Today In History
July 6, 2021
Today in History is a timetable of everything that happened on this date in the areas of politics, war, science, music, sport, art, entertainment, and more.
On June 3, 1943, a group of U.S. sailors marches through downtown Los Angeles, carrying clubs and other makeshift weapons and attacking anyone wearing a “zoot suit”—the baggy wool pants, oversized coats and porkpie hats favored by many young men of color at the time.
Over the next week, the so-called Zoot Suit Riots spread throughout the city, including the largely Mexican-American neighborhood of East Los Angeles and the largely Black neighborhood of Watts. The riots marked the culmination of simmering racial tensions in Los Angeles, set against the backdrop of World War II.
After originating in Harlem jazz clubs in the 1930s, the zoot suit style had become popular with young men in Black and Latino communities across the country. In Los Angeles, which had a large Mexican-American population, many more conservative citizens (including both older Mexican Americans and whites) objected to the young zoot-suiters who called themselves “pachucos,” associating them not only with cultural rebellion but also with criminality and gangsterism.
These negative views only increased during World War II, when the rationing of wool in early 1942 led the manufacturing of zoot suits to be banned and the wearing of them to be seen as unpatriotic. The Los Angeles news media in particular devoted itself to portraying pachucos as dangerous, especially after the so-called Sleepy Lagoon Murder of August 1942. In that notorious case, hundreds of Mexican-American youths were rounded up and 22 of them tried and convicted in the murder of another young Mexican-American man, Jose Diaz—a decision that was later overturned, and viewed as a major miscarriage of justice.
READ MORE: What Were the Zoot Suit Riots?
On May 30, 1943, a verbal confrontation between a group of U.S. sailors and a group of zoot-suiters ended in the beating of one of the sailors. In retaliation, about 50 sailors left the local U.S. Navy Reserve Armory on the evening of June 3, armed with makeshift weapons and targeting zoot-suiters (even those as young as 12 or 13 years old). On the second night of rioting, the sailors headed into the city’s Mexican-American communities, barging into cafes, bars and theaters to seek out and attack their victims.
Military personnel and civilians joined in the violence, some traveling to Los Angeles from elsewhere to take part. While news reports portrayed such rioters as heroes fighting against a supposed Mexican crime wave, many of their attacks were clearly racist in nature, targeting Latinos, African Americans and other minorities even when they weren’t wearing zoot suits. Meanwhile, police arrested hundreds of young Mexican Americans—many of whom had been attacked themselves—compared with comparatively few sailors or civilians involved in the rioting.
The Zoot Suit Riots finally died down after June 8, when military officials banned all military personnel from Los Angeles and called on military police to patrol the city. The L.A. City Council subsequently passed a resolution prohibiting the wearing of zoot suits on city streets.
No one was killed during the Zoot Suit Riots, though many people were injured. In the aftermath, Governor Earl Warren tasked an independent citizens’ committee with investigating the riots and determining their cause. Though several factors were involved, the committee concluded that racism was the central cause, exacerbated by inflammatory, biased media coverage and an uneven response by the Los Angeles Police Department.]]>
During one horrific 8-minute period on June 3, 2017, eight people were killed as a band of terrorists drove a van through a pedestrian walkway on the London Bridge. The men then exited, armed with pink steak knives, and proceeded to slash and stab people in a nearby market.
The attack was the third to take place in London in 2017.
Just minutes before 10 pm a van filled with three attackers inconspicuously crossed the London Bridge twice. When it reached the end of the bridge the second time, the van made a U-turn, mounting the pavement and mowing down pedestrians.
At the end of the bridge, the terrorists crashed into a nearby pub, where they exited with knives taped to their wrists and fake bombs strapped to their bodies. The men ran from the vehicle, slashing and stabbing through the Borough Market as they screamed “This is for Allah.” They randomly entered bars and restaurants, stabbing whoever came into their path. People tried to fight them off, throwing crates, chairs and glasses, but in the end, 48 people were injured.
By 10:15 all three terrorists had been killed by authorities.
The terrorists were found to be Khuram Shazad Butt, 27, a British citizen born in Pakistan who is believed to have been the leader of the attack; Rachid Redouane, 30, who said he was Moroccan and Libyan; and Youssef Zaghba, 22, a Moroccan-Italian man. The men are reported to have had large amounts of steroids in their system.
