Transgender athlete Renée Richards barred from U.S. Open

On August 27, 1976, the United States Tennis Association bars transgender athlete Renée Richards from competing in the U.S. Open as a woman, stating she must pass a chromosomal test. Richards fails the test, sues the USTA and wins the right a year later to compete via a New York Supreme Court ruling.

Richards was born Richard Raskind in 1934. In high school, Raskind was a four-sport athlete primarily focused on tennis. After high school, Raskind moved on to Yale, where she captained the men’s tennis team.

In 1959, Raskind graduated from the University of Rochester Medical Center, specializing in ophthalmology. An ophthalmologist first, Raskind also played professional tennis, making the U.S. Open semifinals in 1972.

But Raskind fought an inner turmoil. “I had a very good and a very full life as Richard. But I had this other side of me which kept emerging,” Richards told the BBC in 2015.

In 1975, Richards underwent a gender affirming surgery. Richards still wanted to play tennis, but the sport wasn’t receptive. The court ruling made the USTA’s objections moot.

“When an individual such as plaintiff, a successful physician, a husband and father, finds it necessary for his own mental sanity to undergo a sex reassignment,” New York Supreme Court Judge Alfred Ascione wrote, “the unfounded fears and misconceptions of defendants must give way to the overwhelming medical evidence that this person is now female.”

In 1981, Richards retired from tennis at age 47. 

Read more about the LGBT movement in America here

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1 million people attend funeral of Mao Zedong

Year
1976
Month Day
September 18

More than one million people gather at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing for the funeral of Mao Zedong, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party and chairman of the People’s Republic of China since 1949.

Mao, who died on September 9, 1976, at the age of 82, was born on December 26, 1893, to a peasant family in the Hunan province of central China. Trained to be a teacher, he helped found the Chinese Communist Party in 1921. After they claimed victory in a civil war with the nationalist party following WWII, Mao founded the People’s Republic of China and became its leader.

During an eight-day mourning period after his death, more than 1 million people paid their respects, as Mao’s body, in a flag-draped coffin, lay in state. At the start of the 30-minute public funeral in Tiananmen Square, a three-minute moment of silence was observed in honor of the leader, with reports that nearly all of China’s 800 million residents stood in silent tribute.

The ceremony included music from an army band that played a funeral march, China’s national anthem and the Communist “Internationale” and was televised live to the nation, which was a Chinese broadcast first. No foreign leaders were allowed to attend the service or the mourning period.

Hua Guofeng, China premier and Communist party first vice chairman who served as Mao’s immediate successor, delivered the eulogy. “It was under Chairman Mao’s leadership that the disaster-plagued Chinese nation rose to its feet,” he said. “The Chinese people love, trust and esteem Chairman Mao from the bottom of their hearts.” 

READ MORE: What Was Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution? 

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Female cadets enrolled at West Point

Year
1976
Month Day
July 07

For the first time in history, women are enrolled into the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. On May 28, 1980, 62 of these female cadets graduated and were commissioned as second lieutenants.

The United States Military Academy–the first military school in America–was founded by Congress in 1802 for the purpose of educating and training young men in the theory and practice of military science. Established at West Point, New York, the U.S. Military Academy is often simply known as West Point.

Located on the high west bank of New York’s Hudson River, West Point was the site of a Revolutionary-era fort built to protect the Hudson River Valley from British attack.

Ten years after the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy in 1802, the growing threat of another war with Great Britain resulted in Congressional action to expand the academy’s facilities and increase the West Point corps. Beginning in 1817, the U.S. Military Academy was reorganized by superintendent Sylvanus Thayer–later known as the “father of West Point”–and the school became one of the nation’s finest sources of civil engineers. 

In 1877, Henry Ossian Flipper became the first African American graduate of the U.S. Military Academy. The academy is now under the general direction and supervision of the department of the U.S. Army and has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students.

READ MORE: Women’s History Milestones: A Timeline

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Four dozen people witness historic Sex Pistols set

Year
1976
Month Day
June 04

It seems millions of people claim to have been at Woodstock when only 500,000 or so were really there, but the biggest pop-culture event of the 1960s has nothing on one of the most pivotal of the 1970s: the Sex Pistols’ appearance at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England, on June 4, 1976. Proportional to the actual crowd in attendance, perhaps no event in the history of pop music has enjoyed greater retroactive audience growth than the one that’s been called “The gig that changed the world.”

