Sunday, March 16, 2014

March 16: First Black Owned Newspaper

On this date in History .... March 16, 1827

Freedom’s Journal became the first black-owned and operated newspaper in the United States, established the same year that slavery was abolished in New York state.  The paper’s primary purpose was to counter the other pro-slavery and racist papers already in publication. The editors began their first publication with the words, “We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the publick (sic) been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly."  

It not only provided local and national news but also published weddings, birth and death announcements, job postings for African Americans and profiled successful African-Americans such as Phyllis Wheatley (first published black poet). Its two-year existence helped over forty black-owned newspapers become established by the Civil War.  

All issues of the paper can be found at the Wisconsin Historical Society (this link):

Friday, March 14, 2014

March 14: FBI Most Wanted List

On this date in History ... March 14, 1950:  

Photo courtesy of
The FBI’s "Most Wanted List" debuts.  

A 1949 news story about the “toughest guys” the FBI wanted to capture prompted the list because of the public’s attention to the article. 

"The criteria for selection is simple, the criminal must have a lengthy record and current pending charges that make him or her particularly dangerous.  And the FBI must believe that the publicity attendant to placement on the list will assist in the apprehension of the fugitive.

Since the list’s creation in 1950, more than 30% of them have been captured due to tips from the public. In general, the only way to get off of the list is to die or be captured. By the end of the year, only 3 of the original 10 were still on the list. Only 8 women have appeared on the list, the first in 1968. (See Dec 28, 2012 post for info on the first women on the list.)

March 13: First Impeachment Trial

On this date in History .... March 13, 1868:

The first impeachment trial of a United States president begins against President Andrew Johnson, accused of violation of the controversial Agent of Tenure Act.  

The Act was passed by Congress in spite of Johnson’s veto against it.  

Johnson had tried to remove people from office who opposed Johnson’s Reconstruction plans (which Congress considered too lenient) without Senate approval. The Tenure Act forbid this from happening. Johnson chose to ignore the Act and removed Secretary of War Edward Stanton from office. 

Johnson was found not guilty and remained in office, although he chose not to run for re-election.

Photo courtesy:

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12: "Classical Gas"

On this date in History ..... March 12, 1969:

Mason Williams with "The Smothers Brothers"
Mason Williams’ instrumental “Classical Gas” receives three Grammy Awards:  Best Instrumental Composition, Best Contemporary-Pop Performance, Instrumental, and Best Instrumental Arrangement.  Williams was the head writer of the TV variety show “The Smothers Brothers” at the time he wrote the piece and performed it on the show. 

When the song reached the Top Ten, Williams asked a filmmaker to create a video of classic art in time to the music entitled “3000 Years of Art”.

Click HERE to see the music video of "Classical Gas".

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10: James Earl Ray pleads guilty

On this date in History ... March 10, 1969:  

James Earl Ray pleads guilty to the April 4th, 1968 killing of Martin Luther King and is sentenced to 99 years. He was arrested in a London airport by Scotland Yard in June 1968. 

He pled guilty in March 1969 but three days later, he tried to withdraw his guilty plea, saying he had only pled guilty to avoid the electric chair but he was really innocent and just a patsy or fall-guy for a larger conspiracy.  His request for a trial was denied for the next 29 years. 

He and five others escaped in June 1977 but were captured three days later.  Another year was added to his sentence for a total of 100 years.

He died in 1998 at the age of 70. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9: Indiana passes sterilization laws

On this date in History ... March 9, 1907:  

Indiana becomes the first state to pass sterilization legislation for the purpose of eugenics (the practice of “improving the genetic population”). The law targeted “confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists”. 

When this law was struck down in 1921 by the Indiana State Supreme Court, a second law was passed in 1927 which limited the procedure to “Insane, feeble minded or epileptic”, indicating a move from sterilizing the mentally ill and criminals to only the mentally ill. 

The laws were designed to target those in state institutions, not the general public. They were repealed in 1974. Between 1907 and 1974, about 2500 of these procedures were carried out.

(See also May 2, 2013 and May 9, 2013 postings for additional eugenics history in Indiana.)

March 8: Ali/Frazier Fight

On this date in History .... March 8, 1971:  

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Muhammed Ali fought Joe Frazier in what was dubbed “The Fight of the Century”.  Ali lost after 15 rounds, the first loss of his professional boxing career.  A rematch in 1974 was held at Madison Square Garden which Ali won by decision after 12 rounds. 

Later that year, Ali defeated George Forman, reclaiming his heavyweight champion title. 

After losing the title to Leon Spinks in 1975, Ali again took the title back just seven months later. 

When he left the ring for good in 1981 with a 56-5 record, he was the only fighter to take the heavyweight title three times.

March 7: First Woman Director Honored

On this date in History ... March 7, 2010:  

Kathryn Bigelow becomes the first woman director to win a Best Director Academy Award. Among those also nominated that year was her ex-husband, James Cameron, for his film "Avatar". 

In her acceptance speech she said,  "I hope I'm the first of many [women], and of course, I'd love to just think of myself as a filmmaker. And I long for the day when that modifier can be a moot point.”


March 6: Oreos are sold for the first time!

On this date in History .... March 6, 1912:  

The first Oreo was sold in Hoboken NJ, packed in a tin and sold by the pound in bulk for 30 cents a pound.  

The first Oreo was a plain cookie with the word “Oreo” in the middle and a thin wreath embossed around the outer edge.  It is now found in over 100 countries, the biggest market being the U.S.  (China comes in second.)  

Oreos have created their own little corner of the current culture ….. “recipes galore” can be found in which Oreos are a key ingredient!  No one is sure how the cookies came to be named “Oreo.”

Photo courtesy of

March 5: Stairway to Heaven

On this date in History .... March 5, 1971:  

Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” played for the first time in Belgium. The 8 min, 2 sec song is the most requested song on U.S. radio, despite the fact that it never actual hit any of the charts …the song was never released as a single due to its length and the band would not authorize a cut (shorter) version. It is the biggest selling single piece of sheet music sold in rock history.

Photo courtesy of 

March 4: Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

On this date in History ... March 4, 1921: 

The 66th Congress passed Public Resolution #67 to construct a tomb at Arlington Cemetery for an unknown soldier killed in France. This soldier represented all of the unknown soldiers killed in WWI. 

The Tomb has been under 24 hr guard since July 2, 1937 under the sole responsibility of the 3rd US Infantry. 

The shoes worn by the Sentinals are built up so the heel and sole are equal in height, allowing the sentinel to stand with a perfectly straight back and to walk in a fluid movement, meaning the bayonet does not “bob” up and down in each step. 

The walk is 21 steps, then a 21 second pause facing the tomb, then changing the bayonet to the other shoulder, followed by another 21 second pause, which alludes to the 21 Gun Salute, the highest honor given to any military or dignitary.  

March 3: Women and the Supreme Court

On this date in History .... March 3, 1879:

Belva Lockwood became the first woman sworn in as a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, and was the first woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court. 

In 1884, Lockwood became the second woman (after Victoria Woodhull) to run for President of the United States. She was the first to appear on the election ballot and to engage in a full-fledged campaign as the candidate for the National Equal Rights Party. 

In 1914, when she was 84 yrs old and asked whether a woman would one day be president she replied, “If a woman demonstrates that she is fitted to be president she will someday occupy the White House. It will be entirely on her own merits, however. No movement can place her there simply because she is a woman. It will come if she proves herself mentally fit for the position.”