All-female team competes in America’s Cup sailing for first time

On January 13, 1995, America3, an all-female sailing team, wins the first race of the America’s Cup defender trials, easily beating Team Dennis Conner by a little more than a minute. The team is the sport’s first all-women team to compete in the 144-year history of the America’s Cup, the world’s oldest continually contested sporting trophy. The Cup represents the pinnacle of international sailing yacht competition.

America3 (pronounced “America Cubed”) was the brainchild of Bill Koch, a millionaire businessman and skipper of the 1992 America’s Cup-winning vessel. Koch wanted to pique American interest in the sport and field a competitive sailing team. So, he assembled a 23-member team that included female sailors, rowers and professional weightlifters to take on Conner’s team in the defender trials.

The navigator aboard Koch’s boat was 26-year racing veteran Ann Nelson, who had won more than 50 championships as part of the U.S. Women’s World Sailing team. The silver medalist in the 1984 Olympic board sailing exhibition didn’t shy from confrontation with Conner, who reportedly made crude comments to Nelson and her teammates the summer before the race.

The pre-race controversy made for great theater leading up to the race, which was expected to be an easy victory for Conner’s newer boat and more experienced team. However, Conner’s team made a critical prestart gaffe by not allowing America3 right of way, resulting in his boat having to take a penalty turn. That swung the race.

“In essence, the race was over at that point,” Conner said. “America3 had a 600- to 700-foot lead and did a good job with it through the rest of the race.”

However, America3 team lost the defender trials to Conner’s team. 

At the end of the trials, Koch was proud of what his team had accomplished, saying, “We had a top team that can compete with anyone… Next time an all-women’s team sails in the top of the competition, they can go all the way. That’s what this team has meant to the sport.”

No all-female team has won the America’s Cup.


NFL’s Rams announce move to St. Louis

On January 17, 1995, the Los Angeles Rams announce they are leaving Southern California after 49 years and moving to St. Louis. The team, which reportedly lost $6 million in 1994, is lured to Missouri with a package that includes a new $260 million stadium and a $15 million practice facility.

The Rams’ move, which came seven years after the NFL’s Cardinals (1962-87) left St. Louis for Phoenix, was led by then-majority owner Georgia Frontiere and minority owner Stan Kroenke. St. Louis’ competitors for the franchise were Baltimore and Anaheim, California.

After the decision, Frontiere—who was born in St. Louis—told reporters: “I’m overwhelmed. I don’t think I’ve been this happy since the last game we won.”

The Rams were competitive throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but the team declined in the 1990s. From 1991-94, the team finished last in the NFC West.

After struggling in St. Louis during their first four seasons, the Rams had an unexpected season for the ages in 1999. Led by NFL Most Valuable Player, Kurt Warner, they finished the regular season with a 13-3 record and defeated the Tennessee Titans, 23-16, in the Super Bowl. Warner started the season as a backup to quarterback Trent Green, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

In 2016, the Rams moved back to Los Angeles—a move spurred by majority owner Kroenke, who had purchased land in Inglewood, California for a new stadium. In 2017, St. Louis sued Kroenke and the NFL over the move to Los Angeles. In 2021, the lawsuit was setted for $790 million.  


Million Man March

An enormous crowd consisting mostly of African American men demonstrates on the National Mall on October 16, 1995, an event known as the Million Man March. Driven by their desire to see Congress act in the interests of African Americans, and to combat negative stereotypes of Black men, a disputed but undeniably high number of attendees converge for over 12 hours of speeches by leaders from many different corners of the civil rights movement.

The Million Man March was the brainchild of Louis Farrakahn, leader of the Nation of Islam, and was organized by the National African American Leadership Summit and a number of other groups. The march was largely a response to the politics of the time—with a Republican-controlled Congress and a conservative-leaning Democratic president, Bill Clinton, Washington was gripped by a desire to lower taxes and cut government spending on education, housing and social programs. Organizers also expressed a desire to change the public’s image of African American men in response to high-profile scandals like the O.J. Simpson trial and Mike Tyson’s rape conviction, arguing that Black men were often treated by the government and media as “sacrificial lambs” for the sins of all American men.

The event began with a Muslim call to prayer and a Christian invocation. Attendees took in speeches and performances by representatives from Africa and the Caribbean, a number of Christian ministers and other figures such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King III, Maya Angelou, Dr. Cornel West and many more in a program that lasted more than 12 hours. Speakers and attendees emphasized responsibility, with the crowd taking a pledge to support their families, refrain from abusive behavior toward women and children, and renounce violence except in self-defense, in addition to building up Black businesses and institutions in their communities. Some critics took issue with this aspect of the march, arguing that it amounted to a performance of responsibility by Black men that was chiefly meant to impress the media and corporate America. The march’s focus on men also received criticism from feminists, including Angela Davis. During the march, the Rev. Jesse Jackson railed against the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for cutting funding to public schools in poor areas, while other speakers condemned racial inequities in law enforcement and the closing of inner-city hospitals.

