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Fourth Day - History

Fourth Day - History

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February 27, 1991

Fourth Day of Ground Attack

Destroyed Iraqi Armor

The fourth and last full day of the war saw the American forces continuing the destruction of much of the Iraqi Army. A decision had already been taken in Washington to end the war at 100 hours. It had been determined that an assault on Baghdad might have too many unintended consequences. The best that could be done was to destroy as much Iraqi equipment as possible, and that was what was done in the last hours of the war.

June 4th

1989 : In May nearly a million Chinese students and others held mass protests calling for greater democracy and an end to corruption at Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, but on June 4th Chinese troops with tanks and armored cars stormed Tiananmen Square killing hundreds of protesters when firing into the crowd indiscriminately and arresting thousands of pro democracy protesters some of who are still in jail.

1919 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

1919 : The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote, is passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

1934 USA "Dust Bowl"

1934 : Following severe droughts lasting from the mid 1920's which caused large areas of farming land to turn into a giant "Dust Bowl" mainly in the great plains region of the Midwest. Farmers were leaving the land and FDR provided drought relief as part of His “New Deal” policies , and other badly affected areas with major unemployment.

1937 Huge Dust Storm Sweeps from Oklahoma

1937 : Unusual early summer weather was experienced throughout the western half of the United States. A huge dust storm sweeps from Oklahoma westward . The extreme weather continued with a blizzard around the Colorado and Montana area and extreme cold temperatures. The southwest experienced flood conditions turning the dust bowl into a mud bowl.

1940 World War II Dunkirk

1940 : The evacuation of Allied forces from Dunkirk ends as German forces capture the beach. The nine-day evacuation, the largest of its kind in history and an unexpected success, saved 338,000 Allied troops from capture by the Nazis. More about the Dunkirk Evacuation

This Day in History: April 4

FILE - In this April 3, 1968 file photo, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stands with other civil rights leaders on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., a day before he was assassinated at approximately the same place. (AP Photo, File)

On this day, April 4 .

1968: Martin Luther King Jr. is shot and killed while standing on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn.

  • 1841: President William Henry Harrison dies of pneumonia one month after his inauguration, becoming the first U.S. chief executive to die in office.
  • 1850: The city of Los Angeles is incorporated.
  • 1917: The U.S. Senate votes 82-6 in favor of declaring war against Germany. (The House would follow suit two days later by a vote of 373-50.)
  • 1945: During World War II, U.S. forces liberate the Nazi concentration camp Ohrdruf in Germany. Hungary is liberated as Soviet forces clear out remaining German troops.
  • 1949: Twelve nations, including the United States, sign the North Atlantic Treaty in Washington, D.C.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates (Reuters)

  • 1975:Microsoft is founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in Albuquerque, N.M.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Woodward and Bernstein, the reporters who broke the Watergate scandal, in All the President's Men. (AP File)

Ann Reeves Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Other early Mother’s Day pioneers include Juliet Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist who inspired a local Mother’s Day in Albion, Michigan, in the 1870s. The duo of Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering, meanwhile, both worked to organize a Mothers’ Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some have even called Hering “the father of Mothers’ Day.”


The history of Memorial Day in the United States is complex. The U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs recognizes that approximately 25 places claim to have originated the holiday. [6] At Columbus [Georgia] State University there is a Center for Memorial Day Research [ citation needed ] , and the University of Mississippi incorporates a Center for Civil War Research that has also led research into Memorial Day's origins. [7] The practice of decorating soldiers' graves with flowers is an ancient custom. [8] Soldiers' graves were decorated in the U.S. before [9] and during the American Civil War. Many of the origination claims are myths, unsupported by evidence, while others are one-time cemetery dedications or funeral tributes. In 2014, one scholarly effort attempted to separate the myths and one-time events from the activities that actually led to the establishment of the federal holiday. [10]

According to the United States Library of Congress website, "Southern women decorated the graves of soldiers even before the Civil War’s end. Records show that by 1865, Mississippi, Virginia, and South Carolina all had precedents for Memorial Day." [11] The earliest Southern Memorial Day celebrations were simple, somber occasions for veterans and their families to honor the dead and tend to local cemeteries. [12] In following years, the Ladies' Memorial Association and other groups increasingly focused rituals on preserving Confederate Culture and the Lost Cause of the Confederacy narrative. [13]

