The Harlem Riot of 1943 begins

Simmering racial tensions and economic frustrations boil over in New York City on the night of August 1, 1943, culminating in what is now known as the Harlem Riot of 1943. During an altercation in the lobby of the Braddock Hotel, a white police officer shoots a Black soldier, Robert Bandy, triggering a massive uprising.

Overwhelmingly white before the Great Migration, Harlem was 89 percent Black by the time the United States entered World War II. Despite the cultural innovations that accompanied these changes, known as the Harlem Renaissance, the neighborhood’s businesses remained mostly white-owned, and landlords and business owners continued to discriminate against Black residents. World War II brought not only conscription but also a higher cost of living, putting even more strain on a Black community whose economy was still controlled almost entirely by whites.

On the evening of August 1, a Black woman named Marjorie Polite checked into the Braddock, a historic hotel that had fallen into disrepair. Unsatisfied with her room, she asked for a refund at the front desk. The ensuing altercation led a white policeman, James Collins, to arrest her for disorderly conduct, during which time Bandy, a military policeman based in New Jersey, arrived to meet his visiting mother for dinner. The New York Police Department’s official report recorded that Bandy attacked Collins, but Bandy and his mother claimed that they merely tried to stop him from pushing Polite and prevented him from hitting her with his nightstick. Collins shot Bandy, who was taken to a hospital and treated for superficial wounds.

As a rumor spread that Collins had killed Bandy, crowds assembled near the Braddock and soon began to riot. They turned their rage on local white-owned businesses, leading Black business owners to hurriedly post signs announcing that their stores were Black-owned. Six Black residents were killed and nearly 500 were injured as the NYPD and, at the behest of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, the Army moved into the streets of Harlem. La Guardia did his best to downplay the riot, but the unrest did draw the attention of the federal Office of Price Administration and of La Guardia’s government, which pressured local landlords to comply with price restrictions and stop gouging residents. The riot also affected Harlem residents like James Baldwin, Malcolm X (then Malcolm Little) and the poet Langston Hughes, whose poem “Beaumont to Detroit: 1943” ends with a reference to the sad irony of African Americans fighting for a country that did not see them as equals: “I ask you this question/ Cause I want to know/ How long I got to fight/ BOTH HITLER–AND JIM CROW.”

READ MORE: How the Police Shooting of a Black Soldier Triggered the 1943 Harlem Riots


Hillary Clinton accepts Democratic nomination for president, becoming first woman to lead a major U.S. political party

95 years after women were first granted the right to vote, on July 28, 2016, former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton makes history by accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, becoming the first woman to lead a major U.S. political party. 

The Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia formally nominated Clinton two days earlier, with South Dakota casting 15 votes to put Clinton over the threshold of 2,382 required delegates.

In her acceptance speech on the night of July 28, Clinton acknowledged the historic nature of her nomination. 

“Tonight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president,” she said. “Standing here as my mother’s daughter, and my daughter’s mother, I’m so happy this day has come. Happy for grandmothers and little girls and everyone in between. Happy for boys and men, too—because when any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”

Clinton, who ran in the general against Donald J. Trump, won the popular vote but lost the election in the electoral college. Trump served one term and made history himself, becoming the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. 

READ MORE: Women’s History Milestones: A Timeline


Lawrence v. Texas is decided

On June 26, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Texas’ sodomy laws, along with similar laws in 13 other states. The decision in Lawrence v. Texas is a landmark one, reaffirming the existence of a “right to privacy” that is not enumerated in the Constitution and effectively legalizing same-sex sexual activity in the United States.

Although enforced sporadically by the 21st century, laws against homosexual sex were ubiquitous in America as late as 1960, when every state had one. Over a dozen states still considered gay sex a crime in September of 1998, when police responded to reports of someone brandishing a gun in the Harris County, Texas apartment of John Lawrence. Upon entering the apartment, they discovered Lawrence having sex with another man and arrested him under Texas’ “Homosexual Conduct” law, which barred “deviate sexual intercourse with another individual of the same sex.”

