of intense dialogue and debate among task force members, Shriver outlined seven steps to forming the Peace...

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On This Day, Sept. 14, 1901 – William McKinley Dies of Gunshot Wound

1901 – U.S. President William McKinley died of gunshot wounds inflicted by an assassin. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, at age 42, succeeded him. On September 6, 1901, while standing in a receiving line at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, McKinley was approached by Leon Czolgosz, a Polish-American anarchist carrying a concealed .32 revolver in a handkerchief. Drawing his weapon, Czolgosz shot McKinley twice at close range. One bullet deflected off a suit button, but the other entered his stomach, passed through the kidneys, and lodged in his back. When he was operated on, doctors failed to find the bullet, and gangrene soon spread throughout his body. McKinley died eight days later. Czolgosz was convicted of murder and executed soon after the shooting. As president, McKinley became known–controversially–as a protector of big businesses, which enjoyed unprecedented growth during his administration. He advocated the protective tariff as a way of shielding...

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On This Day, Sept. 13, 1948 – Margaret Chase Smith Elected to US Senate

1948 – Margaret Chase Smith was elected to the Senate and became the first woman to serve in both houses of the U.S. Congress. Margaret Chase Smith was born in Skowhegan, Maine, on December 14, 1897. Her entry into politics came through the career of Clyde Smith, the man she married in 1930. Clyde was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1936; Margaret served as his secretary. When Clyde died in 1940, Margaret succeeded her husband. After four terms in the House, she won election to the United States Senate in 1948. In so doing, she became the first woman elected to both houses of Congress. Senator Smith came to national attention on June 1, 1950, when she became the first member of the Senate to denounce the tactics used by colleague Joseph McCarthy in his anticommunist crusade. Following her “Declaration of Conscience” speech, some pundits speculated...

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On This Day, Sept. 12, 1938 – Adolph Hitler Calls for Freedom of Sudetland Germans

1938 – In a move very similar to the present Russia/Ukraine tensions and the calls for a referendum by Vladimir Putin, Adolf Hitler demanded self-determination for the Sudeten Germans in Czechoslovakia. Having secured anschluss with Austria, Hitler turned his attention to the Sudetenland, a western region of Czechoslovakia inhabited mostly by German-speakers. Czechoslovakia was itself a relatively new nation, carved out of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire by the Treaty of St Germain (September 1919). But Hitler had no respect for this treaty or for Czechoslovakian sovereignty. He began claiming ethnic Germans in the Sudetenland were being persecuted by Prague. A small but vocal pro-Nazi group in the Sudetenland, led by Konrad Henlein, echoed these grievances, though most were exaggerated or fabricated. In April 1938 Henlein’s party demanded political autonomy for the Sudetenland. Through mid-1938 they organised terrorist attacks against Czechoslovakian government troops and facilities. Hitler, in an ominous speech...

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On This Day, Sept 11, 2012 – Four Die in Attack on Benghazi Consulate

2012 – Terrorists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans were brutally murdered and ten others were injured. News of the attacks spreads against the backdrop of two other major stories: protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and the U.S. presidential campaign. The Cairo protests, which took place just hours before the attack in Benghazi, were sparked by anger over an anti-Muslim video made in the United States. In the following days, angry demonstrations are held at U.S. diplomatic missions throughout the Muslim world. Initial reports from journalists in Libya also link the Benghazi attack to the video, and remarks from U.S. officials seem to lay blame there as well. On Sept. 12, President Barack Obama says in his Rose Garden remarks about the attack: “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. But there is absolutely no justification to this type of...

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On This Day, Sept. 10, 1963 – Alabama Standoff Ends as Blacks Enter School

1963 – Twenty black students entered public schools in Alabama at the end of a standoff between federal authorities and Alabama governor George C. Wallace. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States handed down its decision regarding the case called Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, in which the plaintiffs charged that the education of black children in separate public schools from their white counterparts was unconstitutional. Brown v. Board of Education meant that the University of Alabama had to be desegregated. In the years following, hundreds of African-Americans applied for admission, but all were denied. The University worked with police to find any disqualifying qualities, or when this failed, intimidated the applicants. But in 1963, three African-Americans with perfect qualifications — Vivian Malone Jones, Dave McGlathery and James Hood—applied, refusing to be intimidated. In early June a federal district judge ordered that they...

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On This Day, Sept. 9, 1957 – Eisenhower Signs New Civil Rights Law

1957 – The first civil rights bill to pass Congress since Reconstruction was signed into law by President Dwight Eisenhower. The act initiated a greater federal role in protecting the rights of African Americans and other minorities. The Civil Rights Act of 1957 did not create new rights, but it increased protection of voting rights and laid the foundation for federal enforcement of civil rights law by creating the Civil Rights Division in the Department of Justice, a Civil Rights Commission within the executive branch, and expanding federal enforcement authority to include civil lawsuits. Although many of the more violent forms of racial oppression had been reduced by the 1950s, in the South state law was often used to prevent African Americans from exercising their civil rights. To register to vote, for example, many states required that applicants take a voter qualification test. The questions on the test were...