Warrenton, Virginia Edit

On June 3, 1861, Warrenton, Virginia, was the location of the first Civil War soldier's grave ever to be decorated, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper article in 1906. [14] This decoration was for the funeral of the first soldier killed in action during the Civil War, John Quincy Marr, who died on June 1, 1861, during a skirmish at Battle of Fairfax Courthouse in Virginia. [15]

Savannah, Georgia Edit

In July 1862, women in Savannah, Georgia, decorated the graves at Laurel Grove Cemetery of Colonel Francis S. Bartow and his comrades who died at Battle of Manassas (First Battle of Bull Run) the year before. [16]

Jackson, Mississippi Edit

On April 26, 1865, in Jackson, Mississippi, Sue Landon Vaughan supposedly decorated the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers. However, the earliest recorded reference to this event did not appear until many years after. [10] Regardless, mention of the observance is inscribed on the southeast panel of the Confederate Monument in Jackson, erected in 1891. [17]

Charleston, South Carolina Edit

On May 1, 1865, in Charleston, South Carolina, recently freed African-Americans held a parade of 10,000 people to honor 257 dead Union soldiers, whose remains they had reburied from a mass grave in a Confederate prison camp. [18] Historian David W. Blight cites contemporary news reports of this incident in the Charleston Daily Courier and the New-York Tribune. Although Blight claimed that "African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina", [19] in 2012, he stated in the New York Times article that he "has no evidence" that the event in Charleston effectively led to General Logan’s call for the national holiday. Blight said, "I’m much more interested in the meaning that’s being conveyed in that incredible ritual than who’s first.” [20]

Columbus, Georgia Edit

The United States National Park Service [21] and numerous scholars attribute the beginning of a Memorial Day practice in the South to a group of women of Columbus, Georgia. [10] [22] [23] [24] [25] [26] [27] The women were the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus. They were represented by Mary Ann Williams (Mrs. Charles J. Williams) who, as Secretary, wrote a letter to press in March 1866 asking their assistance in establishing annual holiday to decorate the graves of soldiers throughout the south. [28] The letter was reprinted in several southern states and the plans were noted in newspapers in the north. The date of April 26 was chosen. The holiday was observed in Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, Columbus and elsewhere in Georgia as well as Montgomery, Alabama Memphis, Tennessee Louisville, Kentucky New Orleans, Louisiana Jackson, Mississippi, and across the south. [10] In some cities, mostly in Virginia, other dates in May and June were observed. General John A. Logan commented on the observances in a speech to veterans on July 4, 1866, in Salem, Illinois. [29] After General Logan's General Order No. 11 to the Grand Army of the Republic to observe May 30, 1868, the earlier version of the holiday began to be referred to as Confederate Memorial Day. [10]

Columbus, Mississippi Edit

A year after the war's end, in April 1866, four women of Columbus gathered together to decorate the graves of the Confederate soldiers. They also felt moved to honor the Union soldiers buried there, and to note the grief of their families, by decorating their graves as well. The story of their gesture of humanity and reconciliation is held by some writers as the inspiration of the original Memorial Day despite its occurring last among the claimed inspirations. [30] [31] [32] [33]

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania Edit

The 1863 cemetery dedication at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, included a ceremony of commemoration at the graves of dead soldiers. Some have therefore claimed that President Abraham Lincoln was the founder of Memorial Day. [34] However, Chicago journalist Lloyd Lewis tried to make the case that it was Lincoln's funeral that spurred the soldiers' grave decorating that followed. [35]

Boalsburg, Pennsylvania Edit

On July 4, 1864, ladies decorated soldiers' graves according to local historians in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. [36] Boalsburg promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day. [37] However, no reference to this event existed until the printing of the History of the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers in 1904. [38] In a footnote to a story about her brother, Mrs. Sophie (Keller) Hall described how she and Emma Hunter decorated the grave of Emma's father, Reuben Hunter. The original story did not account for Reuben Hunter's death occurring two months later on September 19, 1864. It also did not mention Mrs. Elizabeth Myers as one of the original participants. However, a bronze statue of all three women gazing upon Reuben Hunter's grave now stands near the entrance to the Boalsburg Cemetery. Although July 4, 1864, was a Monday, the town now claims that the original decoration was on one of the Sundays in October 1864. [39]