The U.S. Park Police estimated that 400,000 people had attended, angering the Million Man March’s organizers. A later estimate put the number at 870,000 with a 20 percent margin of error, just high enough to leave open the possibility that a million men had attended. Like the attendance total, the march’s long-term impact is difficult to assess, but organizers point to the fact that over 1.5 million Black men registered to vote for the first time over the course of the next year as evidence of their success.

READ MORE: Black History: Timeline of the Post-Civil Rights Era


Harlem Globetrotters’ 8,829-game winning streak snapped

On September 12, 1995, in Vienna, Austria, the Harlem Globetrotters tip off the third game of an 11-game exhibition series in Europe against a team of retired basketball stars led by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, aptly named “Kareem’s All-Stars.” Unlike the previous 8,829 games, the Globetrotters lose, 91-85—the team’s first loss since 1971. The Globetrotters’ games are usually scripted, but this game is not.  

Despite being 48 years old, Abdul-Jabbar put the team on his back, scoring 34 points. Bo Kimble, a former college standout and New York Knick, scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. Abdul-Jabbar and Kimble were aided by a handful of other old, former NBA standouts such as Artis Gilmore, Jo-Jo White, Nate “Tiny” Archibald and, the youngest player on the team, 40-year-old Cedric “Cornbread” Maxwell.

The victory had additional significance for Abdul-Jabbar, who was no stranger to the Globetrotters. In 1969, the Globetrotters—known primarily for their on-court antics—reportedly offered him a $1 million contract to play with them after his historic collegiate career at UCLA. Abdul-Jabbar turned the deal down and went onto become the No. 1 pick of the 1969 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. 

After the win, Abdul-Jabbar complimented the Globetrotters, saying they were “a very good basketball team” and that “they impressed our team with their poise in this loss.”

Meanwhile, the Globetrotters, who had won the first two games of the 11-game series in Switzerland and Germany, took the loss fairly hard. “The guys are really upset …,”  Reggie “Regulator” Phillips told the media. “After being part of the team for over 300 straight wins, it is a strange feeling to lose a game.” The Globetrotters defeated the All-Stars in their next “game.”

READ MORE: 10 things you may not know about the Harlem Globetrotters

At the end of this somewhat strange series featuring basketball entertainers and NBA has-beens, Maxwell summed up the experience humorously, telling the New York Times: “You look at us after these games, we are on Tylenol, Excedrin, Advil—all kinds of painkillers, anti-inflammatories. We’re one big pharmaceutical shop. If they do this next year, they ought to look at one of those drugs companies sponsoring it. They can call it the Kareem-Harlem Globetrotters Pain Tour.”


Mexican-American voting rights advocate Willie Velasquez awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Month Day
September 29

On September 29, 1995, voting rights advocate Willie Velasquez is posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Velasquez and the organizations he founded are credited with dramatically increasing political awareness and participation among the Hispanic communities of the Southwestern United States.

The son of a union organizer, Velasquez was one of five founders of the Mexican-American Youth Organization, or MAYO. Beginning with voter registration drives and walkouts on college campuses around San Antonio, MAYO expanded to organizing high school students and even succeeded in electing several candidates to local school boards. Inspired by groups like the Black Panthers and leaders like Malcolm X, some of MAYO’s members went on to form the Raza Unida Party, a party that aimed to elect Hispanic candidates without relying on either the Republican or Democratic establishments.

Velasquez worked as a boycott coordinator for the United Farm Workers, a union that organized farm workers across the Southwest and drew national attention to their working conditions in the late 1960s. He then went to work for Raza before embarking upon the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project in 1972. SVREP, whose motto was “Su vota, su voz” (Your vote is your voice), sought to address the poor voter turnout, voter apathy, and institutional disenfranchisement that affected the Hispanic-American community—Velasquez believed that the Hispanic community had much to learn from the civil rights movement and sought to address many of the same systemic issues as prominent leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr.

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

Though he would not live to see the full effects of his work—he died suddenly of cancer at the age of 44—Willie Velazquez certainly achieved his goal of activating the Hispanic electorate. Today, SVREP claims to have registered over 2.7 million voters, trained over 150,000 political activists, and won over 100 civil rights lawsuits. Though Hispanic voter turnout is often significantly lower than turnout among whites, it has risen sharply in recent decades, increasing tenfold from 1.3 million in the 1994 general election to 13.5 million in 2016. In his White House speech honoring Velasquez, then-President Bill Clinton called Willie “a name synonymous with democracy in America.”

