Today in History

Today is Thursday, March 9, the 68th day of 2017. There are 297 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On March 9, 1841, the U.S. Supreme Court, in United States v. The Amistad, ruled in favor of a group of Africans captured by U.S. authorities after they had seized control of a Spanish schooner, La Amistad, that was transporting them to a life of slavery in Cuba; the justices ruled, 7-1,that the Africans had been illegally enslaved, and should be set free.

On this date:

  • In 1796, the future emperor of the French, Napoleon Bonaparte, married Josephine de Beauharnais. (The couple later divorced.)
  • In 1862, during the Civil War, the ironclads USS Monitor and CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimac) clashed for five hours to a draw at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
  • In 1907, Indiana’s General Assembly passed America’s first involuntary sterilization law, one aimed at “confirmed criminals, idiots, imbeciles, and rapists” in state custody. (This law was struck down in 1921 by the Indiana Supreme Court, but a new law was passed in 1927 that was repealed in 1974.)
  • In 1916, more than 400 Mexican raiders led by Pancho Villa attacked Columbus, New Mexico, killing 18 Americans. During the First World War, Germany declared war on Portugal.
  • In 1933, Congress, called into special session by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, began its “hundred days” of enacting New Deal legislation.
  • In 1945, during World War II, U.S. B-29 bombers began launching incendiary bomb attacks against Tokyo, resulting in an estimated 100,000 deaths.
  • In 1954, CBS newsman Edward R. Murrow critically reviewed Wisconsin Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy’s anti-communism campaign on “See It Now.”
  • In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court, in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, raised the standard for public officials to prove they’d been libeled in their official capacity by news organizations.
  • In 1977, about a dozen armed Hanafi Muslims invaded three buildings in Washington, D.C., killing one person and taking more than 130 hostages. (The siege ended two days later.)
  • In 1987, Chrysler Corp. announced it had agreed to buy the financially ailing American Motors Corp.
  • In 1992, former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin died in Tel Aviv at age 78.
  • In 1997, gangsta rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher Wallace) was killed in a still-unsolved drive-by shooting in Los Angeles; he was 24. French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, 44, died at a hospital outside Paris just after publication of his book “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” which he’d dictated by blinking his left eyelid after being almost totally paralyzed by a stroke.

Ten years ago: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert S. Mueller acknowledged the FBI had improperly used the USA Patriot Act to secretly pry out personal information about Americans; they apologized and vowed to prevent further illegal intrusions. Former FBI agent Robert Levinson went missing after checking out of a hotel on Iran’s Kish Island a day before his 59th birthday; his fate remains unknown. Brad Delp, lead singer for the band Boston, was found dead in his southern New Hampshire home; he was 55.

Five years ago: A high-profile international mission to end the Syrian crisis stumbled before it began as the opposition rejected calls by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan for dialogue with President Bashar Assad as pointless and out of touch after a year of violence. Lindsey Vonn of the United States won the World Cup giant slalom race in Are, Sweden to clinch her fourth overall title.

One year ago: Six days before the Florida primary, Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders tangled in an intense debate in Miami over who was the true friend of American Hispanics, and had even worse things to say about Republican front-runner Donald Trump. During a Trump rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, John Franklin McGraw struck protester Rakeem Jones as Jones was being removed by sheriff’s deputies (McGraw, who later apologized for his actions, received a 30-day suspended sentence). Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot to death in an ambush during a cookout in Wilkinsburg, a suburb of Pittsburgh; two suspects have been charged. A man convicted of killing five people, including his ex-wife, in a 1997 shooting rampage near Houston, was executed by the state of Texas.

Today’s Birthdays: Former Sen. James L. Buckley, Conservative-N.Y., is 94. Singer-actress Keely Smith is 89. Singer Lloyd Price is 84. Actress Joyce Van Patten is 83. Country singer Mickey Gilley is 81. Actress Trish Van Devere is 76. Singer-musician John Cale (The Velvet Underground) is 75. Singer Mark Lindsay (Paul Revere and the Raiders) is 75. Former ABC anchorman Charles Gibson is 74. Rock musician Robin Trower is 72. Singer Jeffrey Osborne is 69. Country musician Jimmie Fadden (The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) is 69. Actress Jaime Lyn Bauer is 68. Magazine editor Michael Kinsley is 66. TV newscaster Faith Daniels is 60. Actress Linda Fiorentino is 59. Actor Tom Amandes is 58. Actor-director Lonny Price is 58. Country musician Rusty Hendrix (Confederate Railroad) is 57. Actress Juliette Binoche is 53. Rock musician Robert Sledge (Ben Folds Five) is 49. Rock musician Shannon Leto (30 Seconds to Mars) is 47. Rapper C-Murder (AKA C-Miller) is 46. Actor Emmanuel Lewis is 46. Actress Jean Louisa Kelly is 45. Actor Kerr Smith is 45. Actor Oscar Isaac is 38. Rapper Chingy is 37. Actor Matthew Gray Gubler is 37. Rock musician Chad Gilbert (New Found Glory) is 36. Roots rock musician Ben Tanner (Alabama Shakes) is 34. Actress Brittany Snow is 31. Rapper Bow Wow is 30. Rapper YG is 27. Actor Luis Armand Garcia is 25. Actress Cierra Ramirez is 22.

Thought for Today: “Conscience is the perfect interpreter of life.” — Karl Barth, Swiss theologian (1886-1966).

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