National Decoration Day Edit

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan issued a proclamation calling for "Decoration Day" to be observed annually and nationwide he was commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), an organization of and for Union Civil War veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois. [40] With his proclamation, Logan adopted the Memorial Day practice that had begun in the Southern states three years earlier. [10] [41] [42] [43] [28] [44] [45] The northern states quickly adopted the holiday. In 1868, memorial events were held in 183 cemeteries in 27 states, and 336 in 1869. [46] One author claims that the date was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any particular battle. [47] According to a White House address in 2010, the date was chosen as the optimal date for flowers to be in bloom in the North. [48]

Michigan state holiday Edit

In 1871, Michigan made Decoration Day an official state holiday and by 1890, every northern state had followed suit. There was no standard program for the ceremonies, but they were typically sponsored by the Women's Relief Corps, the women's auxiliary of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), which had 100,000 members. By 1870, the remains of nearly 300,000 Union dead had been reinterred in 73 national cemeteries, located near major battlefields and thus mainly in the South. The most famous are Gettysburg National Cemetery in Pennsylvania and Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, :D.C. [49]

Waterloo, New York proclamation Edit

On May 26, 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson designated an "official" birthplace of the holiday by signing the presidential proclamation naming Waterloo, New York, as the holder of the title. This action followed House Concurrent Resolution 587, in which the 89th Congress had officially recognized that the patriotic tradition of observing Memorial Day had begun one hundred years prior in Waterloo, New York. [50] The village credits druggist Henry C. Welles and county clerk John B. Murray as the founders of the holiday. [ citation needed ] The legitimacy of this claim has been called into question by several scholars. [51]

In April 1865, following Lincoln's assassination, commemorations were widespread. The more than 600,000 soldiers of both sides who died in the Civil War meant that burial and memorialization took on new cultural significance. Under the leadership of women during the war, an increasingly formal practice of decorating graves had taken shape. In 1865, the federal government also began creating the United States National Cemetery System for the Union war dead. [52]

By the 1880s, ceremonies were becoming more consistent across geography as the GAR provided handbooks that presented specific procedures, poems, and Bible verses for local post commanders to utilize in planning the local event. Historian Stuart McConnell reports: [53]

on the day itself, the post assembled and marched to the local cemetery to decorate the graves of the fallen, an enterprise meticulously organized months in advance to assure that none were missed. Finally came a simple and subdued graveyard service involving prayers, short patriotic speeches, and music … and at the end perhaps a rifle salute.

Relationship to Confederate Memorial Day Edit

In 1868, some Southern public figures began adding the label "Confederate" to their commemorations and claimed that Northerners had appropriated the holiday. [54] [21] [55] The first official celebration of Confederate Memorial Day as a public holiday occurred in 1874, following a proclamation by the Georgia legislature. [56] By 1916, ten states celebrated it, on June 3, the birthday of CSA President Jefferson Davis. [56] Other states chose late April dates, or May 10, commemorating Davis' capture. [56]

The Ladies' Memorial Association played a key role in using Memorial Day rituals to preserve Confederate culture. [13] Various dates ranging from April 25 to mid-June were adopted in different Southern states. Across the South, associations were founded, many by women, to establish and care for permanent cemeteries for the Confederate dead, organize commemorative ceremonies, and sponsor appropriate monuments as a permanent way of remembering the Confederate dead. The most important of these was the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which grew from 17,000 members in 1900 to nearly 100,000 women by World War I. They were "strikingly successful at raising money to build Confederate monuments, lobbying legislatures and Congress for the reburial of Confederate dead, and working to shape the content of history textbooks." [57]

By 1890, there was a shift from the emphasis on honoring specific soldiers to a public commemoration of the Confederate South. [12] Changes in the ceremony's hymns and speeches reflect an evolution of the ritual into a symbol of cultural renewal and conservatism in the South. By 1913, David Blight argues, the theme of American nationalism shared equal time with the Confederate. [58]

