“The Autobiography of Malcolm X” is published

On October 29, 1965, nine months after its subject’s assassination, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is first published. The non-traditional autobiography of a singular figure in Black history, the book tells the story and establishes some of the core elements of the legacy of the slain civil rights leader.

The idea for the Autobiography came not from Malcom X himself but from the publishing company Doubleday, who asked journalist Alex Haley to pursue the project. Malcolm X was skeptical of the idea, and Haley later recounted that even after he had begun interviews for the book, it was difficult to keep him focused on himself rather than the Nation of Islam and its leader, Elijah Muhammad. Eventually, however, the two developed a sometimes contentious but fruitful working relationship, with Haley conducting hours of interviews and advising Malcolm X on storytelling and style. Originally, Haley was referred to as the book’s ghostwriter, but the Autobiography is now viewed as a collaboration between Haley, the future author of Roots, and Malcolm X, who publicly broke with the Nation of Islam, gave his “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech, converted to Sunni Islam, and made a pilgrimage to Mecca during the course of its writing. On February 21, 1965, two days after telling a reporter that the Nation of Islam was actively trying to kill him, Malcolm X was gunned down during an event in the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.

The book itself tells Malcolm X’s life story in its entirety, from his childhood memories of his mother, who was eventually committed to a psychiatric hospital, to his involvement in organized crime and subsequent imprisonment, during which he joined the Nation of Islam and corresponded with Muhammad. Critics have compared the Autobiography to St. Augustine’s Confessions, insofar as both tell the story of a wayward young man who undergoes a religious conversion. Through his work with the Nation of Islam and advocacy for Black power, Malcolm X became one of the most prominent figures in the civil rights movement. Already an icon, in death he became a martyr.

As such, The Autobiography of Malcolm X was an immediate best-seller. Doubleday’s decision to pass on the book in the wake of the assassination, out of fears that it might be targeted for publishing it, has been described by biographer Manning Marabel as “the most disastrous decision in corporate publishing history.” The book has long been considered required reading for civil rights activists and continues to form the basis of Malcolm X’s enduring legacy.

READ MORE: The Explosive Chapter Left Out of Malcolm X’s Autobiography


Joe Namath spurns NFL to sign record deal with AFL’s New York Jets

On January 2, 1965, quarterback Joe Namath spurns the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals to sign with the American Football League’s New York Jets. The contract, reportedly for  $427,000, is the most lucrative signed by a rookie in any sport. The deal with Namath, a star at the University of Alabama for head coach Bear Bryant, is a coup for the AFL.

“I took both teams into consideration,” Namath told reporters in Miami Beach, Florida, where he signed the contract. “I wanted more than money. I was interested in the coach and the organization. New York City is a fine place. The sports fans are great and Weeb Ewbank is an outstanding coach.”

Said Ewbank: “I see in this young man the same qualities as [Baltimore Colts star quarterback] Johnny Unitas. He has size, quickness, courage and a wonderful arm.”

The AFL, founded in July 1959, was willing to do almost anything to lessen the NFL’s grip on the sport. With television contracts beginning to pump big money into professional football, the league offered lucrative signing bonuses to the best players in college football.

“We feel that in getting Joe, we got the No. 1 college football player in America,” Jets owner Sonny Werblin said at the news conference. 

At least one New York columnist was impressed by Namath: “I’m convinced of one thing,” wrote Dick Young of the New York Daily News. “The Jets aren’t paying him enough.”

Like almost any record-setting contract that would follow, however, Namath’s deal was met with heavy criticism. Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell griped that ”contracts like the one Namath got can be the ruination of the game.”

Contracts continued to increase, but the AFL and NFL agreed to merge in June 1966.

In 1969, before New York played Unitas’ Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, Namath famously guaranteed a victory. The future Hall of Famer’s Jets beat the Colts, 16-7, in one of the greatest upsets in sports history. 


Gatorade invented at University of Florida

On October 2, 1965, a team of scientists invent Gatorade, a sports drink to quench thirst, in a University of Florida lab. The name “Gatorade” is derived from the nickname of the university’s sports teams. Eventually, the drink becomes a phenomenon and makes its inventors wealthy.

Early in the summer of 1965, University of Florida assistant football coach Dewayne Douglas met a group of scientists on campus to determine why many of Florida’s players were so negatively affected by heat. To replace bodily fluids lost during physical exertion, Dr. James Robert Cade and his team of researchers—doctors H. James Free, Dana Shires and Alex de Quesada—created the now-ubiquitous sports drink.

