Radio host Don Imus makes offensive remarks about Rutgers’ women’s basketball team

Year
2007
Month Day
April 04

On April 4, 2007, syndicated talk radio host Don Imus ignites a firestorm after making racially disparaging remarks about the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, insulting their appearance and tattoos and, most infamously, calling them “nappy-headed hos.” After a nationwide torrent of criticism, Imus apologized and lost his job but ultimately salvaged his career.

The remarks came during a discussion between Imus, his producer, and a reporter about a game between Rutgers and the University of Tennessee. Activists and journalists began to call for Imus to be fired almost immediately. Imus apologized on his show two days later, calling himself “a good man who did a bad thing,” but numerous sponsors, including General Motors, Staples, and other major companies, pulled their advertising. The Rev. Al Sharpton called for Imus to be “taken off the airwaves,” and Barack Obama, who would become the nation’s first African American president the following January, called Imus’ remarks “divisive, hurtful, and offensive.” MSNBC, which simulcast Imus in the Morning on television, dropped the show on April 11. The following morning, Sharpton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson met with Les Moonves, CEO of CBS, who announced the cancellation of Imus in the Morning that afternoon.

Imus’ defenders—as well as Imus himself—pointed to the frequent use of words like “ho” in rap music as the source of the problem, arguing that Imus was merely using offensive language that was commonplace in the world of hip-hop. Though many commentators decried what they felt was an over-reaction that ruined Imus’ career, Imus was in fact only off the air from April until December. He signed a five-year deal worth $40 million with New York station WABC and returned to the air on December 3. Two years later, Imus in the Morning returned to television, simulcast on Fox Business News. Imus’ career survived the incident, and he retired due to health reasons in 2018.

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Hank Aaron ties Babe Ruth’s home run record

Year
1974
Month Day
April 04

As the 1974 Major League Baseball season began, all eyes were on Hank Aaron. He had finished 1973 with 713 career home runs, one shy of the all-time record set by Babe Ruth. On April 4, Opening Day, a 39-year-old Aaron sent the very first pitch he saw over the wall, finally tying Ruth and setting the stage for his ascent to the top of the all-time home runs list.

Aaron, who played in the majors from 1954 until 1976, was known for his longevity and consistency in addition to his power-hitting. He had hit 40 homers the previous season, drawing the nation’s attention as he approached Ruth’s record. The Post Office declared that Aaron received the most mail of any private citizen in the country, and although the majority was positive he was also the recipient of hate mail and death threats. Ruth’s record had stood for four decades, and racist fans were upset at the thought of Aaron, one of the last MLB players to have played in the Negro Leagues, breaking it.

The ownership of the Braves wanted to sit Aaron for the first series of the 1974 season to ensure that he broke Ruth’s record in Atlanta. The league, however, insisted that he play at least two of the three games. It looked for all the world like he would break the record in Cincinnati after he homered on the very first pitch of the season, but 715 eluded him until he returned to Atlanta. He broke Ruth’s record in the fourth inning of the Atlanta Braves’ home opener on April 8.

Aaron retired two years later with a career total of 755 home runs. That record would stand until 2007, when it was broken by Barry Bonds, but Bonds’ well-documented and extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs has made his record illegitimate in the eyes of many fans and kept him out of the Hall of Fame. Aaron was inducted into the Hall in 1982, as soon as he was eligible, and continues to hold a number of MLB records.

READ MORE: Jackie Robinson’s Battles for Equality On and Off the Baseball Field

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World Trade Center, then the world’s tallest building, opens in New York City

Year
1973
Month Day
April 04

The “Twin Towers” of the World Trade Center officially open in New York City. The buildings replaced the Empire State Building as the world’s tallest building. Though they would only hold that title for a year, they remained a dominant feature of the city’s skyline and were recognizable the world over long before they were destroyed in a terrorist attack in 2001.

Planning, designing and clearing space for the World Trade Center took over a decade. The New York State Legislature originally approved the idea in 1943, but concrete plans did not materialize until the 1960s. The deal that created the new complex, of which the Twin Towers would be the centerpiece, also included the creation of the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation, or PATH, to operate the trains which entered Manhattan from New Jersey on what was to become the grounds of the WTC. Architect Minoru Yamasaki drew inspiration from Arabic architecture for the towers’ design. In order to efficiently move people up and down the 110-story towers, Yamasaki and his team developed the concept of express elevators—based on the New York City Subway’s system of express and local trains—that traveled directly to “sky lobbies” on the 44 and 78 floor, from which “local” elevators ran to neighboring floors. The first tenants moved into the North Tower in December of 1970, with the official opening of both buildings taking place over two years later.

