This day in history

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From the archives of History.com…

  • by History.com Editors
    January 20, 1971, sees the release of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" In addition to being a massive hit, the song marked a turning point in Gaye's career and in the trajectory of Motown. Gaye achieved popularity in the 1960s with songs like "How Sweet it Is (To Be Loved by You)" and "I Heard It …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    On January 20, 1980, in a letter to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and a television interview, U.S. President Jimmy Carter proposes that the 1980 Summer Olympics be moved from the planned host city, Moscow, if the Soviet Union failed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan within a …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    In the culmination of his extraordinary rise to power over a tumultuous election year, Donald John Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in Washington, D.C. From the time he kicked off his presidential campaign in June 2015 at his namesake Trump Tower in New York City, …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    On a freezing day in Washington, D.C., Barack Hussein Obama is sworn in as the 44th U.S. president. The son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, Obama had become the first African American to win election to the nation’s highest office the previous November. As the junior …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    On January 20, 1945, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the only president to be elected to three terms in office, is inaugurated to his fourth—and final—term. At the height of the Great Depression, Roosevelt, then governor of New York, was elected the 32nd president of the United States. In his inaugural …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    On January 20, 1961, on the newly renovated east front of the United States Capitol, John Fitzgerald Kennedy is inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States. It was a cold and clear day, and the nation’s capital was covered with a snowfall from the previous night. The ceremony began with …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    During the First Opium War, China cedes the island of Hong Kong to the British with the signing of the Chuenpi Convention, an agreement seeking an end to the first Anglo-Chinese conflict. In 1839, Britain invaded China to crush opposition to its interference in the country’s economic and political …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    Yasser Arafat is elected president of the Palestinian National Council with 88.1 percent of the popular vote, becoming the first democratically elected leader of the Palestinian people in history. Arafat, the founder of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), originally employed guerilla …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis. On November 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    Nazi officials meet to discuss the details of the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question.” In July 1941, Hermann Goering, writing under instructions from Hitler, had ordered Reinhard Heydrich, SS general and Heinrich Himmler’s number-two man, to submit “as soon as possible a general plan of the …Continue reading

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Topics in the news around this time of year…

  • by History.com Editors
    When British General Lord Charles Cornwallis and his army surrendered to General George Washington’s American force and its French allies at the Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781, it was more than just military win. The outcome in Yorktown, Virginia marked the conclusion of the …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    On September 22, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that as of January 1, 1863, all slaves in the states currently engaged in rebellion against the Union “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Lincoln didn’t actually free any …Continue reading
  • Facing the harsh conditions of the European winter, American soldiers fighting in the Battle of the Bulge faced a challenge like no other.Continue reading
  • Before salted roads and giant snowplows, one devastating storm brought New York City to a halt. But it may have changed things for the better.Continue reading
  • We all watch the ball drop on New Year's Eve, but the ball has its own history that began well before Times Square.Continue reading
  • Wooden nutcracker soldiers are staples of the holiday season, but what do they actually have to do with Christmas celebrations?Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    At the end of World War I, during a peace conference held in Paris, France, the victorious Allies concluded a series of peace treaties that would be imposed on the defeated Central Powers. The most important of these was the Treaty of Versailles, signed in June 1919 at the Palace of Versailles in …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    Robert E. Lee was a Confederate general who led the South’s attempt at secession during the Civil War. He challenged Union forces during the war’s bloodiest battles, including Antietam and Gettysburg, before surrendering to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in 1865 at Appomattox Court House in …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    Daniel Boone was an early American frontiersman who gained fame for his hunting and trailblazing expeditions through the Cumberland Gap, a natural pass through the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Boone achieved folk hero status during his lifetime, but much of his …Continue reading
  • by History.com Editors
    The Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, is an independent federal regulatory agency tasked with protecting investors and capital, overseeing the stock market and proposing and enforcing federal securities laws. Prior to the SEC’s creation, oversight of the trade in stocks, bonds …Continue reading

Stories in the news…

  • by Sarah Pruitt
    As home to Project Blue Book, ground zero for government investigation of UFOs from 1951 to 1969, Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) outside Dayton, Ohio, ranks up there alongside Area 51 as a subject of enduring speculation. Many of the rumors surrounding Wright-Patt, as it’s …Continue reading
  • by Adam Janos
    Some have called it a supernatural place. Others have deemed it “cursed.” Terry Sherman got so spooked by the happenings on his new cattle ranch that 18 months after moving his family of four to the property now known by many as “Skinwalker Ranch” in southeastern Utah, he sold the 512-acre parcel …Continue reading
  • by Christopher Klein
    If a Mount Rushmore for America’s most unpopular presidents is ever created, John Tyler would be a leading candidate to have his likeness carved into stone. “Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette—the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace,” …Continue reading
  • by Dave Roos
    With the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the territory of the United States doubled overnight. Months before the $15 million deal was finalized, though, President Thomas Jefferson won approval from Congress to send a team of intrepid explorers to find a passable water route west to the Pacific Ocean. …Continue reading
  • by Dave Roos
    The United States Constitution is clear about which branch of government has the power to declare war. In Article I, Section 8, the Constitution states that “Congress shall have the power… To declare war.” But that simple statement has left room for interpretation, and centuries of American …Continue reading
  • by Dave Roos
    In late September 1952, only months after a rash of “flying saucer” sightings over Washington, D.C. made headlines around the world, dozens of military officers participating in NATO exercises in the North Atlantic were struck by their own UFO fever. Exercise Mainbrace was the largest peacetime …Continue reading
  • by Dave Roos
    Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States, is an outsized figure in American politics. He became president in 1901 after the assassination of William McKinley, and the brash and independent Roosevelt quickly remade the presidency in his own image. More than a century later, …Continue reading
  • by Dave Roos
    In 1950, an American B-36 bomber on a peace-time training mission crashed over British Columbia, Canada carrying a Mark IV atomic bomb, a weapon comparable in size to the nuke dropped on Nagasaki in 1945. According to testimonies from the surviving crew members, they had safely jettisoned the bomb, …Continue reading
  • by Patrick J. Kiger
    At its peak in the 1500s, the Ottoman Empire was one of the biggest military and economic powers in the world, controlling an expanse that included not just its base in Asia Minor but also much of southeastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. The empire controlled territory that stretched …Continue reading
  • by Hadley Meares
    When family members are also co-workers, things can get messy. This is never truer than in royal families, where the interplay of private passions and public displays of affection or dissatisfaction are broadcast on an international stage. While some royal feuds remain minor, others in history have …Continue reading
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