READ MORE: How JFK’s ‘Viva Kennedy’ Campaign Galvanized the Latino Vote


Tokyo subways are attacked with sarin gas

Month Day
March 20

Several packages of deadly sarin gas are set off in the Tokyo subway system killing twelve people and injuring over 5,000 on March 20, 1995. Sarin gas was invented by the Nazis and is one of the most lethal nerve gases known to man. Tokyo police quickly learned who had planted the chemical weapons and began tracking the terrorists down. Thousands of checkpoints were set up across the nation in the massive dragnet.

The gas attack was instituted by the Aum Shinrikyo (which means Supreme Truth) cult. The Supreme Truth had thousands of followers all over Japan who believed in their doomsday prophecies. Because it claimed the personal assets of new cult members, the Supreme Truth had well over a billion dollars stashed away. Shoko Asahara, a forty-year-old blind man, was the leader of the cult. Asahara had long hair and a long beard, wore bright robes, and oftenmeditated while sittingon satin pillows. His books included claims that he was the second coming of Jesus Christ and that he had the ability to travel through time.

Japanese authorities raided the Supreme Truth compounds across the country, but could not find Asahara. At one camp at the base of Mt. Fuji, police found tons of the chemicals used to produce sarin gas. They also found plans to buy nuclear weapons from the Russians. The police eventually located Hideo Murai, one of the cult’s other top leaders, but when he was being taken into custody he was stabbed to death by an assassin who blamed Murai for the poison gas attack.

Shortly after, the police found a hidden basement at the Mt. Fuji compound where other cult leaders were holed up, including Masami Tsuchiya, a chemist who admitted making the sarin gas. Still, Asahara remained at large and the Supreme Truth made four more gas attacks on the subways, injuring hundreds more. Another potential deadly chemical bomb was defused in a subway restroom.The nation’s top police officer was shot by a masked terrorist, adding to the country’s unrest.

Finally on May 16, Asahara was found in yet another secret room of the Mt. Fuji compound and arrested. Along with scores of the other Supreme Truth leaders, Asahara was charged with murder. Their doomsday predictions had finally come true, albeit on a much smaller and more personal scale than they had envisioned.

READ MORE: 5 20th Century Cult Leaders


Amazon opens for business

Month Day
July 16

On July 16, 1995, Amazon officially opens for business as an online bookseller. Within a month, the fledgling retailer had shipped books to all 50 U.S. states and to 45 countries. Founder Jeff Bezos’s motto was “get big fast,” and Seattle-based Amazon eventually morphed into an e-commerce colossus, selling everything from groceries to furniture to live ladybugs, and helping to revolutionize the way people shop.

Bezos earned an undergraduate degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1986 then worked in the financial services industry in New York City. In 1994, after realizing the commercial potential of the Internet and determining that books might sell well online, he moved to Washington State and founded Amazon. He initially dubbed the business Cadabra (as in abracadabra) but after someone misheard the name as “cadaver,” Bezos decided to call his startup Amazon, after the enormous river in South America, a moniker he believed wouldn’t box him into offering just one type of product or service.

In the spring of 1995, Bezos invited a small group of friends and former colleagues to check out a beta version of Amazon’s website, and the first-ever order was placed on April 3 of that year, for a science book titled “Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies.” When went live to the general public in July 1995, the company boldly billed itself as “Earth’s biggest bookstore,” although sales initially were drummed up solely by word of mouth and Bezos assisted with assembling orders and driving the packages to the post office. However, by the end of 1996 Amazon had racked up $15.7 million in revenues, and in 1997 Bezos took the company public with an initial public offering that raised $54 million. That same year, Bezos personally delivered his company’s one-millionth order, to a customer in Japan who’d purchased a Windows NT manual and a Princess Diana biography. In 1998, Amazon extended beyond books and started selling music CDs, and by the following year it had added more product categories, such as toys, electronics and tools.

By December 1999, Amazon had shipped 20 million items to 150 countries around the globe. That same month, Bezos was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year. In 2000, the company introduced a service allowing individual sellers and other outside merchants to peddle their products alongside Amazon’s own items. Meanwhile, Amazon continued to spend heavily on expansion and didn’t post its first full-year profit until 2003.

In 2007, Amazon debuted its Kindle e-reader; four years later, the company announced it was selling more e-books than print books. Also in 2011, Amazon’s tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, was released. Among a variety of other ventures, Amazon launched a cloud computing and video on demand services in 2006; a studio that develops movies and TV series, in 2010; and an online marketplace for fine art, in 2013, which has featured original works by artists including Claude Monet and Norman Rockwell. Additionally, Amazon has acquired a number of companies, including Zappos and Whole Foods. In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the world’s most valuable retailer. Two decades after its founding and with Bezos still at the helm, Amazon’s market value was $250 billion. In 2017, Bezos was named the richest man in the world. 


Barack Obama’s “Dreams from My Father” is published

Month Day
July 18

On July 18, 1995, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, a memoir by a little-known law professor named Barack Obama, is published. Obama wrote the book before entering politics; 13 years after it was published, he was elected America’s 44th president.

