On This Day in History

On This Day, Sept 20, 1973 – King Triumphs in Battle of Sexes

On this day in 1973, in a highly publicized “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match, top women’s player Billie Jean King, 29, beats Bobby Riggs, 55, a former No. 1 ranked men’s player. Riggs (1918-1995), a self-proclaimed male chauvinist, had boasted that women were inferior, that they couldn’t handle the pressure of the game and that even at his age he could beat any female player. The match was a huge media event, witnessed in person by over 30,000 spectators at the Houston Astrodome and by another 50 million TV viewers worldwide. King made a Cleopatra-style entrance on a gold litter carried by men dressed as ancient slaves, while Riggs arrived in a rickshaw pulled by female models. Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell called the match, in which King beat Riggs 6-4, 6-3, 6-3. King’s achievement not only helped legitimize women’s professional tennis and female athletes, but it was seen...

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On This Day, Sept 19,1995 – Unabomber Manifesto Published

On this day in 1995, a manifesto by the Unabomber, an anti-technology terrorist, is published by The New York Times and Washington Post in the hope that someone will recognize the person who, for 17 years, had been sending homemade bombs through the mail that had killed and maimed innocent people around the United States. After reading the manifesto, David Kaczynski linked the writing style to that of his older brother Ted, who was later convicted of the attacks and sentenced to life in prison without parole. All told, the Unabomber was responsible for murdering three people and injuring another 23. Theodore John Kaczynski was born May 22, 1942, in Evergreen Park, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. As a student, he excelled at math, graduated from Harvard and received a Ph.D. in math from the University of Michigan. In 1967, he got a teaching job at the University of California...

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On This Day, Sept 18, 1975 – Patty Hearst Captured

Newspaper heiress and wanted fugitive Patty Hearst is captured in a San Francisco apartment and arrested for armed robbery. On February 4, 1974, Patricia Hearst, the 19-year-old daughter of newspaper publisher Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped from her apartment in Berkeley, California, by two black men and a white woman, all three of whom were armed. Her fiancé, Stephen Weed, was beaten and tied up along with a neighbor who tried to help. Witnesses reported seeing a struggling Hearst being carried away blindfolded, and she was put in the trunk of a car. Neighbors who came out into the street were forced to take cover after the kidnappers fired their guns to cover their escape. Three days later, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a small U.S. leftist group, announced in a letter to a Berkeley radio station that it was holding Hearst as a “prisoner of war.” Four days later,...

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On This Day, Sept 17, 1978 – Camp David Accords Signed

At the White House in Washington, D.C., Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin sign the Camp David Accords, laying the groundwork for a permanent peace agreement between Egypt and Israel after three decades of hostilities. The accords were negotiated during 12 days of intensive talks at President Jimmy Carter‘s Camp David retreat in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. The final peace agreement–the first between Israel and one of its Arab neighbors–was signed in March 1979. Sadat and Begin were jointly awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. A state of war had existed between Egypt and the State of Israel since the establishment of Israel in 1948. In the first three Arab-Israeli wars, Israel decisively defeated Egypt. As a result of the 1967 war, Israel occupied Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, the 23,500-square-mile peninsula that links Africa with Asia. When Anwar el-Sadat became Egyptian president...

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On This Day, Sept 16, 2013 – Gunman Kills 12 in D.C. Navy Yard Massacre

On this day in 2013, a 34-year-old man goes on a rampage at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., killing 12 people and wounding several others over the course of an hour before he is fatally shot by police. Investigators later determined that the gunman, Aaron Alexis, a computer contractor for a private information technology firm, had acted alone. Shortly after 8 a.m., Alexis used his security pass to enter Building 197 at the Navy Yard, a former shipyard, dating to the early 1800s, and weapons plant that now serves as an administrative center for the Navy. At approximately 8:16 a.m., Alexis, armed with a sawed-off Remington 870 shotgun and dressed in a short-sleeve polo shirt and pants, shot his first victim. Over the course of the next hour, he moved through the 630,000-square-foot, multi-level Building 197, the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command, gunning down more victims...

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On This Day, Sept 15, 1963 – Four Black Schoolgirls Killed in Birmingham

On this day in 1963, a bomb explodes during Sunday morning services in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls. With its large African-American congregation, the 16th Street Baptist Church served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., who once called Birmingham a “symbol of hardcore resistance to integration.” Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, made preserving racial segregation one of the central goals of his administration, and Birmingham had one of the most violent and lawless chapters of the Ku Klux Klan. The church bombing was the third in Birmingham in 11 days after a federal order came down to integrate Alabama’s school system. Fifteen sticks of dynamite were planted in the church basement, underneath what turned out to be the girls’ restroom. The bomb detonated at 10:19 a.m., killing Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins–all 14...