By the 20th century, various Union memorial traditions, celebrated on different days, merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the U.S. military service. [2] Indiana from the 1860s to the 1920s saw numerous debates on how to expand the celebration. It was a favorite lobbying activity of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). An 1884 GAR handbook explained that Memorial Day was "the day of all days in the G.A.R. Calendar" in terms of mobilizing public support for pensions. It advised family members to "exercise great care" in keeping the veterans sober. [59]

Memorial Day speeches became an occasion for veterans, politicians, and ministers to commemorate the Civil War and, at first, to rehash the "atrocities" of the enemy. They mixed religion and celebratory nationalism for the people to make sense of their history in terms of sacrifice for a better nation. People of all religious beliefs joined together and the point was often made that German and Irish soldiers – ethnic minorities which faced discrimination in the United States – had become true Americans in the "baptism of blood" on the battlefield. [60]

In the national capital in 1913 the four-day "Blue-Gray Reunion" featured parades, re-enactments, and speeches from a host of dignitaries, including President Woodrow Wilson, the first Southerner elected to the White House since the War. James Heflin of Alabama gave the main address. Heflin was a noted orator his choice as Memorial Day speaker was criticized, as he was opposed for his support of segregation however, his speech was moderate in tone and stressed national unity and goodwill, gaining him praise from newspapers. [61]

The name "Memorial Day", which was first attested in 1882, gradually became more common than "Decoration Day" after World War II [62] but was not declared the official name by federal law until 1967. [63] On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. [64] The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. [64] After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress's change of date within a few years. [ citation needed ]

By the early 20th century, the GAR complained more and more about the younger generation. [ citation needed ] In 1913, one Indiana veteran complained that younger people born since the war had a "tendency . to forget the purpose of Memorial Day and make it a day for games, races, and revelry, instead of a day of memory and tears". [65] Indeed, in 1911 the scheduling of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway car race (later named the Indianapolis 500) was vehemently opposed by the increasingly elderly GAR. The state legislature in 1923 rejected holding the race on the holiday. But the new American Legion and local officials wanted the big race to continue, so Governor Warren McCray vetoed the bill and the race went on. [66]

Memorial Day endures as a holiday which most businesses observe because it marks the unofficial beginning of summer. The Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (SUVCW) advocated returning to the original date. The VFW stated in 2002: [67]

Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed a lot to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.

In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember at 3:00 pm. [68]

On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. [69] It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day. [70]

The National Memorial Day Concert takes place on the west lawn of the United States Capitol. [71] The concert is broadcast on PBS and NPR. Music is performed, and respect is paid to the people who gave their lives for their country. [ citation needed ]

Across the United States, the central event is attending one of the thousands of parades held on Memorial Day in large and small cities. Most of these feature marching bands and an overall military theme with the Active Duty, Reserve, National Guard, and Veteran service members participating along with military vehicles from various wars. [ citation needed ]

Scholars, [72] [73] [74] [75] following the lead of sociologist Robert Bellah, often make the argument that the United States has a secular "civil religion" – one with no association with any religious denomination or viewpoint – that has incorporated Memorial Day as a sacred event. With the Civil War, a new theme of death, sacrifice, and rebirth enters the civil religion. Memorial Day gave ritual expression to these themes, integrating the local community into a sense of nationalism. The American civil religion, in contrast to that of France, was never anticlerical or militantly secular in contrast to Britain, it was not tied to a specific denomination, such as the Church of England. The Americans borrowed from different religious traditions so that the average American saw no conflict between the two, and deep levels of personal motivation were aligned with attaining national goals. [76]

Since 1868 Doylestown, Pennsylvania, has held annual Memorial Day parades which it claims to be the nation's oldest continuously running. Grafton, West Virginia, has also had an ongoing parade since 1867. However, the Memorial Day parade in Rochester, Wisconsin, predates Doylestown's by one year. [77] [78]

In 1915, following the Second Battle of Ypres, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a physician with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, wrote the poem, "In Flanders Fields". Its opening lines refer to the fields of poppies that grew among the soldiers' graves in Flanders. [79]

In 1918, inspired by the poem, YWCA worker Moina Michael attended a YWCA Overseas War Secretaries' conference wearing a silk poppy pinned to her coat and distributed over two dozen more to others present. In 1920, the National American Legion adopted it as its official symbol of remembrance. [80]

