A group that included African American leaders such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells-Barnett announced the formation of a new organization. Called the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, it would have a profound effect on the struggle for civil rights and the course of 20th Century American history. Due to its prominent members, landmark legal victories, and lobbying for laws like the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, the NAACP holds a place of distinction in the history of the civil rights movement. It remains the largest and oldest active civil rights group in the nation, and its emphasis on voter registration, legal defense and activism have set an example for subsequent groups to follow.
The “Lincoln Memorial” penny design was introduced, replacing the Wheat Ears design that appeared on the reverse of the 1909 Lincoln cent. This design continued through 2008 until the United States Mint issued four different pennies as part of the Lincoln Bicentennial One Cent Program.
The release of U.S. POWs began in Hanoi as part of the Paris peace settlement. The return of U.S. POWs started when North Vietnam released 142 of 591 U.S. prisoners at Hanoi’s Gia Lam Airport. Part of what was called Operation Homecoming, the first 20 POWs arrived to a hero’s welcome at Travis Air Force Base in California on February 14. Operation Homecoming was completed on March 29, 1973, when the last of 591 U.S. prisoners were released and returned to the United States.
The earliest military action to be awarded a Medal of Honor was performed by Colonel Bernard J.D. Irwin, an assistant army surgeon serving in the first major U.S.-Apache conflict. Near Apache Pass, in southeastern Arizona, Irwin, an Irish-born doctor, volunteered to go to the rescue of Second Lieutenant George N. Bascom, who was trapped with 60 men of the U.S. Seventh Infantry by the Chiricahua Apaches. Although Irwin’s bravery in this conflict was the earliest Medal of Honor action, the award itself was not created until 1862, and it was not until January 21, 1894, that Irwin received the nation’s highest military honor.
American Dorothy Hamill won the free skate to clinch the women's figure-skating gold medal at the Innsbruck, Austria Winter Olympics. She would go on to win gold again at the 1976 World Championships in Göteborg, Sweden the following March before turning professional. Hamill is credited with developing a new skating move, a camel spin that turns into a sit spin, which became known as the "Hamill camel." In 1993, the Associated Press released results of a national sports study showing that Hamill was statistically tied for first place with fellow Olympian Mary Lou Retton as the most popular athlete in America, ranking far ahead of other major sports stars such as Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, Wayne Gretzky, Joe Montana, Nolan Ryan, and 800 other athletes.
The day after Charles Schulz's death, the last-ever new Peanuts strip ran in papers. It featured Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and a message from the man who brought the characters to life for almost 50 years. The night before the comic’s final run, Schulz died peacefully in his sleep at home due to complications of colon cancer. He had announced his retirement just two months earlier at Camp Snoopy inside the Mall of America telling fans, “There’s a clause in my contract that says if I retire or die, the strip ends." At the time of his death, Peanuts ran in over 2,600 newspapers, with a readership of around 355 million in 75 countries, and was translated into 21 languages. It helped to cement the four-panel gag strip as the standard in the United States, and together with its merchandise earned Schulz more than $1 billion.
Destined to become one of the state’s major exports, the first trainload of oranges grown by Southern California farmers left Los Angeles via the transcontinental railroad. The healthful new California lifestyle became closely associated in the public mind with the sweet fruits that grew so abundantly in the orchards around Los Angeles. Orange growers steadily increased the size of their orchards to the point where local supplies of water for irrigation were inadequate. Los Angeles residents undertook a massive program of hydraulic engineering in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Engineers took water from the distant mountains to transform the arid southern California ecosystem into a green agricultural and residential paradise.
Four men dressed as police officers entered gangster Bugs Moran’s headquarters on North Clark Street in Chicago, lined seven of Moran’s henchmen against a wall, and shot them to death. The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, as it is now called, was the culmination of a gang war between arch rivals Al Capone and Bugs Moran. George “Bugs” Moran was a career criminal who ran the North Side gang in Chicago during the bootlegging era of the 1920s. He fought bitterly with “Scarface” Al Capone for control of smuggling and trafficking operations in the Windy City.
3.7 billion miles away from the sun, the Voyager 1 spacecraft took a photograph of Earth. The picture, known as Pale Blue Dot, depicts our planet as a nearly indiscernible speck roughly the size of a pixel and is the furthest image ever taken of Earth. Voyager 1's journey continues. In 1998, it became the most distant human-made object in space, and on August 25, 2012, it left the furthest reaches of the sun's magnetic field and solar winds, becoming the first man-made object in interstellar space.
A massive explosion sank the USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana harbor, killing 260 of the fewer than 400 American crew members aboard. One of the first American battleships, the Maine weighed more than 6,000 tons and was built at a cost of more than $2 million. The Maine had been sent to Cuba to protect the interests of Americans there after a rebellion against Spanish rule broke out. An official inquiry ruled that the ship was blown up by a mine, without directly placing the blame on Spain. Much of Congress and a majority of the American public expressed little doubt that Spain was responsible and called for a declaration of war. Subsequent diplomatic failures led to the outbreak of the Spanish-American War in April 1898.