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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, Sept 7, 1940 – The Blitz Begins

On this day in 1940, 300 German bombers raid London, in the first of 57 consecutive nights of bombing. This bombing “blitzkrieg” (lightning war) would continue until May 1941. After the successful occupation of France, it was only a matter of time before the Germans turned their sights across the Channel to England. Hitler wanted a submissive, neutralized Britain so that he could concentrate on his plans for the East, namely the land invasion of the Soviet Union, without interference. Since June, English vessels in the Channel had been attacked and aerial battles had been fought over Britain, as Germany attempted to wear down the Royal Air Force in anticipation of a land invasion. But with Germany failing to cripple Britain’s air power, especially in the Battle of Britain, Hitler changed strategies. A land invasion was now ruled out as unrealistic; instead Hitler chose sheer terror as his weapon...

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On This Day, Sept 6, 1997 – 2.5 Billion TV Viewers Watch Princess Diana’s Funeral

On this day in 1997, an estimated 2.5 billion people around the globe tune in to television broadcasts of the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales, who died at the age of 36 in a car crash in Paris the week before. During her 15-year marriage to Prince Charles, the son of Queen Elizabeth II and the heir to the British throne, Diana became one of the most famous, most photographed people on the planet. Her life story was fodder for numerous books, television programs and movies and her image appeared on countless magazine covers, including those of People and Vanity Fair. After her death, she remained an iconic figure and a continual source of fascination to the media and entertainment world. Diana Spencer was born on July 1, 1961, in Norfolk, England. On July 29, 1981, at the age of 20, “Shy Di”–as the voracious British media dubbed...

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On This Day, Sept 5, 1972 – Arab Terrorists Take Israeli Hostages at the Olympics

In the early morning hours of September 5, six members of the Arab terrorist group known as Black September dressed in the Olympic sweat suits of Arab nations and jumped the fence surrounding the Olympic village in Munich, Germany, carrying bags filled with guns. Although guards spotted them, they paid little attention because athletes often jumped the fence during the competition to return to their living quarters. After changing into disguises, the terrorists, toting machine guns, burst into the apartments of 21 Israeli athletes and officials. Yossef Gutfreund, a wrestling referee who valiantly tried to keep the terrorists out, saved Tuvia Sokolovsky, who was able to climb out a window and escape. In another apartment, Moshe Weinberg was shot 12 times but still managed to wound one of the terrorists and save the life of one of his teammates. Created in 1970 by a few survivors of the “ten...

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On This Day, Sept 4, 1957 – Arkansas Troops Prevent Desegregation

Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus enlists the National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. The armed Arkansas militia troops surrounded the school while an angry crowd of some 400 whites jeered, booed, and threatened to lynch the frightened African-American teenagers, who fled shortly after arriving. Faubus took the action in violation of a federal order to integrate the school. The conflict set the stage for the first major test of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in educational facilities is unconstitutional. The historic decision, which brought an end to federal tolerance of racial segregation, specifically dealt with Linda Brown, a young African-American girl who had been denied admission to her local elementary school in Topeka, Kansas, because of the color of her skin. In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in...

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On This Day, Sept 3, 2004 – Russian School Siege Ends in a Bloodbath

A three-day hostage crisis at a Russian school comes to a violent conclusion after a gun battle erupts between the hostage-takers and Russian security forces. In the end, over 300 people died, many of them children, while hundreds more were injured. On the morning of September 1, a group of Chechan terrorists surrounded students, teachers and parents on the playground of School No. 1 in Beslan as they held a celebration in honor of the first day of the school year. Some people managed to escape while others were killed; however, the majority, an estimated 1,200 adults and children, were herded into the school gym, which the hostage-takers rigged with a number of explosive devices. Later that day, Russian authorities began negotiation talks with the terrorist, whose demands included the withdrawal of Russian troops from Chechnya. Negotiations broke down after two days and early on the afternoon of September...

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On This Day, Sept 2, 1666 – The Great Fire of London Begins

In the early morning hours, the Great Fire of London breaks out in the house of King Charles II’s baker on Pudding Lane near London Bridge. It soon spread to Thames Street, where warehouses filled with combustibles and a strong easterly wind transformed the blaze into an inferno. When the Great Fire finally was extinguished on September 6, more than four-fifths of London was destroyed. Miraculously, only 16 people were known to have died. The Great Fire of London was a disaster waiting to happen. London of 1666 was a city of medieval houses made mostly of oak timber. Some of the poorer houses had walls covered with tar, which kept out the rain but made the structures more vulnerable to fire. Streets were narrow, houses were crowded together, and the firefighting methods of the day consisted of neighborhood bucket brigades armed with pails of water and primitive hand...

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On This Day, Sept 1, 1983 – Korean Airlines Flight Shot Down by Russia

Soviet jet fighters intercept a Korean Airlines passenger flight in Russian airspace and shoot the plane down, killing 269 passengers and crewmembers. The incident dramatically increased tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States. On September 1, 1983, Korean Airlines (KAL) flight 007 was on the last leg of a flight from New York City to Seoul, with a stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. As it approached its final destination, the plane began to veer far off its normal course. In just a short time, the plane flew into Russian airspace and crossed over the Kamchatka Peninsula, where some top-secret Soviet military installations were known to be located. The Soviets sent two fighters to intercept the plane. According to tapes of the conversations between the fighter pilots and Soviet ground control, the fighters quickly located the KAL flight and tried to make contact with the passenger jet. Failing to...

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