Year Memorial Day
1971 1976 1982 1993 1999 2004 2010 2021 2027 May 31 (week 22)
1977 1983 1988 1994 2005 2011 2016 2022 May 30 (week 22)
1972 1978 1989 1995 2000 2006 2017 2023 2028 May 29 (week 22)
1973 1979 1984 1990 2001 2007 2012 2018 2029 May 28 (week 22)
1974 1985 1991 1996 2002 2013 2019 2024 2030 May 27 (common year week 21, leap year week 22)
1975 1980 1986 1997 2003 2008 2014 2025 2031 May 26 (week 21)
1981 1987 1992 1998 2009 2015 2020 2026 May 25 (week 21)

Decoration Day (Appalachia and Liberia) Edit

Decoration Days in Southern Appalachia and Liberia are an unbroken tradition which arose by the 19th century. Decoration practices are localized and unique to individual families, cemeteries, and communities, but common elements that unify the various Decoration Day practices are thought to represent syncretism of predominantly Christian cultures in 19th century Southern Appalachia with pre-Christian influences from Scotland, Ireland, and African cultures. Appalachian and Liberian cemetery decoration traditions are thought to have more in common with one another than with United States Memorial Day traditions which are focused on honoring the military dead. [81] Appalachian and Liberian cemetery decoration traditions pre-date the United States Memorial Day holiday. [82]

In the United States, cemetery decoration practices have been recorded in the Appalachian regions of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, northern South Carolina, northern Georgia, northern and central Alabama, and northern Mississippi. Appalachian cemetery decoration has also been observed in areas outside Appalachia along routes of westward migration from that region: northern Louisiana, northeastern Texas, Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and southern Missouri. [ citation needed ]

According to scholars Alan and Karen Jabbour, "the geographic spread . from the Smokies to northeastern Texas and Liberia, offer strong evidence that the southern Decoration Day originated well back in the nineteenth century. The presence of the same cultural tradition throughout the Upland South argues for the age of the tradition, which was carried westward (and eastward to Africa) by nineteenth-century migration and has survived in essentially the same form till the present." [40]

While these customs may have inspired in part rituals to honor military dead like Memorial Day, numerous differences exist between Decoration Day customs and Memorial Day, including that the date is set differently by each family or church for each cemetery to coordinate the maintenance, social, and spiritual aspects of decoration. [81] [83] [84]

Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?

Discussions of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence resulted in some minor changes, but the spirit of the document was unchanged. The process of revision continued through all of July 3 and into the late afternoon of July 4, when the Declaration was officially adopted. Of the 13 colonies, nine voted in favor of the Declaration, two -- Pennsylvania and South Carolina -- voted No, Delaware was undecided and New York abstained.

John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence. It is said that John Hancock's signed his name "with a great flourish" so England's "King George can read that without spectacles!"


This Day in History is DUE’s daily dose of trivia for all the history buffs out there. So sit back and take a ride of all the fascinating things that happened today!

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in people, and hence, every day has been a significant one in the foibles of history. Now, let’s take a tour of “This Day in History – 4th June”.

1896: Henry Ford test-drives his ‘Quadricycle’

Quadricycle was the first automobile Henry Ford had ever designed or driven. It was basically a light metal frame fitted with four bicycle wheels and powered by a two-cylinder, four-horsepower gasoline engine. After months of hard work, Ford was able to drive the 500-pound Quadricycle down Detroit’s Grand River Avenue. Aside from one breakdown, the drive was a success. Ford was on his way to becoming one of the most formidable success stories in American business history.

Henry Ford and his Quadricycle

1919: Congress passes the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote

The 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granted women the right to vote. Congress had passed it and sent it to the states for ratification. It stated that “the rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.” The Amendment took effect eight days later.

1940: British complete the Miracle of Dunkirk

British evacuated almost 338,226 allied troops from France via a flotilla of over 800 vessels including Royal Navy destroyers, merchant marine boats, fishing boats, pleasure craft and lifeboats to complete the Miracle of Dunkirk today. The German army had advanced through northern France during the early days of World War II. They had cut off British troops from their French allies, forcing an enormous evacuation of soldiers across the North Sea from the town of Dunkirk to England. British named this evacuation as Operation Dynamo which commenced on May 26.