Five years later, the Supreme Court heard the case. Lawyers for the State of Texas tried to draw a distinction between the privacy of “a marital bedroom” and the circumstances of the case, but the Court sided with Lawrence. In a 6-3 decision, it ruled that “The state cannot demean [anyone’s] existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime,” finding that the right to privacy that underpinned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision also covered sex among consenting adults. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented, with Scalia writing that “The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda” and “taken sides in the culture war,” adding that he had “nothing against homosexuals.” Overnight, gay sex became legal in the United States, paving the way for further acceptance of homosexuality in the coming years.

READ MORE: The Supreme Court Rulings That Have Shaped Gay Rights in America


“Solidarity Day” rally at Resurrection City

On June 19, 1968, a long-term anti-poverty demonstration known as Resurrection City reaches its high-water mark. On “Solidarity Day,” over 50,000 people flock to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to protest, sing, hear speeches and demonstrate on behalf of national legislation to address the plight of the American poor. “Today is really only the beginning,” Rev. Ralph Abernathy tells the crowd. “We will not give up the battle until the Congress of the United States decides to open the doors of America and allow the nation’s poor to enter as full-fledged citizens into this land of wealth and opportunity.”

In May 1968, poor people from all over the country came to the National Mall and made temporary homes in plywood shelters, creating a settlement they called Resurrection City. The protest began less than two months after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and grew out of the Poor People’s Campaign and the campaign for an Economic Bill of Rights, both of which had been major focuses of King’s at the time of his death. The goal was to convince legislators of the need for laws that would lift poor people of all races out of poverty, and to sway public opinion by making the plight of the poor impossible to ignore. Protesters came from all over the country—“caravans” drove from as far away as Los Angeles and Seattle while a “Freedom Train” brought people from Memphis and one group from Marks, Mississippi rode mule-drawn wagons.

READ MORE: When Protesters Occupied D.C. for Six Weeks to Demand Economic Justice

Marches and demonstrations took place in Washington as more and more activists arrived throughout May, including a Mother’s Day march organized by the National Welfare Rights Organization and led by Coretta Scott King. Ethel Kennedy, wife of Sen. Robert Kennedy, was involved with the demonstrations, and his funeral procession stopped at Resurrection City on June 8, following his assassination on June 5. Businesses, schools and other fixtures of normal life flourished within the settlement, which also saw conflicts stemming from animosities between different groups living there, leadership disputes and the inherent uncertainty of living in makeshift dwellings on the National Mall. During this time, leaders of the movement met and testified before members of Congress. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, dubbed the “mayor” of Resurrection City, sought to lift spirits with his sermons, one of which became famous for the chant of “I am somebody!” which temporarily re-energized the protesters. The original permit issued by the National Parks Service expired a few days before Solidarity Day, but it was extended by four days.

After being moved due to an internal conflict among organizers, Solidarity Day took place on Juneteenth and was attended by over 50,000 people. Abernathy and Coretta Scott King spoke, along with leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Native American activist Martha Grass, the president of the United Auto Workers (80 busloads of UAW members were in attendance) and Democratic presidential hopefuls Eugene McCarthy and Hubert Humphrey.

The day may well have gone down as a powerful and peaceful day of activism on par with the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but the conclusion to the story of Resurrection City was far less inspiring. Allegedly in response to rocks thrown at them from the camp, and with the Parks Service permit expiring, the police moved to evict residents on June 23, firing tear gas into Resurrection City and rounding up its occupants for arrest. One SCLC leader remembered the eviction as “worse than anything I saw in Mississippi or Alabama.”

Today, Solidarity Day and Resurrection City are footnotes in the overall story of the civil rights movement, overshadowed by earlier, more successful protests and by the violence and conflict that defined 1968. At the time, however, the settlement by the Reflecting Pool was impossible to ignore—particularly for lawmakers and residents of Washington, D.C.—and regardless of its failure to achieve sweeping social change or anti-poverty legislation, it remains one of the largest and most sustained social justice protests in the history of the United States.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline


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Today in History – June 5

On June 5, 1851, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly began to appear in serial form in The National Era, an abolitionist weekly published in Washington, D.C. Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery story was published in forty installments over the next ten months. For her story Mrs. Stowe was paid $300.