“They developed a drink that contained salts and sugars that could be absorbed more quickly,” according to a University of Florida history of medicine, “and the basis for Gatorade was formed.”

In its early days, Gatorade wasn’t a hit with players. The drink reportedly tasted so awful that some athletes vomited after consuming it.

By 2015, however, royalties for the group that invented Gatorade, as well as some of their family members and friends, had eclipsed $1 billion.

“I think we’d all be living well without it,” Free told ESPN in 2015. “But it has enabled us to do things like establish a family foundation and a family office. It also has its challenges in that we cannot let what we have spoil us.”


Juan Marichal hits catcher with bat, instigating epic MLB brawl

At San Francisco’s Candlestick Park on August 22, 1965, Giants pitcher Juan Marichal steps up to the plate to lead off the home half of the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the second pitch, a ball low and away, catcher John Roseboro returns the ball to pitcher Sandy Koufax, but he offends Marichal by throwing it close to his head. Marichal’s reaction is unprecedented—he attacks Roseboro, hitting him in the head with his bat and setting off an epic, 14-minute brawl.

Years later, Roseboro admitted he intentionally threw close to Marichal’s head in retaliation for Marichal “brushing back” Dodgers hitters. This may have been a means of sending a warning while keeping ace Koufax, who did not like to throw at hitters, out of trouble. The teams were locked in a tight race for the National League pennant, and, as Leonard Koppett wrote the next day in the New York Times: “Fights that erupt under pennant pressure are not unusual, but they are always fist fights.” Indeed, home plate umpire Shag Crawford said after the game that he would not have ejected Marichal “if he had fought with his fists.” Using a bat in a brawl, however, was unheard of. In an apology issued the next day, Marichal claimed he used his bat because he was worried Roseboro would hit him with his catcher’s mask.

Marichal hit Roseboro at least twice, drawing blood, although the catcher’s wounds were superficial. Koufax rushed to try to break up the fight, and on-deck hitter Tito Fuentes also joined the fray, bat in hand. Players from both benches streamed onto the field, some fighting and others trying to calm things. In the chaos, umpire Crawford tackled Marichal, and Giants star Willie Mays restrained Roseboro and tended to the cuts on his head.

When the brawl was over, multiple players on both sides and the umpire had suffered injuries. Marichal, who was ejected from the game, was suspended eight games and fined $1,750. Asked to comment on Marichal’s actions, Dodgers manager Walt Alston told reporters, “I don’t think you want the comment I would give you about that character.”

Improbably, Roseboro and Marichal developed a friendship after reconnecting at an old-timers’ game. Roseboro subsequently visited Marichal in his native Dominican Republic and lobbied for Marichal to be elected to the Hall of Fame. Marichal, who won 243 games during his career, was inducted into the Hall in 1983. When Roseboro died in 2002, Marichal—whose bat-wielding attack was called “arguably the ugliest moment in MLB history” by ESPN—was a pallbearer at his funeral. 


Civil rights protesters beaten in “Bloody Sunday” attack

On March 7, 1965, in Selma, Alabama, a 600-person civil rights demonstration ends in violence when marchers are attacked and beaten by white state troopers and sheriff’s deputies. The day’s events became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

The demonstrators—led by civil rights activists John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Hosea Williams of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference—were commemorating the recent fatal shooting of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old church deacon, by state trooper James Bonard Fowler. The group planned to march the 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, the state capital. Just as they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma, they were ordered to disperse. Moments later, police assaulted them with tear gas, bullwhips and billy clubs. Lewis, then 25, was one of 17 marchers hospitalized; dozens more were treated for injuries. 

The violence was broadcast on TV and recounted in newspapers, spurring demonstrations in 80 cities across the nation within days. On March 9, Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 2,000 marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On March 15, President Lyndon B. Johnson spoke on the need for voting reform, something activists in Selma had long been fighting for: “There is no issue of states’ rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights. We have already waited 100 years and more, and the time for waiting is gone.”

King completed the march to Montgomery, along with 25,000 demonstrators, on March 25, under the protection of the U.S. military and the FBI. The route is now a U.S. National Historic Trail. Prodded by what Johnson called “the outrage of Selma,” the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was signed into law five months later, with the purpose to “right that wrong.” Lewis became a U.S. congressman from Georgia in 1986. 

