Joseph Marion Hernández becomes the first Hispanic elected to Congress

Year
1822
Month Day
September 30

On September 30, 1822, Joseph Marion Hernández becomes the first Hispanic to be elected to the United States Congress. Born a Spanish citizen, Hernández would die in Cuba, but in between he became the first non-white person to serve at the highest levels of any of three branches of the American federal government.

Hernández belonged to a St. Augustine family that came to Florida as indentured servants. Despite these humble beginnings, records show that his family eventually became wealthy enough to own property and several slaves, and that Hernández was educated both in both Georgia and in Cuba. Throughout the 1810s, the United States made a variety of efforts to take Florida from the Spanish, finally succeeding after Andrew Jackson led an army through the territory in the First Seminole War. What Hernández did during this time is unclear, but he was either very savvy or very lucky—he fought the Americans during the war and received substantial amounts of land from the Spanish government, but then pledged loyalty to the United States and was allowed to keep his three plantations when the territory changed hands in 1819. It was then that Hernández changed his name from José Mariano to Joseph Marion.

The newly-acquired Florida Territory was allowed to elect a delegate to congress, but that delegate did not have voting privileges. Florida’s legislative council elected Hernández to represent the territory. During his brief tenure—he served for less than a year before losing his re-election bid—Hernández was instrumental in facilitating the transition from Spanish to American government in Florida. In addition to securing the property rights of many Floridians who remained after the annexation, he also advocated for roads and infrastructure to bind the new territory together and make it an attractive candidate for statehood.

He went on to fight in the Second Seminole War, helping his adopted nation drive the natives from its new territory. The war saw the loss of two of his plantations, however, as well the destruction of his political ambitions after he was involved in an incident in which an American contingent captured a number of Seminoles despite approaching them under a flag of truce. Hernández later served as Mayor of St. Augustine before retiring to Cuba, where he died in 1857. 

READ MORE: Hispanic History Milestones: Timeline 

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Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and best-selling author, is born

Year
1928
Month Day
September 30

On September 29, 1928, Eliezer “Elie” Wiesel, the human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize-winning author of more than 50 books, including “Night,” an internationally acclaimed memoir based on his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, is born in Sighet, Transylvania (present-day Romania).

In May 1944, the Nazis deported 15-year-old Wiesel and his family to Auschwitz, a concentration camp in Poland. Wiesel’s mother and the youngest of his three sisters died at Auschwitz, while he and his father later were moved to another camp, Buchenwald, located in Germany. Wiesel’s father perished at Buchenwald just months before it was liberated by Allied troops in April 1945.

Following the war, Wiesel spent time in a French orphanage, studied at the Sorbonne in Paris and went on to work as a journalist in France. In the early 1950s, he broke a self-imposed vow not to speak about the atrocities he witnessed at the concentration camps and penned the first version of “Night” in Yiddish, under the title “Un di Velt Hot Geshvign” (“And the World Remained Silent”). At the encouragement of Nobel laureate and prominent French writer Francois Mauriac, Wiesel reworked the manuscript in French. However, even with Mauriac’s help in trying to land a book deal, the manuscript was rejected by multiple publishers, who believed few people at the time were interested in reading about the Holocaust. The book was eventually released in 1958 as “La Nuit”; an English translation, “Night,” followed in 1960. Although initial sales were sluggish, “Night” was generally well reviewed and over the decades gained an audience, eventually becoming a classic of Holocaust literature that has sold millions of copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages. In 2006, TV talk show host Oprah Winfrey selected “Night” for her famed on-air book club, and traveled with Wiesel to Auschwitz for an episode of her show.

Since the publication of “Night,” Wiesel has written dozens of works of fiction and non-fiction, lectured widely and crusaded against injustice and intolerance around the world. A professor at Boston University since the 1970s, he was instrumental in the founding of the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and has received numerous awards, including the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize. Wiesel died on July 2, 2016. He was 87 years old. 

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Munich Pact signed

Year
1938
Month Day
September 30

British and French prime ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier sign the Munich Pact with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. The agreement averted the outbreak of war but gave Czechoslovakia away to German conquest.

