Throwback Thursday for May 16

  • 1801: Secretary of State William Henry Seward was born in Florida, New York. He was a lawyer who served in the New York State Senate and as the state’s governor. He also served in the U.S. Senate. President Lincoln appointed him as Secretary of State. However, Seward sometimes tried to take control and was known to go against the president’s plans. Seward was supposed to be killed at the same time as Lincoln, but he recovered from his knife wounds. President Johnson kept him on as Secretary of State and in 1867, Seward managed a big, successful negotiation with Russia. Find out what it was in Biographies.


  • 1860: The Republican National Convention was held in Chicago. The convention decided on a platform against slavery and nominated Abraham Lincoln for president. That November, Lincoln and his vice presidential nominee Hannibal Hamlin won the election. Read about Lincoln’s prior legal and political life that led him to the presidency and to fight against slavery and Shapers of Society.


  • 1943: The Nazis caused an explosion in the Great Synagogue in the Warsaw Ghetto. 2,000 Nazis had arrived in Warsaw on April 19, and the Jews hid and fought back as best they could. Ultimately, the Nazis started destroying all buildings, which flushed out the Jews. About 100 Nazis and 7,000 Jews were killed. Over 63,000 Jews were deported. The destruction of the synagogue was effectively the end of the ghetto. Learn about how the Jews had been forced to live in the ghetto and what life was like there in American History.


  • 1950: Children’s author Bruce Coville was born in Syracuse, New York. He writes fantasy and science fiction books that include both adventure and emotions. The first book he published was The Foolish Giant, for which his wife did the art. In his 40-year career, he’s written over 100 books including the Magic Shop Books series, My Teacher is an Alien, and the Unicorn Chronicles series. He’s also rewritten one of the world’s most famous writers so kids can understand classic works better. Do you know who this famous writer is? See if you’re right in Biography for Beginners.


  • 1957: Olympic distance runner Joan Benoit (later Samuelson) was born in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Her father, a former Army skier, made all his children learn cross-country skiing. However, when recovering from a broken leg she got while downhill skiing, Benoit started running and discovered that was her sport. As a senior in college, she won the Boston Marathon and set a U.S. record. Four years later, she won the women’s race while setting a world record. In 1984, she set a record for the all-women’s marathon in the Olympics. Find out the reason why this last feat was especially impressive in Sports Champions.


  • 1959: After denouncing the United States, Nikita Khrushchev stormed out of a summit meeting. This meeting, which took place in Paris, was supposed to be a time for the U.S. and Russia to talk about Berlin and arms control. Khrushchev left because Eisenhower admitted the CIA had been spying on the Soviet Union but wouldn’t apologize for it. Read about the role this played in both the Cold War and American politics in the “The U-2 Spy Plane Incident” section of Defining Moments.


  • 1989: Around 3,000 people participated in a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. The first protests had begun on April 17, 1989, when thousands of students mourned General Secretary and Communist Party Chairman Hu Yaobang. Students also protested for more press freedom and stopping government corruption, later adding government accountability and economic opportunity. The hunger strike started with 160 students on May 13. Martial law was declared on May 19. By June 2, the government had had enough, and soldiers opened fire. Hundreds, possibly thousands, died, although the government insisted only 241 people died, including soldiers. Learn the unfortunately ironic translation of “Tiananmen” in Essential Information.