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On This Day. Sept. 8, 1935 – Sen. Huey P. Long Shot and Mortally Wounded

1935 – U.S. Senator Huey P. Long, of Louisiana  was shot and mortally wounded. During the era of the Great Depression, Long was a larger-than-life politician who gained national attention as Louisiana’s “Kingfish” — a nickname he gave himself. Long was a high school drop-out who taught himself law and became a member of the Louisiana bar in 1915. In 1918 he moved to Shreveport and began a political career as a lively opponent of corporate wealth and privilege, targeting giants such as John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company. From 1928 until 1932, Long served as Louisiana’s governor and launched an ambitious and successful program of public works. Long also ruled over a statewide political machine whose corrupt methods caused critics to regard him as a demagogue and political thug. While still governor, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1930; preferring to stay on as governor for a...

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On This Day, Aug 31, 1980 – Gdansk Shipyard Strike Comes to an End

1980 – Poland’s Solidarity labor movement was born with an agreement signed in Gdansk that ended a 17-day strike. Established in September of 1980 at the Gdansk shipyards, Solidarity was an independent labor union instrumental in the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, and the primary catalyst that would transform Poland from a repressive communist satellite to the EU member democracy it is today. The Solidarity movement received international attention, spreading anti-communist ideas and inspiring political action throughout the rest of the Communist Bloc, and its influence in the eventual fall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe cannot be understated or dismissed. Solidarity’s cohesion and initial success, like that of other dissident movements, was not created overnight, nor the result of any specific event or grievance. Rather, the emergence of Solidarity as a political force in Poland was spurred by governmental and economic difficulties that had continued to deepen...

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On This Day, Aug. 30, 1965 – Thurgood Marshall Becomes First Black on Supreme Court

  1965 – Thurgood Marshall was confirmed by the Senate as a Supreme Court justice. Marshall was the first black justice to sit on the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) was a U.S. Supreme Court justice and civil rights advocate. Marshall earned an important place in American history on the basis of two accomplishments. First, as legal counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), he guided the litigation that destroyed the legal underpinnings of Jim Crow segregation. Second, as an associate justice of the Supreme Court – the nation’s first black justice – he crafted a distinctive jurisprudence marked by uncompromising liberalism, unusual attentiveness to practical considerations beyond the formalities of law, and an indefatigable willingness to dissent. Marshall was an outspoken liberal on a court dominated by conservatives. In his twenty-four year tenure, he voted to uphold gender and racial affirmative action policies in every...

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On This Day, Aug. 29, 1966 – The Beatles Play Their Last Concert

1966 – The Beatles ended their fourth American tour at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA. It turned out that the show was their last public concert. Although they made an unannounced live appearance in January 1969 on the rooftop of the Apple building, The Beatles’ final live concert took place on 29 August 1966 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California. The Park’s capacity was 42,500, but only 25,000 tickets were sold, leaving large sections of unsold seats. Fans paid between $4.50 and $6.50 for tickets, and The Beatles’ fee was around $90,000. The show’s promoter was local company Tempo Productions. The Beatles took 65% of the gross, the city of San Francisco took 15% of paid admissions and were given 50 free tickets. This arrangement, coupled with low ticket sales and other unexpected expenses resulted in a financial loss for Tempo Productions. The compère was ‘Emperor’ Gene...

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On This Day, Aug. 28, 1963 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Tells America ‘I Have a Dream’

1963 – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at a civil rights rally in Washington, DC. More than 200,000 people attended. King, a Baptist minister, was a driving force in the push for racial equality in the 1950’s and the 1960’s. In 1963, King and his staff focused on Birmingham, Alabama. They marched and protested non-violently, raising the ire of local officials who sicced water cannon and police dogs on the marchers, whose ranks included teenagers and children. The bad publicity and break-down of business forced the white leaders of Birmingham to concede to some anti-segregation demands. Thrust into the national spotlight in Birmingham, where he was arrested and jailed, King helped organize a massive march on Washington, DC, on August 28, 1963. His partners in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom included other religious leaders, labor leaders, and black organizers....

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On This Day, August 27, 1883 – Krakatau Erupts with Biggest Volcanic Blast in History

1883 – The most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatau (also called Krakatoa), a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia, on this day in 1883. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people. Krakatau exhibited its first stirrings in more than 200 years on May 20, 1883. A German warship passing by reported a seven-mile high cloud of ash and dust over Krakatau. For the next two months, similar explosions would be witnessed by commercial liners and natives on nearby Java and Sumatra. With little to no idea of the impending catastrophe, the local inhabitants greeted the volcanic activity with festive excitement. On August 26 and August 27, excitement turned to horror as Krakatau literally blew itself apart, setting off a chain of natural disasters that...