The towers’ construction ended the Empire State Building’s 41-year run as the tallest building in the world. They were replaced by Chicago’s Sears Tower the following year, an indication of the rising trend of supertall construction. The World Trade Center dramatically altered the New York skyline and the cityscape of Lower Manhattan. As such, they were often used as a shorthand for the area in visual media, and were frequently included in establishing shots of films set in New York. Though most of the World Trade Center was occupied by office space, the Top of the World Observation Deck on the South Tower became a popular tourist destination, as did the North Tower’s Windows on the World restaurant, which featured its own wine school.

The towers were first targeted by terrorists in 1993, when a bomb exploded in the garage under the North Tower, killing six and injuring over 1,000. The Twin Towers were destroyed, and were the site of the vast majorities of the casualties, on September 11, 2001, a final chapter that has since overshadowed the rest of the World Trade Center’s story. The building that replaced them, One World Trade Center, was completed in 2014 and is currently the seventh-tallest building in the world.

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Microsoft founded

Year
1975
Month Day
April 04

On April 4, 1975, at a time when most Americans used typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation. In 1987, the year after Microsoft went public, 31-year-old Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire.

Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. Allen quit his job as a programmer in Boston and Gates left Harvard University, where he was a student, to focus on their new company, which was based in Albuquerque because the city was home to electronics firm MITS, maker of the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, Microsoft’s sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. The company went on to license its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, which debuted in 1981. Afterward, other computer companies started licensing MS-DOS, which had no graphical interface and required users to type in commands in order to open a program. In 1983, Allen departed Microsoft after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was successfully treated for the disease and went on to pursue a variety of other business ventures.

In 1985, Microsoft released a new operating system, Windows, with a graphical user interface that included drop-down menus, scroll bars and other features. The following year, the company moved its headquarters to Redmond, Washington, and went public at $21 a share, raising $61 million. By the late 1980s, Microsoft had become the world’s biggest personal-computer software company, based on sales. In 1995, amidst skyrocketing purchases of personal computers for home and office use, Windows 95 made its debut. It included such innovations as the Start menu (TV commercials for Windows 95 featured the Rolling Stones singing “Start Me Up”) and 7 million copies of the new product were sold in the first five weeks. During the second half of the 1990s, Internet usage took off, and Microsoft introduced its web browser, Internet Explorer, in 1995.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general charged Microsoft with violating antitrust laws by using its dominance to drive competitors out of business; in 2001, the company reached a settlement with the government that imposed restrictions on its corporate practices. Also in 2001, Microsoft joined the video-game market with the launch of its Xbox console. 

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Movie critic Roger Ebert dies

Year
2013
Month Day
April 04

On April 4, 2013, one of America’s best-known and most influential movie critics, Roger Ebert, who reviewed movies for the Chicago Sun-Times for 46 years and on TV for 31 years, dies at age 70 after a battling cancer. In 1975, Ebert started co-hosting a movie review program on TV with fellow critic Gene Siskel that eventually turned them both into household names and made their thumbs-up, thumbs-down rating system part of American pop culture.

Born on June 18, 1942, in Urbana, Illinois, Ebert was the only child of an electrician father and bookkeeper mother. At age 15, Ebert he began writing about high school sports for his local newspaper. In 1964, he graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where majored in journalism and served as editor of the school’s newspaper. Two years later, he went to work for the Chicago Sun-Times. When the paper’s film critic retired in 1967, Ebert was named as her replacement.

Ebert reportedly watched 500 movies a year and penned reviews of at least half that many on an annual basis. (In 2012, when asked to name the 10 greatest films of all time, his list included such titles as Apocalypse Now, Citizen Kane, Raging Bull and Vertigo.) His work was syndicated in hundreds of newspapers around the world, and he was the author of more than 15 books, including the acclaimed 2011 memoir Life Itself. Ebert had a brief foray into movie making when he wrote the script for 1970’s Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Upon its release, the film was trashed by critics, including Siskel.

Diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2002 and salivary gland cancer the following year, Ebert lost the ability to speak, drink and eat in 2006 following surgery for jaw cancer. However, he continued to work, writing for the Sun-Times, blogging for his own website and developing a large following on Facebook and Twitter. On April 2, 2013, Ebert publicly announced he would be writing fewer reviews due to a recurrence of cancer. He died two days later. The Sun-Times published his final movie review on April 6, for To the Wonder. Ebert awarded it 3.5 out of 4 stars.

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Second Battle of the Somme ends

Year
1918
Month Day
April 04

During World War I, the Second Battle of the Somme, the first major German offensive in more than a year, ends on the western front.

On March 21, 1918, a major offensive against Allied positions in the Somme River region of France began with five hours of bombardment from more than 9,000 pieces of German artillery. The poorly prepared British Fifth Army was rapidly overwhelmed and forced into retreat. For a week, the Germans pushed toward Paris, shelling the city from a distance of 80 miles with their “Big Bertha” cannons. However, the poorly supplied German troops soon became exhausted, and the Allies halted the German advance as French artillery knocked out the German guns besieging Paris. On April 2, U.S. General John J. Pershing sent American troops down into the trenches to help defend Paris and repulse the German offensive. It was the first major deployment of U.S. troops in World War I. Several thousand American troops fought alongside the British and French in the Second Battle of Somme.

By the time the Somme offensive ended on April 4, the Germans had advanced almost 40 miles, inflicted some 200,000 casualties, and captured 70,000 prisoners and more than 1,000 Allied guns. However, the Germans suffered nearly as many casualties as their enemies and lacked the fresh reserves and supply boost the Allies enjoyed following the American entrance into the fighting.

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated

Year
1968
Month Day
April 04

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. is fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The civil rights leader was in Memphis to support a sanitation workers’ strike and was on his way to dinner when a bullet struck him in the jaw and severed his spinal cord. King was pronounced dead after his arrival at a Memphis hospital. He was 39 years old.

In the months before his assassination, Martin Luther King became increasingly concerned with the problem of economic inequality in America. He organized a Poor People’s Campaign to focus on the issue, including a march on Washington, and in March 1968 traveled to Memphis in support of poorly treated African-American sanitation workers. On March 28, a workers’ protest march led by King ended in violence and the death of an African American teenager. King left the city but vowed to return in early April to lead another demonstration.

On April 3, back in Memphis, King gave his last sermon, saying, “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop … And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Martin Luther King, Jr.

One day after speaking those words, Dr. King was shot and killed by a sniper. As word of the assassination spread, riots broke out in cities all across the United States and National Guard troops were deployed in Memphis and Washington, D.C. On April 9, King was laid to rest in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. Tens of thousands of people lined the streets to pay tribute to King’s casket as it passed by in a wooden farm cart drawn by two mules.

The evening of King’s murder, a Remington .30-06 hunting rifle was found on the sidewalk beside a rooming house one block from the Lorraine Motel. During the next several weeks, the rifle, eyewitness reports, and fingerprints on the weapon all implicated a single suspect: escaped convict James Earl Ray. A two-bit criminal, Ray escaped a Missouri prison in April 1967 while serving a sentence for a holdup. In May 1968, a massive manhunt for Ray began. The FBI eventually determined that he had obtained a Canadian passport under a false identity, which at the time was relatively easy.

On June 8, Scotland Yard investigators arrested Ray at a London airport. He was trying to fly to Belgium, with the eventual goal, he later admitted, of reaching Rhodesia. Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, was at the time ruled by an oppressive and internationally condemned white minority government. Extradited to the United States, Ray stood before a Memphis judge in March 1969 and pleaded guilty to King’s murder in order to avoid the electric chair. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Three days later, he attempted to withdraw his guilty plea, claiming he was innocent of King’s assassination and had been set up as a patsy in a larger conspiracy. He claimed that in 1967, a mysterious man named “Raoul” had approached him and recruited him into a gunrunning enterprise. On April 4, 1968, he said, he realized that he was to be the fall guy for the King assassination and fled to Canada. Ray’s motion was denied, as were his dozens of other requests for a trial during the next 29 years.