Miracle of Dunkirk

1972: Black communist activist Angela Davis acquitted

In October 1970, New York City Police had arrested Davis in connection with a shootout that occurred on August 7. She was accused of supplying weapons to a notorious Jonathan Jackson due to her friendship with him, and her activism for Black prisoners. She went into hiding and her trial began in March 1972. In June 1972, the court acquitted her of all charges. Though no longer a member of the Communist Party, Davis continues to be active in politics, most notably speaking out against incarceration and the death penalty.

Angela Davis

1975: Actress and Humanitarian Angelina Jolie is born

Maleficient actress and UNHCR Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie turns 46 today. Named as Hollywood’s highest-paid actress and one of the world’s most beautiful women, Jolie is famous for films like Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Salt, Changeling and Girl, Interrupted. Her accolades include an Academy Award and three Golden Globe Awards. Her humanitarian work includes efforts towards education, conservation and women’s rights. She has also undertaken over a dozen field missions globally to refugee camps and war zone countries like Pakistan and Sudan.

Angelina Jolie

1989: Tiananmen Square Massacre

Chinese troops stormed through Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing, killing and arresting thousands of pro-democracy protesters. The brutal Chinese government assault on the protesters shocked the West. A little more than three weeks later, the US Congress voted to impose economic sanctions against the People’s Republic of China in response to the brutal violation of human rights.

Tiananmen Square Massacre

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Fourth Day - History

“Taxation without representation!” was the battle cry in America’s 13 Colonies, which were forced to pay taxes to England’s King George III despite having no representation in the British Parliament. As dissatisfaction grew, British troops were sent in to quell the early movement toward rebellion. Repeated attempts by the Colonists to resolve the crisis without military conflict proved fruitless.

On June 11, 1776, the Colonies’ Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia and formed a committee whose express purpose was drafting a document that would formally sever their ties with Great Britain. The committee included Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston. Jefferson, who was considered the strongest and most eloquent writer, crafted the original draft document (as seen above). A total of 86 changes were made to his draft and the Continental Congress officially adopted the final version on July 4, 1776.

The following day, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed, and on July 6, The Pennsylvania Evening Post became the first newspaper to print the extraordinary document. The Declaration of Independence has since become our nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty.

Bonfires and Illuminations

On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells and band music. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and fireworks.

The custom eventually spread to other towns, both large and small, where the day was marked with processions, oratory, picnics, contests, games, military displays and fireworks. Observations throughout the nation became even more common at the end of the War of 1812 with Great Britain.

In June of 1826, Thomas Jefferson sent a letter to Roger C. Weightman, declining an invitation to come to Washington, D.C. to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. It was the last letter that Jefferson, who was gravely ill, ever wrote. In it, Jefferson says of the document:

“May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. …For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.”

– Thomas Jefferson
June 24, 1826 Monticello

Congress established Independence Day as a holiday in 1870, and in 1938 Congress reaffirmed it as a paid holiday for federal employees. Today, communities across the nation mark this major midsummer holiday with parades, firework displays, picnics and performances of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and marches by John Philip Sousa.

Photo of the “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Recommended Reading

When the South Was the Most Progressive Region in America

Why There Was a Civil War

The Myth of the Kindly General Lee

Before the Civil War, white Americans from every corner of the country had annually marked the Fourth with feasts, parades, and copious quantities of alcohol. A European visitor observed that it was “almost the only holy-day kept in America.” Black Americans demonstrated considerably less enthusiasm. And those who did observe the holiday preferred—like Douglass—to do so on July 5 to better accentuate the difference between the high promises of the Fourth and the low realities of life for African Americans, while also avoiding confrontations with drunken white revelers.

Yet the tables had turned by July 4, 1865, at least in the South. Having lost a bloody four-year war to break free from the United States and defend the institution of slavery, Confederate sympathizers had little desire to celebrate the Fourth now that they were back in the Union and slavery was no more. “The white people,” wrote a young woman in Columbia, South Carolina, “shut themselves within doors.”

