Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Althea Gibson becomes the first African American woman to play in a U.S. national tennis competition.
On this day in 1950, the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) allowed an African American woman, Althea Gibson, to play in one of their tournaments, at Forest Hills, NY. As a young girl growing up in Harlem, she was a gifted athlete, who first took up tennis at age 14, winning a state tournament the next year. In 1949, Gibson tried to gain entry into the USLTA's National Grass Court Championships at Forest Hills, which later became the U.S. Open. When she failed to get an invitation to qualifying tournaments, Alice Marble--a four-time winner at Forest Hills--wrote on Gibson's behalf to the editor of American Lawn Tennis magazine. She criticized the "bigotry" of her fellow tennis players, saying that if Gibson challenged to …
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
The U.S. added its last star to the flag as Hawaii joined the union.
On this day in 1959, Hawaii became the 50th state. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union. The beautiful bracelet of islands in the Pacific was settled by Polynesian voyagers in the 8th century. Americans arrived in the 1700s, to ship sandalwood to China, where it was valued. In 1830, sugar began to be cultivated, and a few decades later, the sugar industry seemed well established. In 1893, a group of American expatriates and sugar barons, supported by U.S. Marines, deposed Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. Hawaii was first made a protectorate, and was then annexed after the Spanish American War. By 1900, it was a territory. During World War II, Hawaii became an …
Monday, August 20, 2012
Two rich sons murdered their very rich parents in Hollywood.
On this day in 1989, Lyle and Erik Menendez shot and killed their parents, Jose and Kitty, in the family den in Beverly Hills, California. They drove to Mulholland Drive, where they dumped the murder weaspons, shotguns. Next, they went to a local movie theater to buy tickets as an alibi. Upon returning home, Lyle called 911 and cried, "Somebody killed my parents!" Court TV broadcast the 1993 trial, making the Menendez murders a national sensation. The brothers weren't suspects initially. Erik told his psychotherapist about the crime and his involvement while the therapist taped the confession. In a flagrant disregarding of ethics, the therapist then let his mistress hear the tape. She subsequently went to the police, and the brothers …
Friday, August 17, 2012
This day in 1969 marked the end of a music festival that drew 500,000 people to a little town in upstate New York.
The last day of the Woodstock Festival was puncutated by Jimi Hendrix's rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner." The three-day event, held on Max Yasgur's 50-acre farm in Bethel, NY, outside the town of Woodstock, brought hundreds of thousands of young people to an amazing music festival. Musicians such as Jefferson Airplane, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, the Band, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Sly and the Family Stone played. People danced, tried to cope with the rain and mud and ingested drugs, according to many of those attending. There wasn't violence, though two people died, one in a tractor accident, one of a drug overdose. Many of the performers were against the U.S. being involved in …
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
One of the most famous international terrorists was captured.
On this day in 1994, French intelligence agents captured Venezulean terrorist Illich Ramirez Sanchez, long known as Carlos the Jackal, in Khartoum, Sudan. They did so by sedating and kidnapping him. Sanchez had been affiliated with various groups, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Organization for Armed Arab Struggle, and the Japanese Red Army. He was widely believed to be responsible for numerous terrorist attacks between 1973 and 1992. In 1974, he took the French ambassador and 10 others hostage at the Hague, demanding French authorities release a member of the Japanese Red Army. On June 27, 1975, French police officers tried to arrest Sanchez in Paris, but he escaped after killing two officers in a gun …
Friday, August 10, 2012
Today marks the beginning, in 1846, of the Smithsonian Institute.
On August 10, 1846, President James K. Polk signed into law the act establishing the Smithsonian Institution. The entity is named for James Smithson, a rich and somewhat obscure British scientist, who left his entire estate and fortune to the United States for an establishment "for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Smithson died in Italy in 1829. His will stated that if his nephew didn't have an heir that the estate would go to the United States, even though Smithson had never even visited the country. The nephew was childless, and the U.S. inherited Smithson's estate. Today's Smithsonian has 19 museums and galleries, including the recently announced National Museum of African American History and Culture. It also encompasses …
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
On this day in 1974, Richard M. Nixon resigned, the first U.S. President to do so.
In the evening of August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from his position as head of the country. Impeachment hearings were going on in the Senate for his involvement in Watergate, and it was likely that they would succeed. The combative Nixon gave in to pressure from Congress, his friends and the general public and resigned. "By taking this action," said Nixon from the Oval Office, "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America." A little before noon the next day, Nixon and his family boarded a helicopter and flew away to San Clemente, California. Oddly enough, the ex-President raised his hands in a peace symbol.
Tuesday, August 7, 2012
Did you ever hear of Kon-Tiki?
On this day in 1947, a balsa wood raft, named Kon-Tiki, landed in Raroia, in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti. The raft had floated all the way from Peru, captained by Thor Heyerdahl, a Norwegian anthropologist. The 4,300-mile journey took 101 days. Why did Heyerdahl undertake it? He had a theory he wanted to test, believing that prehistoric South Americans could have drifted on ocean currents to Polynesian Islands and colonized them. This theory conflicted with current accepted scholarly opinion. It said the original settlers had arrived from Asia. Though his theories weren't popular with the professionals, Heyerdahl's trip certainly was popular with the public. He wrote a book about the experience, Kon-Tiki, that was an …
Monday, August 6, 2012
On this day in 1945, the U.S. crew of the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
In the summer of 1945, World War II was finished in Europe, with Germany surrendering, but Japan vowed to fight to the death. President Harry Truman decided to drop an atomic bomb--with the equivalent of 20,000 tons of dynamite--on the city of Hiroshima, a major port and military center, hoping to convince Japan to accept an unconditional surrender. At 8:16am, a bomb named "Little Boy" hit Hiroshima just as the work day was beginning. Some 80,000 to 100,000 people were obliterated on impact. Another 100,000 were injured. A year later, 60,000 more people were dead. The majority of those dead were woman, children and the elderly. People more than five miles away said the blast was ten times as bright as the sun. It shattered windows ten …
Thursday, August 2, 2012
On this day in 1876, Wild Bill Hickok was murdered.
On this day in 1876, James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok was shot in the back and killed while playing cards in a saloon in Deadwood, in what became South Dakota. He was holding two aces and two eights, clubs and spades, a combination which subsequently became known as Dead’s Man Hand. Born in Illinois in 1837, Hickok joined the Union Army during the Civil War as a scout. His father had played a part in the Underground Railroad. Hickok was, at times, a constable, a professional gambler, a quick-draw gunfighter and a sheriff. He toured with Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West Show and later teamed up with Calamity Jane. He is said to have killed more than 100 men.