In the spring of 1938, Hitler began openly to support the demands of German-speakers living in the Sudeten region of Czechoslovakia for closer ties with Germany. Hitler had recently annexed Austria into Germany, and the conquest of Czechoslovakia was the next step in his plan of creating a “greater Germany.” The Czechoslovak government hoped that Britain and France would come to its assistance in the event of German invasion, but British Prime Minister Chamberlain was intent on averting war. He made two trips to Germany in September and offered Hitler favorable agreements, but the Fuhrer kept upping his demands.

On September 22, Hitler demanded the immediate cession of the Sudetenland to Germany and the evacuation of the Czechoslovak population by the end of the month. The next day, Czechoslovakia ordered troop mobilization. War seemed imminent, and France began a partial mobilization on September 24. Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Daladier, unprepared for the outbreak of hostilities, traveled to Munich, where they gave in to Hitler’s demands on September 30.

Daladier abhorred the Munich Pact’s appeasement of the Nazis, but Chamberlain was elated and even stayed behind in Munich to sign a single-page document with Hitler that he believed assured the future of Anglo-German peace. Later that day, Chamberlain flew home to Britain, where he addressed a jubilant crowd in London and praised the Munich Pact for bringing “peace with honor” and “peace in our time.” The next day, Germany annexed the Sudetenland, and the Czechoslovak government chose submission over destruction by the German Wehrmacht. In March 1939, Hitler annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia, and the country ceased to exist.

On September 1, 1939, 53 German army divisions invaded Poland despite British and French threats to intervene on the nation’s behalf. Two days later, Chamberlain solemnly called for a British declaration of war against Germany, and World War II began. After eight months of ineffectual wartime leadership, Chamberlain was replaced as prime minister by Winston Churchill.

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USS Nautilus—world’s first nuclear submarine—is commissioned

Year
1954
Month Day
September 30

The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear submarine, is commissioned by the U.S. Navy.

The Nautilus was constructed under the direction of U.S. Navy Captain Hyman G. Rickover, a brilliant Russian-born engineer who joined the U.S. atomic program in 1946. In 1947, he was put in charge of the navy’s nuclear-propulsion program and began work on an atomic submarine. Regarded as a fanatic by his detractors, Rickover succeeded in developing and delivering the world’s first nuclear submarine years ahead of schedule. In 1952, the Nautilus‘ keel was laid by President Harry S. Truman, and on January 21, 1954, first lady Mamie Eisenhower broke a bottle of champagne across its bow as it was launched into the Thames River at Groton, Connecticut. Commissioned on September 30, 1954, it first ran under nuclear power on the morning of January 17, 1955.

Much larger than the diesel-electric submarines that preceded it, the Nautilus stretched 319 feet and displaced 3,180 tons. It could remain submerged for almost unlimited periods because its atomic engine needed no air and only a very small quantity of nuclear fuel. The uranium-powered nuclear reactor produced steam that drove propulsion turbines, allowing the Nautilus to travel underwater at speeds in excess of 20 knots.

In its early years of service, the USS Nautilus broke numerous submarine travel records and in August 1958 accomplished the first voyage under the geographic North Pole. After a career spanning 25 years and almost 500,000 miles steamed, the Nautilus was decommissioned on March 3, 1980. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1982, the world’s first nuclear submarine went on exhibit in 1986 as the Historic Ship Nautilus at the Submarine Force Museum in Groton, Connecticut.

READ MORE: 9 Groundbreaking Early Submarines 

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Riots over desegregation of Ole Miss

Year
1962
Month Day
September 30

In Oxford, Mississippi, James H. Meredith, an African American student, is escorted onto the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. Marshals, setting off a deadly riot. Two men were killed before the racial violence was quelled by more than 3,000 federal soldiers. The next day, Meredith successfully enrolled and began to attend classes amid continuing disruption.

A former serviceman in the U.S. Air Force, Meredith applied and was accepted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, but his admission was revoked when the registrar learned of his race. A federal court ordered “Ole Miss” to admit him, but when he tried to register on September 20, 1962, he found the entrance to the office blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. On September 28, the governor was found guilty of civil contempt and was ordered to cease his interference with desegregation at the university or face arrest and a fine of $10,000 a day. Two days later, Meredith was escorted onto the Ole Miss campus by U.S. Marshals. Turned back by violence, he returned the next day and began classes. Meredith, who was a transfer student from all-Black Jackson State College, graduated with a degree in political science in 1963.