African Americans, meanwhile, embraced the Fourth like never before. From Washington, D.C., to Mobile, Alabama, they gathered together to watch fireworks and listen to orators recite the Emancipation Proclamation, the Declaration of Independence, and the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery when it was ratified in late 1865.

As we document in our new book, Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy, the most extraordinary festivities were held in Charleston, South Carolina, the majority-black city where Southern secession and the Civil War had begun. At the 1865 commemoration in Charleston, one speaker noted the altered meaning of the holiday for black Americans, who could at last “bask in the sunshine of liberty.”

The martial displays at this and subsequent celebrations underscored his point. Each year, thousands of black South Carolinians lined up early to watch African American militia companies march through city streets. Led by mounted officers, some of whom were ex-slaves, these black companies were often named for abolitionists and other black heroes. The 1876 Fourth of July parade included the Lincoln Rifle Guard, the Attucks Light Infantry, the Douglass Light Infantry, and the Garrison Light Infantry.

The Charleston parades typically ended at White Point Garden, a beautiful park at the base of the city peninsula, where enormous crowds bought peanuts, cakes, fried fish, and sassafras beer from vendors camped out in shady spots. “The whole colored population seemed to have turned out into the open air,” reported the Charleston Daily News on July 5, 1872, “and the gardens were so densely thronged that it was only with the utmost difficulty that locomotion was possible amid the booths, stalls and sightseers.”

Throughout the South, freedwomen were conspicuous participants in Fourth of July celebrations, pushing back against the gender and, in many cases, class barriers that relegated them to the sidelines of Reconstruction politics. The domestic workers and washerwomen of the Daughters of Zion and the Sisters of Zion, two benevolent societies in Memphis, Tennessee, marched in parades each year. The 1875 parade featured a carriage carrying “a queen for the day”—a striking claim to the respectability whites routinely denied black women.

At Charleston’s White Point Garden, freedwomen joined freedmen in annual performances of songs and dances, including one called the “Too-la-loo” that had subversive meaning. About two dozen participants—evenly split between men and women—formed a ring, into which one of the female dancers would move while the others sang and clapped. “Go hunt your lover, Too-la-loo!/Go find your lover, Too-la-loo!” they urged the lady in the center, who eventually chose a suitor to join her. The Too-la-loo allowed ex-slaves to poke fun at the elite courtship rituals of their former masters while also engaging in a raucous celebration of their own emancipation. In 1876, 50 groups danced the Too-la-loo from early morning until after midnight. The dance was so popular among the freed population in Charleston, in fact, that Too-la-loo eventually became shorthand for the Fourth of July there.

In Charleston and elsewhere, whites deeply resented their former slaves turning the Fourth into a commemoration of black liberty. What “a dreadful day” it was, complained one Charleston planter in a letter to his daughter. A local merchant lamented in his journal that the nation’s holiday had become “a nigger day”: “Nigger procession[,] nigger dinner and balls and promenades,” and “scarcely a white person seen in the streets.” Even some Northern whites could not abide what they saw. At the 1865 festivities in Mobile, federal troops from Illinois and Indiana were overheard wishing newly freed slaves dead.

They got their wish, in part, in the decade to come, as Fourth of July celebrations became more politically charged affairs. Republican candidates and officeholders played a prominent role in the festivities in the 1870s, much to the consternation of white Democrats, who used some commemorations as an opportunity to reclaim their power through force of arms. On July 4, 1875, a white mob broke up a Republican rally in Vicksburg, Mississippi, killing a black deputy sheriff. The next year, in the village of Hamburg, South Carolina, anger over a black militia parade on the Fourth boiled over into a full-blown riot that left at least seven African Americans dead at the hands of white vigilantes. The Hamburg massacre helped conservatives wrest control of local and state governments from the biracial Republican Party that fall, making South Carolina one of the final three Southern states to be returned to the Democratic fold.

In the years that followed, as white Southerners began implementing segregationist laws and customs, they quashed official black celebrations of the Fourth. Beginning in 1881, Charleston city leaders pushed Too-la-loo to parks further and further away from downtown until finally, in 1886, they succeeded in removing it from the peninsula altogether. African American families and friends continued to meet in more informal gatherings in the city, but by the early 1900s both Charleston and Atlanta had forbidden vendors from setting up food stalls along the streets where black residents had long congregated on the Fourth. The African American, noted a Memphis newspaper, now marked the holiday by “going way off by himself,” celebrating behind closed doors in black churches and cultural institutions or with family.