By June 1976, the Sex Pistols had been playing together under that name for only seven months, and though their look, their sound and their nihilistic attitude were already in place, they and the entire British punk scene were still a few months away from truly breaking out. They had drawn just enough attention in the British music press, though, to inspire two young men from Manchester named Howard DeVoto and Pete Shelley to go down and see them play in London in February. From this experience, two things happened: DeVoto and Shelley arranged for the Sex Pistols to come up north and play the Lesser Free Trade Hall; and then they formed their own new band, called the Buzzcocks. News of the June 4 gig in Manchester spread mostly by word of mouth, such that on the night of the show, perhaps as few as 40 people showed up in a room that could hold hundreds. In that small crowd, however, were some names that would help shape the course of pop music over the next decade:

Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley: Their band, the Buzzcocks, would go on to enjoy enormous popularity and influence in the UK both during and after the punk era.

Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook: The very next day, Hook would buy his first guitar, and the three young Mancunians would become a band. That band—originally called the Stiff Kittens and later Warsaw—was Joy Division, one of the best-known and most influential of all the early New Wave bands.

Mark E. Smith: Following the Sex Pistols gig, he started The Fall, a post-punk band that never had a true hit record but influenced generations of followers from Nirvana to Franz Ferdinand.

Steven Patrick Morrissey, aka Morrissey: The last of these notables to make a name for himself, but one of the most successful, both as leader of The Smiths in the mid-1980s and as a solo artist thereafter.

Tony Wilson: Manchester TV news presenter who would be inspired to start the record label Factory Records, which would help create the thriving Manchester scene of the 1980s and early-90s.

Just a few days after the Sex Pistols stormed Manchester on this day in 1976, they returned to London for gigs on July 4 and 6 that featured two brand-new bands as opening acts: The Clash and The Damned. Three weeks after that, their return gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall (featuring opening act the Buzzcocks) drew hundreds, as the punk era unofficially opened.

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One of the worst earthquakes in modern history destroys Chinese city

Year
1976
Month Day
July 28

At 3:42 a.m., an earthquake measuring between 7.8 and 8.2 magnitude on the Richter scale flattens Tangshan, a Chinese industrial city with a population of about one million people. As almost everyone was asleep in their beds, instead of outside in the relative safety of the streets, the quake was especially costly in terms of human life. An estimated 242,000 people in Tangshan and surrounding areas were killed, making the earthquake one of the deadliest in recorded history, surpassed only by the 300,000 who died in the Calcutta earthquake in 1737, and the 830,000 thought to have perished in China’s Shaanxi province in 1556.

Caught between the Indian and Pacific plates, China has been a very active location for earthquakes throughout history. Earthquakes have also played a significant part in China’s culture and science, and the Chinese were the first to develop functioning seismometers. The area of northern China hit by the Tangshan earthquake is particularly prone to the westward movement of the Pacific plate.

In the days preceding the earthquake, people began to notice strange phenomena in and around Tangshan. Well-water levels rose and fell. Rats were seen running in panicked packs in broad daylight. Chickens refused to eat. During the evening of July 27 and the early morning hours of July 28, people reported flashes of colored light and roaring fireballs. Still, at 3:42 a.m. most people were sleeping quietly when the earthquake struck. It lasted for 23 seconds and leveled 90 percent of Tangshan’s buildings. At least a quarter-of-a-million people were killed and 160,000 others injured. The earthquake came during the heat of midsummer, and many stunned survivors crawled out of their ruined houses naked, covered only in dust and blood. The earthquake started fires and ignited explosives and poisonous gases in Tangshan’s factories. Water and electricity were cut off, and rail and road access to the city was destroyed.

The Chinese government was ill-prepared for a disaster of this scale. The day following the quake, helicopters and planes began dropping food and medicine into the city. Some 100,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army were ordered to Tangshan, and many had to march on foot from Jinzhou, a distance of more than 180 miles. About 30,000 medical personnel were called in, along with 30,000 construction workers. The Chinese government, boasting self-sufficiency, refused all offers of foreign relief aid. In the crucial first week after the crisis, many died from lack of medical care. Troops and relief workers lacked the kind of heavy rescue training necessary to efficiently pull survivors from the rubble. Looting was also epidemic. More than 160,000 families were left homeless, and more than 4,000 children were orphaned.

Tangshan was eventually rebuilt with adequate earthquake precautions. Today, nearly two million people live there. There is speculation that the death toll from the 1976 quake was much higher than the official Chinese government figure of 242,000. Some Chinese sources have spoken privately of more than 500,000 deaths.

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Viking 1 lands on Mars

Year
1976
Month Day
July 20

On the seventh anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the Viking 1 lander, an unmanned U.S. planetary probe, becomes the first spacecraft to successfully land on the surface of Mars.

Viking 1 was launched on August 20, 1975, and arrived at Mars on June 19, 1976. The first month of its orbit was devoted to imaging the surface to find appropriate landing sites. On July 20, 1976, the Viking 1 lander separated from the orbiter, touched down on the Chryse Planitia region of Mars, and sent back the first close-up photographs of the rust-colored Martian surface.