In matters of art there is but one rule, to paint and to move. And where shall we find conditions more complete, types more vivid, situations more touching, more original, than in Uncle Tom?

George Sand

Harriet Beecher Stowe, 1811-1896. [ca. 1880]. Prints & Photographs Division

Although the National Era had a limited circulation, its audience increased as reader after reader passed their copies along to one another. In March 1852, a Boston publisher decided to issue Uncle Tom’s Cabin External as a book and it became an instant best seller. Three hundred thousand copies were sold the first year, and about two million copies were sold worldwide by 1857. For a three-month period Stowe reportedly received $10,000 in royalties. Across the nation people discussed the novel and debated the most pressing sociopolitical issue dramatized in its narrative—slavery.

Because Uncle Tom’s Cabin so polarized the abolitionist and anti-abolitionist debate, some claim that it is one of the causes of the Civil War. Indeed, when President Lincoln received its author, Harriet Beecher Stowe, at the White House in 1862, legend has it he exclaimed, “So this is the little lady who made this big war?”

For some sixty-five years after its debut, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was frequently presented on stage. According to the article “The Negro on the American Stage External,” as late as 1913 there were “about four Uncle Tom’s Cabin Companies en tour, and at least two of them…doing a good business.” By the late 1800s, however, productions often caricatured Stowe’s more carefully depicted literary figures. While at first white actors usually played all the parts (rendering characters such as the slaves Uncle Tom, Eliza, and Little Eva in blackface), some productions starred African-American actors and singers.

Theatrical Posters

A black actor, Sam Lucas (for whom the song “Uncle Tom’s Gwine to Stay External” was written) first played the title role on film in 1914. By 1927, at least seven silent film versions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin had been made. More recently, The King and I — a Broadway play, movie, and animated feature film — contains a stylized version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin within its own story. Over time Uncle Tom’s Cabin has been translated into at least twenty-three languages.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin. [Uncle Tom]. N.Y.: A.S. Seer’s Union Square Print, c1886. Posters: Performing Arts Posters. Prints & Photographs Division
George Peck’s Grand Revival of Stetson’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin…[Legree]. N.Y.: A.S. Seer’s Litho. Print, [1886]. Posters: Performing Arts Posters. Prints & Photographs Division
George Peck’s Grand Revival of Stetson’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin…[Eliza].. N.Y.: A.S. Seer’s Union Square Print., [1886]. Posters: Performing Arts Posters. Prints & Photographs Division
Uncle Tom’s Cabin. [Topsy]. N.Y.: A.S. Seer’s Union Square Print., [1886]. Posters: Performing Arts Posters. Prints & Photographs Division
Poster for Production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin External, Monday, September 27 (year unknown). The African-American Experience in Ohio, 1850-1920 External

This poster publicized Harmount’s production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin at the Wilmington, Ohio, Opera House. Harmount’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin Company, based in Williamsport, Ohio, was a theatrical road show company which operated from 1903-29.

Title Card for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, ca. 1910. H. A. Molzon Company. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Division. The African-American Mosaic

This title card, used in theater lobbies to advertise the film, is from a rare issue of a thirty-minute silent film version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin originally released by Vitagraph Studio in 1910. Directed by J. Stuart Blackton, a noted director of the period, this version featured Maurice Costello, Clara Kimball Young, and Norma Talmadge, all of whom became major stars.

Anthony Burns. John Andrews, engraver; Boston, Massachusetts: R. M. Edwards, printer, c1855. Cartoon Prints, American. Prints & Photographs Division


First scientific report on AIDS is published

On June 5, 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publishes an article in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report describing five cases of a rare lung infection, PCP, in young, otherwise healthy gay men in Los Angeles. It was unknown at the time, but the article is describing the effects of AIDS. Today, the article’s publication is often cited as the beginning of the AIDS crisis.