As they removed black commemorations from public spaces, white Southerners deployed racist tropes to question black affection for the holiday. The Atlanta Constitution declared on July 4, 1901, that African Americans seemed “a little hazey” as to why they actually celebrated the Fourth: “One shiny black-faced old darky said he reckoned they celebrated ‘jest ‘cause hit was watermelon season!’ and to the average brother in black that is reason quite sufficient.”

Beneath the ridicule was something more serious: a concerted effort to delegitimize black claims to the holiday. African Americans did not observe the Fourth, white critics sneered, out of a sincere sense of patriotism or an accurate understanding of what the day meant. After all, they insisted, the Fourth of July did not apply to black Americans. It neither represented their freedom nor testified to their status as people worthy of equal citizenship.

In 1902, white Atlantans completed their commemorative coup with an elaborate Fourth of July program. A children’s chorus sang three “patriotic” songs: “Dixie,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and “America.” A parade of local dignitaries, among them both Confederate and Union veterans, wound through the city. The nation’s birthday was back where it belonged—in the hands of “true” Americans.

That this patriotic display honored men who had fought to destroy the United States did not bother local whites. On the contrary, erasing the contradiction was necessary. By the turn of the century, white Americans everywhere gave in to the lure of sectional reconciliation. Union and Confederate veterans, for instance, buried the hatchet in reunions that emphasized the bravery of all combatants and avoided any reference to slavery or the legacy of emancipation. Reframing who could rightfully celebrate Independence Day proved a crucial part of this reconciliation process, helping paper over regional differences in the service of a unifying, national white supremacy.

In the Jim Crow South—where segregation, disfranchisement, and racial lynching were the order of the day—the message was clear: African Americans were as unfit for the fruits of freedom as they were for the Fourth of July. Once again, as Frederick Douglass had said a half-century earlier, black Americans were not included within the pale of their nation’s birthday.

Important Events From This day in History September 4th

1937 : Following the increases in Infantile Paralysis (Polio) in Chicago the city health department have made statements that the epidemic is under control but schools will continue to left closed indefinitely.

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1951 : President Harry S. Truman’s speech from San Francisco is broadcast across the nation, marking the first time a television program was broadcast from coast to coast.

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1957 : The National Guard on the order of Governor Orval Faubus is used to prevent nine African American students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. The action was taken in violation of a federal order to integrate the school.

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1964 : The Queen has opened the Forth Road Suspension Bridge which spans the Firth of Forth river, connecting Edinburgh to Fife, currently the fourth longest in the world . Tolls for the new bridge will be 2s 6d, the cost of the full project is thought to be £19.5 million. Over the years the tolls increased to 80p or 16s 0d but in February 2008 tolls were abolished and the bridge is now toll free.

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September 4th, 1968 : The increase in Dutch Elm Disease in England is continuing and so far no way has been found to protect the trees, the cause has been traced to the bark beetle spreading the disease. Many tens of thousands of trees have been destroyed and the disease is now becoming widespread in parts of the United States including throughout New England.

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1983 : Dennis Connor and his yacht Liberty have been chosen to defend the Americas cup by the New York Yacht club after defeating Courageous in a two race run off. They will defend the Americas cup starting on September 13th for the best of 7 races against Britain's Victory or Australia's Australia II who are currently tied at 1 race each.

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September 4th, 1991 : Many fear that the invasion of Africanized Bees that become aggressive when nests are threatened and have caused a number of children deaths in Mexico are moving into the United States in increasing numbers, currently swarms that have appeared in Texas have quickly been destroyed but as they appear in ever increasing numbers they expect the Bees to have colonized many parts of the southern states within two years.

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1997 : The last of the original Ford Thunderbird's rolls off the assembly line.

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2001 : A shark attack on a couple swimming off the coast of North Carolina kills the man and severely injures the woman, this is the 4th fatality from shark attacks in the US this year after over 40 attacks by sharks in US coastal waters, in what many are dubbing the "Summer of the Shark."

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