The entire 18-member U.S. figure skating team was killed in a plane crash in Berg-Kampenhout, Belgium. The team was on its way to the 1961 World Figure Skating Championships in Prague. Among those killed in the crash was 16-year-old Laurence Owen, who had won the U.S. Figure Skating Championship in the ladies’ division the previous month. She was featured on the February 13, 1961, cover of Sports Illustrated, which called her the “most exciting U.S. skater.” In 2011, the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, the 18 members of the 1961 figure skating team, along with the 16 people traveling with them to Prague, were inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
After 20 years of trying, racing great Dale Earnhardt Sr. finally won the Daytona 500, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) season opener and an event dubbed the “Super Bowl of stock car racing.” Following his victory, crews from competing teams lined the pit road at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida, to congratulate Earnhardt, who drove his car onto the grass and did several celebratory doughnuts. Tragically, on February 18, 2001, Earnhardt died at the age of 49 during a crash at that year’s 43rd Daytona 500. Three years later, on February 15, 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first Daytona 500.
In 1803, the U.S. frigate Philadelphia ran aground near Tripoli and was captured by Tripolitan gunboats. The Americans feared that the well-constructed warship would be both a formidable addition to the Tripolitan navy and an innovative model for building future Tripolitan frigates. Hoping to prevent the Barbary pirates from gaining this military advantage, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur led a daring expedition that involved disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors then capturing or killing all but two of the Tripolitan crew. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American.
Bill Johnson became the first American man to win an Olympic gold medal in downhill skiing, a sport long dominated by European athletes. Johnson quickly became a national hero, though his fame was short-lived. He retired from competition in the late ‘80s after a series of injuries and personal setbacks. At age 40, Johnson attempted to stage a comeback and qualify for the U.S. ski team for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. However, in March 2001, he suffered a devastating crash at the U.S. Alpine Championships at Big Mountain Resort near Whitefish, Montana. The crash put him in a coma for several weeks and left him with brain damage. 15 years after the accident, Johnson died on January 21, 2016.
LA Lakers retired Magic Johnson's #32 jersey. During his remarkable 13-year career, he led the Lakers to five NBA championships and nine appearances in the NBA Finals. He was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player on three occasions, NBA Finals MVP three times, earned All-NBA First Team honors nine times, participated in 12 All-Star Games and concluded his career as the league’s all-time assist leader (9,921). Johnson was also a member of the 1992 United States men's Olympic basketball team ("The Dream Team"), which won the Olympic gold medal in 1992. He bravely announced he was HIV-positive in 1991 and has been an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness since.
Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States. The election constituted the first peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another in the United States. By 1800, when he decided to run for president, Thomas Jefferson possessed impressive political credentials and was well-suited to the presidency. In addition to drafting the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson had served in two Continental Congresses, as minister to France, as secretary of state under George Washington and as John Adams’ vice president.
With the words, “Hello! This is New York calling,” the U.S. Voice of America (VOA) began its first radio broadcast to the Soviet Union. The VOA effort was an important part of America’s propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union during the Cold War. During the first transmission announcers stated the purpose of their radio station: "To give listeners in the USSR a picture of American life" and to develop friendship between the Soviet and American peoples. Be that as it may, the Communist Party (CPSU) didn't believe in Washington’s friendly intentions, and by 1948 it started jamming the radio station.
In Nagano, Japan, the United States defeated Canada, 3-1, to win the gold medal in the first women's hockey tournament held at the Winter Olympics. The win was especially sweet for the United States, which had lost four times to Canada in the Women's World Hockey Championship since 1990. The United States followed its 1998 gold medal with a silver medal at the Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. The American women earned a medal in every Olympics since Nagano, taking their second gold medal in 2018 in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Mark Twain published his famous—and famously controversial—novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Twain first introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Twain saw Huck’s story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South. Aside from its controversial nature and its continuing popularity with young readers, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn has been hailed by many serious literary critics as a masterpiece. No less a judge than Ernest Hemingway famously declared that the book marked the beginning of American literature: “There was nothing before. There has been nothing as good since.”
Pluto, once believed to be the ninth planet, is discovered at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, by astronomer Clyde W. Tombaugh. Tombaugh discovered the tiny, distant planet by use of a new astronomic technique of photographic plates combined with a blink microscope. In August 2006, however, the International Astronomical Union announced that Pluto would no longer be considered a planet, due to new rules that said planets must “clear the neighborhood around its orbit.” Since Pluto’s oblong orbit overlaps that of Neptune, it was disqualified.
Shani Davis became the first Black athlete to win an individual gold medal in Winter Olympics history, capturing the men's 1,000-meter speed-skating race. American Joey Cheek won the silver medal at the event at the Games in Turin, Italy. Four years later, at the Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, Davis repeated as Olympic champion in the 1,000-meter speed-skating. The Chicago native also earned a silver medal in the 1,500-meter speed-skating race at the Games in Turin and Vancouver.