READ MORE: How Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement


Delano Grape Strike begins

Month Day
September 08

September 8, 1965 marks the beginning of one of the most important strikes in American history. As over 2,000 Filipino-American farm workers refused to go to work picking grapes in the valley north of Bakersfield, California, they set into motion a chain of events that would extend over the next five years. We know it as the Delano Grape Strike.

READ MORE: When Millions of Americans Stopped Eating Grapes in Support of Farm Workers

Filipino and Mexican immigrants had worked for decades along the West Coast, moving with the seasons to harvest the region’s crops. The Filipino contingent in particular was growing restless, as many of the workers were aging and anxious for decent medical care and retirement funds. When one of their number, labor organizer Larry Itliong, declared a strike on September 8, he asked for the support of the National Farm Workers Association and its Mexican-American founders, Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Although Chavez had reservations about his union’s capacity to pull off the strike, he put the issue to the workers, who enthusiastically joined.

The strike lasted five years and went through a number of phases. From the outset, the already poor farm workers faced opposition from law enforcement and cruel attempts at sabotage by the growers—some reported that farmers shut off the water supply to their meager dormitories. As frustration grew and workers increasingly spoke of violence three years into the strike, Chavez decided to go on a hunger strike, emulating his hero Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to ending the calls for violence, the hunger strike drew further attention to the movement, earning praise from figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

The union, by then known as the United Farm Workers, also called for a boycott of table grapes. Individual households stopped buying grapes, and union workers in California dockyards let non-union grapes rot in port rather than load them. Eventually, the industry could take no more, and the growers came to the table. In July of 1970, most of the major growers in the Delano area agreed to pay grape pickers $1.80 an hour (plus 20 cents for each box picked), contribute to the union health plan, and ensure that their workers were protected against pesticides used in the fields.

“We said from the beginning that we were not going to abandon the fight, that we would stay with the struggle if lit took a lifetime, and we meant it,” Chavez said of the grueling strike. “[Soon] all grapes will be sweet grapes again.”

READ MORE: Cesar Chavez: His Life and Legacy


Fidel Castro announces that Cubans are free to leave the island

Month Day
September 28

On September 28, 1965, six years after he led the Cuban Revolution and four years after the failed U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs Invasion, Fidel Castro announces that any Cuban who wished to leave the island was free to do so. With Cuban forces no longer blocking civilians from leaving, a massive wave of emigration ensued, bringing hundreds of thousands of Cuban immigrants to Florida.

Poverty and political repression had brought about Castro’s revolution, but much remained the same under the new regime. As Castro became increasingly vocal about his belief in socialism and opposition to American imperialism, he faced dissent from political opponents at home and hostility from the American political establishment. The year after the Bay of Pigs, the United States and Soviet Union nearly went to war over the latter’s placement of nuclear missiles on the island. Due to the recent hostilities, many Americans assumed Castro was behind the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, although no such evidence has ever emerged. Castro refused to allow Cubans to leave for America, although a number of dissenters and supporters of the deposed Batista regime did succeed in escaping.

With further anti-government protests and widespread poverty, due in no small part to the American embargo on all trade with Cuba, Castro believed his society was close to the breaking point. He therefore announced on September 28th that those who wished to leave were free to do so. Immediately, several thousand refugees boarded boats at the port of Camiorca, leading to a haphazard crossing that threatened to overwhelm the U.S. Coast Guard and immigration authorities. As the continuation of such perilous crossings was in neither’s interest, the U.S. and Cuba engaged in surprisingly cooperative negotiations, resulting in the “Freedom Flights” airlift program.

For the next eight years, ten flights a week left Cuba for Miami, and many Cubans waited years for their spot on the planes. Roughly 300,000 made the trip. This mass movement of people had several major effects on both countries. Castro was able to rid the island of many dissenters, although their departure was a propaganda victory for the Americans and may have led to significant “brain drain” in Cuba. It also markedly changed the demographics of Miami—it was during this period that the city’s Little Havana neighborhood became a permanent enclave for Cuban culture, and as of the 2010 census 34.4 percent of Miami residents were of Cuban origin.

READ MORE: How the Castro Family Dominated Cuba for Nearly 60 Years


Lawrence Joel awarded Medal of Honor

Month Day
November 08

For action this day in the Iron Triangle northwest of Saigon, Specialist Five Lawrence Joel, a medic with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Airborne Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade is awarded the Medal of Honor, becoming the first living African American since the Spanish-American War to receive the nation’s highest award for valor.