The article prompted medical professionals around the country, particularly in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, to send the CDC information about similar, mysterious cases. Because it is first detected circulating among gay men, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, as it will be dubbed the following year, was colloquially referred to as “gay cancer” and formally dubbed Gay-Related Immune Deficiency before the term AIDS was coined in 1982. 

AIDS is not lethal in and of itself—rather, it severely impacts the immune system’s ability to fight off illness, leaving the patient vulnerable to all manner of infections, particularly “opportunistic infections.” PCP is one such opportunistic infection, and it was one of a handful of illnesses whose increased occurrence in the year 1981 revealed that there was an HIV/AIDS epidemic. Within a few years, the AIDS epidemic became the major public health crisis of the late 20th century, although many continued to believe it only affected gay men. Due largely to the misconception that it was a “gay disease,” it would be two years before the New York Times published its first front-page article about AIDS and four years before then-President Ronald Reagan first mentioned it publicly.

Two of the men mentioned in the study were dead by the time it was published, and the three others died a short time later. By the end of the millennium, nearly 775,000 Americans died of AIDS-related illnesses. 

READ MORE: How AIDS Remained an Unspoken—But Deadly—Epidemic


Today in History – June 1

The annual parade of “New York’s Finest”, an often used nickname for the New York Police Department, was filmed on June 1, 1899, in Union Square. At the turn of the century, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) was still recovering from scandals and allegations of corruption that tarnished its reputation in the 1890s. Four years earlier, the New York State Senate created a committee to investigate the department. The Lexow Committee issued a scathing report detailing serious criminal activity within the organization.

Group of New York City(?)Policemen Posed in Front of Police Station. W.O. Lewin, c1909. Prints & Photographs Division

The New York Municipal Police was founded in 1845 with an initial force of 900 men. Nearly 400,000 people lived in New York City (NYC) around that time. The municipality was overwhelmed by expanding slums, a high rate of crime, and frequent rioting. Looking toward London for solutions to its policing problems, the city adopted reforms similar to those that Sir Robert Peel had instituted in 1829. In 1845, uniformed officers operating under a chain of command replaced the outdated constable system the Dutch had established in seventeenth-century Manhattan.

However, immense challenges remained. Police officers served only one- or two-year tours of duty, and order and continuity suffered accordingly. Jobs as police officers, like almost all public service work in nineteenth-century New York, were awarded based on cronyism and political patronage. Meanwhile, the social problems that prompted the 1845 reforms increased as the population swelled past the one million mark in the 1870s.

New York Police Parade, June 1st, 1899. United States: Thomas A. Edison, Inc., June 1, 1899. Life of a City: Early Films of New York, 1898 to 1906. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division

With public disapproval of the force running high, the annual police parade was cancelled in 1895. That same year, Theodore Roosevelt was appointed president of the Police Commission. He initiated strict and effective reform measures that helped restore public confidence in the department. During his two-year tenure, Roosevelt recruited some 1,600 officers based on their ability to serve rather than their political loyalties. In addition, he opened admission to the department for ethnic minorities and hired the first woman ever to work at NYC’s police headquarters.

Today, the NYPD is one of the largest municipal police departments in the United States. Its jurisdiction encompasses New York City’s five boroughs, and covers an area of about 320 square miles. More than 35,000 uniformed officers work to keep the “City that never sleeps” safe.

Officer Richard Perry Practices Basic Spanish phrases… Dick DeMarsico, photographer, 1958. New York World-Telegram & the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Learn More

On September 11, 2001, New York City, the NYPD, New York City Fire Department (FDNY), and other emergency response teams faced unprecedented challenges from a devastating terrorist attack. In response to this and other acts of terrorism on that day, the Library of Congress initiated a massive effort to record and gather for posterity an extensive array of materials documenting these events as well as responses and reactions worldwide. Access to these materials through several online collections provides the opportunity to experience the resolve and emotions of those who were directly involved and those who watched events unfold. The Internet played a significant part in all of the events related to this tragedy.

