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James Madison, Liberty or Death, Selma to Montgomery
In the previous half of this month, readers discovered the Boston Massacre, the Battle of the Alamo, President Reagan’s Liberty or Death speech, and many more events. Now, readers can learn of the events that occur during the second half of the month of March in American History.
March 16, 1751
James Madison is born in Port Conway, Virginia. At around 18 years of age, Madison enrolled at Princeton University, where he studied the Enlightenment. His early political career consisted of serving as a delegate to the Congress of the Confederation from 1786-1787; Representative from Virginia from 1789-1797; and Secretary of State from 1801-1809. Often regarded as one of the utmost founding fathers, Madison was a primary drafter of the US Constitution, alongside Alexander Hamilton. He later drafted the Bill of Rights due to concerns raised by Anti-Federalists that the Constitution gave the federal government too much power. A Democratic-Republican, he served as president from 1809-1817, during which time he led the US through the War of 1812 and the Second Barbary War. Madison passed away on June 28, 1836.
March 16, 1968
As with the good events in American history, we must also remember the bad. Today in 1968, the My Lai Massacre occurs in South Vietnam. Soldiers from US Army Company C, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, 11th Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division killed between 300-500 Vietnamese civilians. Many of the casualties were women and children. Twenty six soldiers were charged with criminal offenses, but only Lieutenant William Calley Jr. was found guilty. Calley ended up serving only three and a half years under house arrest.
March 18, 1837
Grover Cleveland is born in Caldwell, New Jersey. A member of the Democratic Party, Cleveland originally served as Sheriff of Erie County, New York from 1871-1873, before serving as Mayor of Buffalo, New York from January 2 – November 20, 1882. He then served as Governor of New York from 1883-1885. Cleveland was the only US president to serve two non-consecutive terms; the first was from 1885-1889, while the second was from 1893-1897. He oversaw the dedication of the Statue of Liberty and passed away on June 24, 1908.
March 19, 2003
The Coalition Invasion of Iraq begins. With US forces commanded by President George W. Bush, the Coalition’s goal was to put an end to Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror and to uncover weapons of mass destruction. Intelligence forces believed Iraq to be harboring weapons of mass destruction following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The invasion phase lasted until May 1, 2003. Following this, the Iraq War began, in which Coalition forces fought against militant insurgents. With war also raging in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden became another primary target. The Iraq War ended in 2011, though US forces began another operation there in 2014.
March 20, 1852
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, is published. A teacher and abolitionist from Connecticut, Stowe wrote this novel with the intention of raising awareness of slavery’s inhumane conditions, as well as to expand the abolitionist movement. The book became the best-selling novel of the 1800s. This novel inspired many Northerners. It, however, enraged many Southerners. Stowe’s brother, Henry Ward Beecher, was also a well-known evangelist and abolitionist. It is rumored when President Lincoln met Harriet Beecher Stowe at the start of the Civil War, he stated, “So this is the little lady who started this great war.”
March 21, 1965
Martin Luther King Jr. begins leading the third Selma to Montgomery March. Covering 54 miles, this march consisted of nonviolent protesters demonstrating their desire for Black Americans to exercise their constitutional right to vote. The marches largely occurred as a result of the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, who was shot by an Alabama state trooper while peacefully protesting. The demonstrations resulted in the passing of the Voting Rights Act by Congress, which was signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965.
March 23, 1775
Patrick Henry delivers his “Liberty or Death” speech. Spoken at the St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia, Henry’s speech sparked a fire in the hearts of the delegates who were present. Among those included George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In response to Henry’s fiery oration, Lord Dunmore of Virginia seized Williamsburg’s gunpowder supply. This is said to be the oration that prompted the colonists to seek rebellion. The most memorable excerpt reads, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
March 24, 1989
The Exxon-Valdez Oil Spill occurs. In Prince William Sound, Alaska, an oil tanker struck Bligh Reef, spilling over 10-million gallons of oil into the ocean. This caused devastating effects to wildlife, affecting the populations of fish, whales, sea otters, and birds. Over thirty years later, the effects of the disaster are still in play. This is considered the second-worst oil spill in US waters, second to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
March 26, 1979
The Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty is signed in Washington DC. Following the Six-Day War in 1967, Egypt demilitarized the Sinai Peninsula and allowed Israeli ships to pass through the Suez Canal. In 1978, the Camp David Accords were signed by the leaders of the two countries. The signing became one of President Jimmy Carter’s greatest accomplishments, and Carter was also president at the signing of the peace treaty. Since then, Israel and Egypt have experienced controversy, but have maintained a peaceful relationship.
March 27, 1814
The Battle of Horseshoe Bend is fought. Part of the War of 1812, this battle, fought in a location encompassed by present-day Alabama, consisted of US troops defeating Creek warriors. Allied with the British, the Creek opposed American expansion into the West. During the war, British forces used various Native tribes to stir havoc among American settlers in the Midwest. US forces partnered with the Cherokee, Choctaw, and Lower Creek tribes to win a significant victory. The battle also ended the Creek War and William Weatherford surrendered to General Andrew Jackson in August 1814.
March 29, 1973
The last US troops leave South Vietnam. The Vietnam War officially ended on April 30, 1975. The Paris Peace Accords of 1973 ended US involvement, but the fight between communist North Vietnam and capitalist South Vietnam continued for two years. The Vietnam War was the longest conflict of the Cold War and led to the deaths of over a million people. In 1982, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, also called the Vietnam Wall, was dedicated in Washington DC. In 2017, President Trump declared March 29 as National Vietnam Veterans Day.
March 30, 1855
Border Ruffians from Missouri attempt to enforce the election of a pro-slavery legislature in Kansas. The struggle over whether newly-acquired Kansas should be free or slave territory played a large role in igniting the Civil War. The Sacking of Lawrence, as well as the engagements of Black Jack and Osawatomie would occur and divide the nation further. The Bleeding Kansas conflict is where John Brown – an abolitionist – gained recognition during the Pottawatomie Massacre. Brown later attempted a slave uprising at Harper’s Ferry in what is now West Virginia.
March 31, 1995
Selena Quintanilla-Perez is murdered in Corpus Christi, Texas. One of the most renowned Latin-American female artists in history, Selena won Female Vocalist of the year nine consecutive times. On March 31, 1995, Selena was confronted by Yolanda Saldivar, the former manager of Selena’s salon and clothing company. Saldivar, after being confronted by Selena’s family over embezzlement, Saldivar shot Selena in the back in a hotel room. Selena died not long after. She was considered one of the most popular cultural icons at the time. Yolanda Saldivar’s trial was later referred to as the “Trial of the Century.”
Stay tuned for more history throughout the coming months!