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On This Day, Aug. 26, 1920 – Women Finally Get the Right to Vote

1920 – The 19th amendment to the Constitution went into effect. The amendment prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in the voting booth. After years of fighting for equality, women were guaranteed the right to vote. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucy Stone were important figures in the women’s rights movement. Suffragettes, or women who campaigned for the right to vote, including Lucy Stone, fought to be protected under the 15th Amendment. Ratified in 1870, the 15th Amendment states that, “The right of citizens to vote shall not be denied on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” “There are two great oceans; in one is the black man and in the other is the woman … I will be thankful in my soul if anybody can get out of the terrible pit,” Stone said. In the end, a woman’s right to vote was not...

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On This Day, Aug. 25, 1916 – Congress Establishes the National Park Service

1916 – The National Park Service was established as part of the Department of the Interior. By 1916, the Interior Department was responsible for 14 national parks and 21 national monuments but had no organization to manage them. Interior secretaries had asked the Army to detail troops to Yellowstone and the California parks for this purpose. Three military engineers and cavalrymen developed park roads and buildings, enforced regulations against hunting, grazing, timber cutting, and vandalism, and did their best to serve the visiting public. Civilian appointees superintended the other parks, while the monuments received minimal custody. Hetch Hetchy highlighted the institutional weakness of the park movement. While utilitarian conservation had become well represented in government by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Forest and Reclamation services, no comparable bureau spoke for park preservation in Washington. Crusading for a national parks bureau, Chicago businessman Stephen T. Mather and Horace M. Albright...

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On This Day, August 24, 79 – Mount Vesuvius Eruption Buries Pompeii

After centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death.The ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum thrived near the base of Mount Vesuvius at the Bay of Naples. In the time of the early Roman Empire, 20,000 people lived in Pompeii, including merchants, manufacturers, and farmers who exploited the rich soil of the region with numerous vineyards and orchards. None suspected that the black fertile earth was the legacy of earlier eruptions of Mount Vesuvius. Herculaneum was a city of 5,000 and a favorite summer...

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On This Day, Aug 16, 1896 – Gold Discovered in the Yukon

1896 – While salmon fishing near the Klondike River in Canada’s Yukon Territory on this day in 1896, George Carmack reportedly spots nuggets of gold in a creek bed. His lucky discovery sparks the last great gold rush in the American West.Hoping to cash in on reported gold strikes in Alaska, Carmack had traveled there from California in 1881. After running into a dead end, he headed north into the isolated Yukon Territory, just across the Canadian border. In 1896, another prospector, Robert Henderson, told Carmack of finding gold in a tributary of the Klondike River. Carmack headed to the region with two Native American companions, known as Skookum Jim and Tagish Charlie. On August 16, while camping near Rabbit Creek, Carmack reportedly spotted a nugget of gold jutting out from the creek bank. His two companions later agreed that Skookum Jim–Carmack’s brother-in-law–actually made the discovery.Regardless of who spotted the...

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On this Day, August 15, 1969 – Woodstock Opens in Upstate New York

  1969 – The Woodstock Music Festival opens on a patch of farmland in White Lake, a hamlet in the upstate New York town of Bethel. Promoters John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang originally envisioned the festival as a way to raise funds to build a recording studio and rock-and-roll retreat near the town of Woodstock, New York. The longtime artists’ colony was already a home base for Bob Dylan and other musicians. Despite their relative inexperience, the young promoters managed to sign a roster of top acts, including the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many more. Plans for the festival were on the verge of foundering, however, after both Woodstock and the nearby town of Wallkill denied permission to hold the event. Dairy farmer Max Yasgur came to the rescue...

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On This Day, Aug. 14, 1945 – After Delay for Diplomacy, Truman announces the End of WWII

1945 – It was announced by President Harry Truman that Japan had surrendered unconditionally. The surrender ended World War II. It was announced on this day that Japan today unconditionally surrendered the hemispheric empire taken by force and held almost intact for more than two years against the rising power of the United States and its Allies in the Pacific war. Like the previous items in the surrender correspondence, today’s Japanese document was forwarded through the Swiss Foreign Office at Berne and the Swiss Legation in Washington. The note of total capitulation was delivered to the State Department by the Legation Charge d’Affaires at 6:10 P. M., after the third and most anxious day of waiting on Tokyo, the anxiety intensified by several premature or false reports of the finale of World War II The Department responded with a note to Tokyo through the same channel, ordering the immediate...

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