READ MORE: Why Martin Luther King’s Family Believes James Earl Ray Was Not His Killer

During the 1990s, the widow and children of Martin Luther King Jr. spoke publicly in support of Ray and his claims, calling him innocent and speculating about an assassination conspiracy involving the U.S. government and military. U.S. authorities were, in conspiracists’ minds, implicated circumstantially. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover obsessed over King, who he thought was under communist influence. For the last six years of his life, King underwent constant wiretapping and harassment by the FBI. Before his death, Dr. King was also monitored by U.S. military intelligence, which may have been asked to watch King after he publicly denounced the Vietnam War in 1967. Furthermore, by calling for radical economic reforms in 1968, including guaranteed annual incomes for all, King was making few new friends in the Cold War-era U.S. government.

Over the years, the assassination has been reexamined by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, the Shelby County, Tennessee, district attorney’s office, and three times by the U.S. Justice Department. The investigations all ended with the same conclusion: James Earl Ray killed Martin Luther King. The House committee acknowledged that a low-level conspiracy might have existed, involving one or more accomplices to Ray, but uncovered no evidence to definitively prove this theory. In addition to the mountain of evidence against him–such as his fingerprints on the murder weapon and his admitted presence at the rooming house on April 4–Ray had a definite motive in assassinating King: hatred. According to his family and friends, he was an outspoken racist who informed them of his intent to kill Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He died in 1998.

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Germans and Allies step up operations near Somme

Year
1918
Month Day
April 04

On this day in 1918, German forces in the throes of a major spring offensive on the Western Front launch a renewed attack on Allied positions between the Somme and Avre Rivers.

The first stage of the German offensive, dubbed “Operation Michael,” began March 21, 1918; by the first days of April it had resulted in a gain of almost 40 miles of territory for the Germans, the largest advance in the west for either side since 1914. After initial panic, the Allies had managed to stabilize and strengthen their defense, stopping the Germans at Moreuil Wood on March 30 and continuing their hardy defense of the crucial railroad junction and town of Amiens, France, just south of the Somme.

With a bombardment by more than 1,200 guns and a total of 15 divisions sent against only seven of the enemy’s, the Germans attacked in force at Villers-Bretonneux on April 4. Again, British and Australian troops reacted with panic in the face of such an onslaught, but soon rallied to drive back their attackers. At the same time, French divisions made their own advances along the front running between the towns of Castel and Cantigny, to the south of Villers-Bretonneux.

Also on April 4, German military officials announced that their attacks in the Somme region had claimed a total of 90,000 Allied prisoners since March 21. The following day, Erich Ludendorff, chief of the German general staff, formally closed down the Michael offensive; the second phase of the attacks, “Georgette,” would begin four days later in Flanders.

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Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks out against the war

Year
1967
Month Day
April 04

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, delivers a speech entitled “Beyond Vietnam” in front of 3,000 people at Riverside Church in New York City. In it, he says that there is a common link forming between the civil rights and peace movements. King proposed that the United States stop all bombing of North and South Vietnam; declare a unilateral truce in the hope that it would lead to peace talks; set a date for withdrawal of all troops from Vietnam; and give the National Liberation Front a role in negotiations.

King had been a solid supporter of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Great Society, but he became increasingly concerned about U.S. involvement in Vietnam and, as his concerns became more public, his relationship with the Johnson administration deteriorated. King came to view U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia as little more than imperialism. Additionally, he believed that the Vietnam War diverted money and attention from domestic programs created to aid the black poor. Furthermore, he said, ‘the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home…We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.’” 

King maintained his antiwar stance and supported peace movements until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, one year to the day after delivering his Beyond Vietnam speech.

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President Lincoln dreams about his assassination

Year
1865
Month Day
April 04

According to the recollection of one of his friends, Ward Hill Lamon, President Abraham Lincoln dreams on this night in 1865 of “the subdued sobs of mourners” and a corpse lying on a catafalque in the White House East Room. In the dream, Lincoln asked a soldier standing guard “Who is dead in the White House?” to which the soldier replied, “the President. He was killed by an assassin.” Lincoln woke up at that point. On April 11, he told Lamon that the dream had “strangely annoyed” him ever since. Ten days after having the dream, Lincoln was shot dead by an assassin while attending the theater.

READ MORE: Does the Ghost of Lincoln Haunt the White House?

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