In September 1976, Viking 2—launched only three weeks after Viking 1—entered into orbit around Mars, where it assisted Viking 1 in imaging the surface and also sent down a lander. During the dual Viking missions, the two orbiters imaged the entire surface of Mars at a resolution of 150 to 300 meters, and the two landers sent back more than 1,400 images of the planet’s surface.

READ MORE: How Many Times Has the US Landed on the Moon? 

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Women inducted into U.S. Naval Academy for the first time

Year
1976
Month Day
July 06

In Annapolis, Maryland, the United States Naval Academy admits women for the first time in its history with the induction of 81 female midshipmen. In May 1980, Elizabeth Anne Rowe became the first woman member of the class to graduate. Four years later, Kristine Holderied became the first female midshipman to graduate at the top of her class.

The U.S. Naval Academy opened in Annapolis in October 1845, with 50 midshipmen students and seven professors. Known as the Naval School until 1850, the curriculum included mathematics, navigation, gunnery, steam, chemistry, English, natural philosophy, and French. The Naval School officially became the U.S. Naval Academy in 1850, and a new curriculum went into effect requiring midshipmen to study at the Academy for four years and to train aboard ships each summer—the basic format that remains at the academy to this day.

READ MORE: Women’s History Milestones: A Timeline

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NASA unveils its first space shuttle, the Enterprise

Year
1976
Month Day
September 17

On September 17, 1976, NASA publicly unveils its first space shuttle, the Enterprise, during a ceremony in Palmdale, California. Development of the aircraft-like spacecraft cost almost $10 billion and took nearly a decade. In 1977, the Enterprise became the first space shuttle to fly freely when it was lifted to a height of 25,000 feet by a Boeing 747 airplane and then released, gliding back to Edwards Air Force Base on its own accord.

Regular flights of the space shuttle began on April 12, 1981, with the launching of Columbia from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Launched by two solid-rocket boosters and an external tank, only the aircraft-like shuttle entered into orbit around Earth. When the two-day mission was completed, the shuttle fired engines to reduce speed and, after descending through the atmosphere, landed like a glider at California’s Edwards Air Force Base.

Early shuttles took satellite equipment into space and carried out various scientific experiments. On January 28, 1986, NASA and the space shuttle program suffered a major setback when the Challenger exploded 74 seconds after takeoff and all seven people aboard were killed.

In September 1988, space shuttle flights resumed with the successful launching of the Discovery. Since then, the space shuttle has carried out numerous important missions, such as the repair and maintenance of the Hubble Space Telescope and the construction and manning of the International Space Station.A tragedy in space again rocked the nation on February 1, 2003, when Columbia, on its 28th mission, disintegrated during re-entry of the earth’s atmosphere. All seven astronauts aboard were killed. In the aftermath, the space-shuttle program was grounded until Discovery returned to space in July 2005, amid concerns that the problems that had downed Columbia had not yet been fully solved. NASA’s final space shuttle mission came to an end in July, 2011.

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Pol Pot renames Cambodia


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Year
1976
Month Day
January 05

On January 5, 1976, Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot announces a new constitution changing the name of Cambodia to Kampuchea and legalizing its Communist government. During the next three years his brutal regime sent the nation back to the Middle Ages and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1 to 2 million Cambodians.

Pol Pot, who was born Saloth Sar in 1925 to a relatively well-off Cambodian family, became involved in the Communist movement as a young man studying in Paris. After he returned home to Cambodia, which gained its independence from France in 1954, he rose through the ranks of his homeland’s small, underground Communist Party. Influenced by China’s Mao Zedong, by the mid-1960s, Pol Pot, also known as Brother Number One, was heading up Cambodia’s Communist movement and living in a remote part of the country with a band of supporters.

Cambodia’s ruler, Prince Norodom Sihanouk, was overthrown in a pro-American coup in 1970 and the Khmer Rouge, with initial help from Vietnamese Communists, then waged a civil war against the new government of Lon Nol. At the same time, the U.S. launched a bombing campaign and sent in soldiers to Cambodia to hunt down North Vietnamese Communist troops operating there.

In April 1975, following five years of fighting, Pol Pot’s guerillas seized power in the Cambodian capitol of Phnom Pehn. Exhausted by years of conflict, many of the city’s 2 million residents initially welcomed the Khmer Rouge as liberators who would bring about a social revolution. Instead, Pol Pot’s inept attempt at building a peasant-based agrarian utopia became a nightmarish reign of terror and genocide. Cambodians were forced into the countryside to work in communes, anyone with education or wealth was killed and schools, newspapers, hospitals, culture, religion and private property were abolished. Tens of thousands of Cambodians died of starvation while countless others succumbed to disease and forced labor or were murdered.