In 1966, Meredith returned to the public eye when he began a lone civil rights march in an attempt to encourage voter registration by African Americans in the South. During this March Against Fear, Meredith intended to walk from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi. However, on June 6, just two days into the march, he was sent to a hospital by a sniper’s bullet.

Other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael, arrived to continue the march on his behalf. It was during the March Against Fear that Carmichael, who was leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first spoke publicly of “Black Power”–his concept of militant African American nationalism. James Meredith later recovered and rejoined the march he had originated, and on June 26 the marchers successfully reached Jackson, Mississippi.

READ MORE: Civil Rights Movement Timeline 

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First large-scale antiwar demonstration staged at UC Berkeley

Year
1964
Month Day
September 30

The first large-scale antiwar demonstration in the United States is staged at the University of California at Berkeley, by students and faculty opposed to the war. Nevertheless, polls showed that a majority of Americans supported President Lyndon Johnson’s policy on the war.

READ MORE: A History of Student Protests

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Babe Ruth hits 60th homer of 1927 season

Year
1927
Month Day
September 30

On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the 1927 season and with it sets a record that would stand for 34 years.

George Herman Ruth was born February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the first of eight children, but only he and a sister survived infancy. Ruth’s father was a saloon keeper on Baltimore’s waterfront, and the young George, known as “Gig” (pronounced with soft g’s) to his family, was known as a troublemaker from an early age. At seven, his truancy from school led his parents to declare him incorrigible, and he was sent to an orphanage, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Ruth lived there until he was 19 in 1914, when he was signed as a pitcher by the Baltimore Orioles.

That same summer, Ruth’s contract was sold by the Orioles to the Boston Red Sox. His new teammates called him “Babe,” short for baby, for his naiveté, but his talent was already maturing, and he was almost immediately recognized as the best pitcher on one of the great teams of the 1910s. He set a record between 1916 and 1918 with 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play, including a 14-inning game in 1916 in which he pitched every inning, giving up only a run in the first.

To the great dismay of Boston fans, Ruth’s contract was sold by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees before the 1920 season by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, so that Frazee could finance the musical No, No, Nanette. Ruth switched to the outfield with the Yankees, and hit more home runs than the entire Red Sox team in 10 of the next 12 seasons. “The Sultan of Swat” or “The Bambino,” as he was alternately known, was the greatest gate attraction in baseball through the 1920s until his retirement as a player in 1935.

The 1927 season featured a fearsome Yankees lineup of power hitters known as “Murderer’s Row” that included Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzerri and Bob Meusel. Ruth led the American League in home runs throughout the year, but did not appear to be within reach of his record 59 home runs, set in 1921, until he hit 16 in the month of September, tying his record on September 29. On September 30, in the last game of the season, Ruth came to the plate against lefty Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators in the eighth inning. With the count at 2-1, Ruth launched a Zachary pitch high into the right-field bleachers, and then took a slow stroll around the bases as the crowd celebrated by tearing paper into confetti and throwing hats into the air. Upon assuming his position in right-field for the ninth inning, those seated in the bleachers waved hankies at the famed slugger; Ruth responded with multiple military salutes.

During Ruth’s career with the New York Yankees, the team won four World Series and seven American League pennants. After getting rid of Ruth, the Red Sox did not win a World Series until 2004, an 85-year drought known to Red Sox fans as “the Curse of the Bambino.”

Ruth died of throat cancer on August 16, 1948. His record for career home runs was not broken until Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974, 39 years later.

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President Woodrow Wilson speaks in favor of female suffrage

Year
1918
Month Day
September 30

On September 30, 1918, President Woodrow Wilson gives a speech before Congress in support of guaranteeing women the right to vote. Although the House of Representatives had approved a 19th constitutional amendment giving women suffrage, the Senate had yet to vote on the measure.

Wilson had actually maintained a somewhat lukewarm attitude toward women’s suffrage throughout his first term (1913-1917). In 1917, he had been picketed by suffragists outside the White House who berated him for paying mere lip service to their cause. The protests reached a crescendo when several women were arrested, jailed and went on a hunger strike. 