  • Web sites created by a variety of sources tracked daily events. These ever-changing sites were captured through collaborative efforts and are accessible through the September 11, 2001 Web Archive.
  • People expressed themselves in a variety of ways including born-digital works such as e-mails, images, and online diaries. These items were submitted via the Internet to The September 11 Digital Archive External, another collaborative project.


George Floyd is killed by a police officer, igniting historic protests

Black History Milestones: George Floyd Protests

On the evening of May 25, 2020, white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kills George Floyd, a Black man, by kneeling on his neck for almost 10 minutes. The death, recorded by bystanders, touched off what may have been the largest protest movement in U.S. history and a nationwide reckoning on race and policing.

The 46-year-old Floyd, a Houston native and father of five, had purchased cigarettes at a Minneapolis convenience store. After a clerk suspected that Floyd had used a counterfeit $20 bill in the transaction, the store manager called the police. When officers arrived, they pulled a gun on Floyd, who initially cooperated as he was arrested. However, Floyd resisted being placed in the police car, saying he was claustrophobic. Officers eventually pulled him from the car and Chauvin pinned him to the ground for nine minutes and 29 seconds. Floyd was unresponsive when an ambulance came and was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

After video of the incident was posted on Facebook, protests began almost immediately in Minneapolis and quickly spread across the nation. Demonstrators chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” took to the streets from coast to coast, and police departments around the country responded at times with riot-control tactics. Floyd’s murder came after protests over the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta in February and of Breonna Taylor in Louisville in March, and also came in the third month of nationwide lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By early June, protests were so widespread that over 200 American cities had imposed curfews and half of the United States had activated the National Guard. Marches continued and spread throughout June, despite the restrictions on gathering during the COVID-19 pandemic and militarized resistance from federal and local law enforcement.

All told, more than 2,000 cities and towns in all 50 states saw some form of demonstration in the weeks after Floyd’s death, as well as major cities across the globe.

The protests set off local and national dialogue about the role and budgets of American police departments, as well as intense discussions in schools and corporations about how to end racism and create inclusivity, equality and equity.

Chauvin, who had at least 17 other misconduct complaints lodged against him prior to killing Floyd, was arrested on May 29, 2020 and charged with second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. On April 20, 2021, after a trial, which was broadcast live online and on TV due to the pandemic, a jury found Chauvin guilty of all charges.


New York City’s Chinatown shuts down to protest police brutality

New York City’s Chinatown is almost entirely shut down on May 19, 1975, with shuttered stores displaying signs reading “Closed to Protest Police Brutality.” The demonstration is a reaction to the New York Police Department’s treatment of Peter Yew, a Chinese-American architectural engineer who was arrested, viciously beaten and charged with felonious assault after he witnessed the police beating a Chinese teenager and attempted to intervene.

In late April of 1975, Yew witnessed the NYPD stop a 15-year-old for an alleged traffic violation and tried to intervene when they began assaulting him. In doing so, he angered the officers, who Yew alleged beat him and arrested him, took him to the local precinct, stripped him, and beat him more while charging him with a felony. The shocking incident was the final straw for Chinatown residents who had long endured racist and dehumanizing treatment at the hands of the NYPD, and it led to weeks of unrest in the area. In the aftermath of the beatings, locals demonstrated outside the precinct, receiving further violent backlash from the police, and 2,500 people marched on nearby City Hall in a protest that, according to the New York Times, “had young students protesting side‐by‐side with their parents and grandparents, chanting together in Chinese.”

On May 19, local businesses joined the protest and activists again marched in the streets, coming to blows with police as they demanded better social services for their community. The charges against Yew were eventually dropped, the captain of the local precinct was reassigned—though not fired—and the unrest galvanized support for organizations like the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Asian Americans for Equal Employment, both of which organized in protest of Yew’s beating.