In December 1978, following clashes over territory, Vietnam invaded Cambodia. Pol Pot fled to Thailand and spent almost two decades hiding out in jungle camps there and in northern Cambodia, protected by guerillas and the Thai military. In 1997, following an internal power struggle, Pol Pot was arrested by members of his own party on charges of treason. He died of natural causes on April 15, 1998, without ever having to face justice for his crimes.

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Concorde takes off


Year
1976
Month Day
January 21

From London’s Heathrow Airport and Orly Airport outside Paris, the first Concordes with commercial passengers simultaneously take flight on January 21, 1976. The London flight was headed to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, and the Paris to Rio de Janeiro via Senegal in West Africa. At their cruising speeds, the innovative Concordes flew well over the sound barrier at 1,350 miles an hour, cutting air travel time by more than half.

The flights were the culmination of a 12-year effort that pitted English and French engineers against their counterparts in the USSR. In 1962, 15 years after U.S. pilot Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier, Britain and France signed a treaty to develop the world’s first supersonic passenger airline. The next year, President John F. Kennedy proposed a similar U.S. project. Meanwhile, in the USSR, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ordered his top aviation engineers to beat the West to the achievement.

There were immense technical challenges in building a supersonic airliner. Engines would need to be twice as powerful as those built for normal jets, and the aircraft’s frame would have to withstand immense pressure from shock waves and endure high temperatures caused by air friction. In the United States, Boeing tackled the supersonic project but soon ran into trouble with its swing-wing design. In England and France, however, early results were much more promising, and Khrushchev ordered Soviet intelligence to find out as much as possible about the Anglo-French prototypes.

In 1965, the French arrested Sergei Pavlov, head of the Paris office of the Soviet airliner Aeroflot, for illegally obtaining classified information about France’s supersonic project. Another high-level Soviet spy remained unknown, however, and continued to feed the Soviets information about the Concorde until his arrest in 1977.

On December 31, 1968, just three months before the first scheduled flight of the Concorde prototype, the fruits of Soviet industrial espionage were revealed when the Soviet’s TU-144 became the world’s first supersonic airliner to fly. The aircraft looked so much like the Concorde that the Western press dubbed it “Konkordski.”

In 1969, the Concorde began its test flights. Two years later, the United States abandoned its supersonic program, citing budget and environmental concerns. It was now up to Western Europe to make supersonic airline service viable before the Soviets. Tests continued, and in 1973 the TU-144 came to the West to appear alongside the Concorde at the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport. On June 3, in front of 200,000 spectators, the Concorde flew a flawless demonstration. Then it was the TU-144’s turn. The aircraft made a successful 360-degree turn and then began a steep ascent. Abruptly, it leveled off and began a sharp descent. Some 1,500 feet above the ground, it broke up from overstress and came crashing into the ground, killing all six Soviet crew members and eight French civilians.

Soviet and French investigators ruled that pilot error was the cause of the accident. However, in recent years, several of the Russian investigators have disclosed that a French Mirage intelligence aircraft was photographing the TU-144 from above during the flight. A French investigator confirmed that the Soviet pilot was not told that the Mirage was there, a breach of air regulations. After beginning his ascent, the pilot may have abruptly leveled off the TU-144 for fear of crashing into this aircraft. In the sudden evasive maneuver, the thrust probably failed, and the pilot then tried to restart the engines by entering a dive. He was too close to the ground, however, and tried to pull up too soon, thus overstressing the aircraft.

In exchange for Soviet cooperation in the cover-up, the French investigators agreed not to criticize the TU-144’s design or engineering. Nevertheless, further problems with the TU-144, which was designed hastily in its bid to beat the Concorde into the air, delayed the beginning of Soviet commercial service. Concorde passenger service began with much fanfare in January 1976. Western Europe had won its supersonic race with the Soviets, who eventually allowed just 100 domestic flights with the TU-144 before discontinuing the airliner.

The Concorde was not a great commercial success, however, and people complained bitterly about the noise pollution caused by its sonic booms and loud engines. Most airlines declined to purchase the aircraft, and just 16 Concordes were built for British Airways and Air France. Service was eventually limited between London and New York and Paris and New York, and luxury travelers appreciated the less than four-hour journey across the Atlantic.

On July 25, 2000, an Air France Concorde crashed 60 seconds after taking off from Paris en route to New York. All 109 people aboard and four on the ground were killed. The accident was caused by a burst tire that ruptured a fuel tank, creating a fire that led to engine failure. The fatal accident–the first in Concorde’s history–signaled the decline of the aircraft. On October 24, 2003, the Concorde took its last regular commercial flight.

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