READ MORE: ‘Night of Terror’: When Suffragists Were Imprisoned and Tortured

Wilson was appalled to learn that the jailed suffragists were being force-fed and he finally stepped in to champion their cause. Suffragists and their supporters agreed that Wilson had a debt to pay to the country’s women, who at the time were asked to support their sons and husbands fighting overseas in the First World War and who were contributing to the war effort on the home front. In his September 30 speech to Congress, Wilson acknowledged this debt, saying “we have made partners of the women in this war…Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right?”

Wilson’s stirring words on that day failed to drum up the necessary votes to pass the amendment. The bill died in the Senate and it would be another year before Congress finally passed the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.

READ MORE: Women’s Suffrage: A Timeline

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Wyoming legislators write the first state constitution to grant women the vote

Year
1889
Month Day
September 30

On September 30, 1889, the Wyoming state convention approves a constitution that includes a provision granting women the right to vote. Formally admitted into the union the following year, Wyoming thus became the first state in the history of the nation to allow its female citizens to vote.

That the isolated western state of Wyoming should be the first to accept women’s suffrage was a surprise. Leading suffragists like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were Easterners, and they assumed that their own more progressive home states would be among the first to respond to the campaign for women’s suffrage. Yet the people and politicians of the growing number of new Western states proved far more supportive than those in the East.

READ MORE: The State Where Women Voted Long Before the 19th Amendment

In 1848, the legislature in Washington Territory became the first to introduce a women’s suffrage bill. Though the Washington bill was narrowly defeated, similar legislation succeeded elsewhere, and Wyoming Territory was the first to give women the vote in 1869, quickly followed by Utah Territory (1870) and Washington Territory (1883). As with Wyoming, when these territories became states they preserved women’s suffrage.

By 1914, the contrast between East and West had become striking. All of the states west of the Rockies had women’s suffrage, while no state did east of the Rockies, except Kansas. Why the regional distinction? Some historians suggest western men may have been rewarding pioneer women for their critical role in settling the West. Others argue the West had a more egalitarian spirit, or that the scarcity of women in some western regions made men more appreciative of the women who were there while hoping the vote might attract more.

Whatever the reasons, while the Old West is usually thought of as a man’s world, a wild land that was “no place for a woman,” Westerners proved far more willing than other Americans to create states where women were welcomed as full and equal citizens.

READ MORE: 19th Amendment: A Timeline of the Fight for Women’s Right to Vote

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First volume of “Little Women” is published

Year
1868
Month Day
September 30

The first volume of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved children’s book Little Women is published on September 30, 1868. The novel will become Alcott’s first bestseller and a beloved children’s classic.

Like the fictional Jo March, Alcott was the second of four daughters. She was born in Pennsylvania but spent most of her life in Concord, Massachusetts, where her father, Bronson, associated with Transcendentalist thinkers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The liberal attitudes of the Transcendentalists left a strong mark on Louisa May Alcott. Her father started a school based on Transcendentalist teachings, but after six years it failed, and he was left unable to support the family. Louisa dedicated most of her life and writing to supporting her family. In 1852, her first story, the Rival Painters: A Tale of Rome, was published in a periodical, and she made a living off sentimental and melodramatic stories over the next two decades. In 1862, she worked as a nurse for Union troops in the Civil War until typhoid fever broke her health. She turned her experiences into Hospital Sketches (1863), which earned her a reputation as a serious literary writer.

Looking for a bestseller, a publisher asked Alcott to write a book for girls. Although reluctant at first, she poured her best talent into the work, and the first volume of the serialized novel Little Women became an instant success. She wrote a chapter a day for the second half of the book. Her subsequent children’s fiction, including Little Men (1871), An Old-Fashioned Girl (1870), Eight Cousins (1875) and Jo’s Boys (1886), were not as popular as Little Women. She also wrote many short stories for adults. She became a strong supporter of women’s issues and spent most of her life caring for her family’s financial, emotional, and physical needs. Her father died in March 1888, and she followed him just two days later at the age of 55.

READ MORE: How Louisa May Alcott’s Real-Life Family Inspired ‘Little Women’

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