Dreams from My Father tells the story of Obama’s family—he was born in Hawaii in 1961 to a white mother from Kansas and a black father from Kenya. The book is also, as Obama writes in the introduction, “a boy’s search for his father, and through that a search for a workable meaning for his life as a black American.” Obama describes his adolescence in Hawaii, where he was raised by his white grandparents; his post-college years as a community organizer in Chicago; and a visit he made to Kenya as a young man to meet his African relatives following the 1982 death of his father, who he had seen only once after his parent’s divorce when he was 2.

After being elected the first black president of the influential Harvard Law Review in 1990 while in his second year of law school, Obama was contacted by a literary agent who eventually got him a reported $40,000 advance to write what became Dreams from My Father. When the book was published in 1995, Obama was a law professor at the University of Chicago and had not yet stepped into the national spotlight. The book received favorable reviews; however, it sold a modest 8,000 to 9,000 hardcover copies and went out of print within several years.

The year after the book’s publication, Obama was elected to the Illinois State Senate, his first foray into politics. In March 2004, he shot to national prominence by winning the U.S. Senate Democratic primary in Illinois. The publicity generated by his victory prompted a publisher to reissue Dreams from My Father in the summer of 2004. Boosted by his well-received keynote address at the Democratic National Convention that July, and his landslide election to the U.S. Senate in November of the same year, Dreams from My Father became a best-seller. Reviewers praised the book for its eloquence and candor.

In October 2006, Obama, then a U.S. senator, published his second book, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming America. Like his first book, The Audacity of Hope became a best-seller, and Obama drew crowds at book signings as speculation mounted over whether he would seek the presidency. In February 2007, Obama announced he would run for the White House. When asked about Dreams from My Father while on the campaign trail in 2008, he told The New York Times “he was not even thinking about political consequences when he wrote the memoir. In fact, he said, one editor warned him back then that his references to drug use could come back to haunt him—if he were ever nominated for the Supreme Court.”


Russia activates its nuclear nukes for the first time

Month Day
January 25

Russia’s early-warning defense radar detects an unexpected missile launch near Norway, and Russian military command estimates the missile to be only minutes from impact on Moscow. Moments later, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, his defense minister, and his chief of staff were informed of the missile launch. The nuclear command systems switched to combat mode, and the nuclear suitcases carried by Yeltsin and his top commander were activated for the first time in the history of the Soviet-made weapons system. 

Five minutes after the launch detection, Russian command determined that the missile’s impact point would be outside Russia’s borders. Three more minutes passed, and Yeltsin was informed that the launching was likely not part of a surprise nuclear strike by Western nuclear submarines.

These conclusions came minutes before Yeltsin and his commanders should have ordered a nuclear response based on standard launch on warning protocols. Later, it was revealed that the missile, launched from Spitzbergen, Norway, was actually carrying instruments for scientific measurements. Nine days before, Norway had notified 35 countries, including Russia, of the exact details of the planned launch. The Russian Defense Ministry had received Norway’s announcement but had neglected to inform the on-duty personnel at the early-warning center of the imminent launch. The event raised serious concerns about the quality of the former Soviet Union’s nuclear systems.

READ MORE: What Is the Nuclear ‘Button’ and Where Did It Come From?


U.S. establishes diplomatic relations with Vietnam

Month Day
July 11

Two decades after the Fall of Saigon, President Bill Clinton establishes full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, citing Vietnamese cooperation in accounting for the 2,238 Americans still listed as missing in the Vietnam War.

Normalization with America’s old enemy began in early 1994, when President Clinton announced the lifting of the 19-year-old trade embargo against Vietnam. Despite the lifting of the embargo, high tariffs remained on Vietnamese exports pending the country’s qualification as a “most favored nation,” a U.S. trade status designation that Vietnam might earn after broadening its program of free-market reforms. In July 1995, Clinton established diplomatic relations. In making the decision, Clinton was advised by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, an ex-navy pilot who had spent five years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. Brushing aside criticism of Clinton’s decision by some Republicans, McCain asserted that it was time for America to normalize relations with Vietnam.

In May 1996, Clinton terminated the combat zone designation for Vietnam and nominated Florida Representative Douglas “Pete” Peterson to become the first ambassador to Vietnam since Graham Martin was airlifted out of the country by helicopter in late April 1975. Peterson himself had served as a U.S. Air Force captain during the Vietnam War and was held as a prisoner of war for six and a half years after his bomber was shot down near Hanoi in 1966. Confirmed by Congress in 1997, Ambassador Peterson presented his credentials to communist authorities in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, in May 1997. In November 2000, Peterson greeted Clinton in Hanoi in the first presidential visit to Vietnam since Richard Nixon’s 1969 trip to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

READ MORE: Vietnam War Timeline