When his unit was outnumbered in an attack by an enemy force, Specialist Joel, who suffered a severe leg wound in the early stages of the battle, continued to administer aid to his wounded comrades. Wounded a second time—with a bullet lodged deep in his lungs—Joel continued to treat the wounded, completely disregarding the battle raging around him and his own safety. Even after the 24-hour battle had subsided, Joel, a 38-year-old father of two, continued to treat and comfort the wounded until his own evacuation was ordered.

President Johnson presented the Medal of Honor to Specialist Joel on March 9, 1967, in ceremonies held on the South Lawn of the White House.

Also on this day: Edward W. Brooke (R-Massachusetts) becomes the first African American elected to Senate. In California, former movie actor Ronald Reagan was elected governor.


Martin Luther King, Jr. begins the march from Selma to Montgomery

Month Day
March 21

In the name of African American voting rights, 3,200 civil rights demonstrators in Alabama, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., begin a historic march from Selma to Montgomery, the state’s capital. Federalized Alabama National Guardsmen and FBI agents were on hand to provide safe passage for the march, which twice had been turned back by Alabama state police at Selma’s Edmund Pettus Bridge.

In 1965, King and his Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) decided to make the small town of Selma the focus of their drive to win voting rights for African Americans in the South. Alabama’s governor, George Wallace, was a vocal opponent of the African-American civil rights movement, and local authorities in Selma had consistently thwarted efforts by the Dallas County Voters League and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to register local blacks.

Although Governor Wallace promised to prevent it from going forward, on March 7 some 600 demonstrators, led by SCLC leader Hosea Williams and SNCC leader John Lewis, began the 54-mile march to the state capital. After crossing Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were met by Alabama state troopers and posse men who attacked them with nightsticks, tear gas and whips after they refused to turn back.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline

Several of the protesters were severely beaten, and others ran for their lives. The incident was captured on national television and outraged many Americans.

King, who was in Atlanta at the time, promised to return to Selma immediately and lead another attempt. On March 9, King led another marching attempt, but turned the marchers around when state troopers again blocked the road.

On March 21, U.S. Army troops and federalized Alabama National Guardsmen escorted the marchers across Edmund Pettus Bridge and down Highway 80. When the highway narrowed to two lanes, only 300 marchers were permitted, but thousands more rejoined the Alabama Freedom March as it came into Montgomery on March 25.

On the steps of the Alabama State Capitol, King addressed live television cameras and a crowd of 25,000, just a few hundred feet from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where he got his start as a minister in 1954.

READ MORE: How Selma’s ‘Bloody Sunday’ Became a Turning Point in the Civil Rights Movement


Winston Churchill dies

Month Day
January 24

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, the British leader who guided Great Britain and the Allies through the crisis of World War II, dies in London at the age of 90.

Born at Blenheim Palace in 1874, Churchill joined the British Fourth Hussars upon his father’s death in 1895. During the next five years, he enjoyed an illustrious military career, serving in India, the Sudan, and South Africa, and distinguishing himself several times in battle. In 1899, he resigned his commission to concentrate on his literary and political career and in 1900 was elected to Parliament as a Conservative MP from Oldham. In 1904, he joined the Liberals, serving in a number of important posts before being appointed Britain’s first lord of the admiralty in 1911, where he worked to bring the British navy to a readiness for the war that he foresaw.

In 1915, in the second year of World War I, Churchill was held responsible for the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns, and he was excluded from the war coalition government. He resigned and volunteered to command an infantry battalion in France. However, in 1917, he returned to politics as a cabinet member in the Liberal government of Lloyd George. From 1919 to 1921, he was secretary of state for war and in 1924 returned to the Conservative Party, where two years later he played a leading role in the defeat of the General Strike of 1926. Out of office from 1929 to 1939, Churchill issued unheeded warnings of the threat of Nazi and Japanese aggression.

After the outbreak of World War II in Europe, Churchill was called back to his post as first lord of the admiralty and eight months later replaced the ineffectual Neville Chamberlain as prime minister of a new coalition government. In the first year of his administration, Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany, but Churchill promised his country and the world that the British people would “never surrender.” He rallied the British people to a resolute resistance and expertly orchestrated Franklin D. Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin into an alliance that crushed the Axis.

In July 1945, 10 weeks after Germany’s defeat, his Conservative government suffered a defeat against Clement Attlee’s Labour Party, and Churchill resigned as prime minister. He became leader of the opposition and in 1951 was again elected prime minister. Two years later, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his six-volume historical study of World War II and for his political speeches; he was also knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. In 1955, he retired as prime minister but remained in Parliament until 1964, the year before his death.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Winston Churchill