2017 was one of the most intense periods for terrorist attacks in England. Arrests for terrorism-linked offenses rose to a record 379 in the 12 months leading up to the attacks, an increase of 67% from the year before.]]>
On June 3, 2010, Joran van der Sloot, a longtime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba, is arrested in Chile in connection with the slaying of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, in Lima, Peru. Flores was murdered on May 30, 2010, exactly five years to the day after Holloway went missing while on a high school graduation trip to the Caribbean island. In January 2012, Van der Sloot pleaded guilty to Flores’ murder.
In May 2010, Van der Sloot, who was born in the Netherlands in 1987 and raised in Dutch-speaking Aruba, was in the Peruvian capital for a poker tournament. He reportedly met Flores, a college student and daughter of a prominent Peruvian businessman, at a Lima casino. The two were seen entering Van der Sloot’s room at Hotel TAC around 5 a.m. on May 30. Approximately four hours later, surveillance video captured Van der Sloot leaving the room alone and carrying his bags. After Flores’ family reported her missing, she was found dead in the hotel room on June 2, beaten and with a broken neck. Her money and credit cards were missing.
After Peruvian officials reviewed the hotel surveillance video, Van der Sloot emerged as the prime suspect in the murder investigation. Police believed he had fled in Flores’ car and later abandoned it in another part of Lima, before traveling south to Chile. On June 3, Van der Sloot was arrested in Chile, and deported to Peru soon afterward. On June 7, the Dutchman admitted to Peruvian authorities he had killed Flores during an argument after she used his computer without permission (authorities suggested she might have discovered he was linked to the Holloway case). Van der Sloot stated he beat and strangled Flores then suffocated her with his shirt. The Dutchman later retracted this confession, saying he was frightened and confused when he made it.
On the day Van der Sloot was arrested in South America, U.S. authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a plot to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s family in exchange for revealing the location of her remains. Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Alabama, was last seen leaving an Aruban bar and restaurant with Van der Sloot and two of his friends in the early hours of May 30, 2005. Her disappearance generated widespread media coverage in the United States. Despite an extensive search, Holloway’s body was never found. Van der Sloot was arrested twice in Aruba in conjunction with her disappearance but never charged.
On January 11, 2012, Van der Sloot, who has been behind bars in Peru since his June 2010 arrest, pleaded guilty in a Lima courtroom to Flores’ murder. Two days later, a panel of judges sentenced him to 28 years in prison and ordered him to pay $75,000 in reparation to Flores’ family.
One day before Van der Sloot was sentenced, a judge in Birmingham, Alabama, signed an order declaring Natalee Holloway legally dead. The judge made the ruling at the request of Holloway’s father, so that he could settle his daughter’s estate.]]>
In France, the duke of Windsor—formerly King Edward VIII of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—marries Wallis Warfield, a divorced American socialite for whom he abdicated the British throne in December 1936.
Edward, born in 1896, was the eldest son of King George V, who became the British sovereign in 1910. He served as a staff officer during World War I and in the 1920s made extensive goodwill trips abroad as Prince of Wales, a title bestowed on male heirs to the British throne. During the Depression, he helped organize work programs for the nation’s unemployed and was highly regarded by the public in the years leading up to his father’s death.
Edward, still unmarried as he approached his 40th birthday, socialized with the fashionable London society of the day and frequently entertained at Fort Belvedere, his country home. By 1934, he had fallen deeply in love with American socialite Wallis Warfield Simpson, who was married to Ernest Simpson, an English-American businessman who lived with Mrs. Simpson near London. Wallis, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1896 and brought up in Maryland, had previously married and divorced a U.S. Navy pilot. The royal family disapproved of Edward’s married mistress, but by 1936 the prince was intent on marrying Mrs. Simpson. Before he could discuss this intention with his father, George V died on January 20, 1936, and Edward was proclaimed king.
The new king proved popular with his subjects, and his coronation was scheduled for May 1937. His affair with Mrs. Simpson was reported in American and continental European newspapers, but due to a gentlemen’s agreement between the British press and the government, the affair was kept out of British newspapers. On October 27, 1936, Mrs. Simpson obtained a preliminary decree of divorce, presumably with the intent of marrying the king, precipitating a major scandal. To the Church of England and most British politicians, an American woman twice divorced was unacceptable as a prospective British queen. Winston Churchill, then a Conservative backbencher, was the only notable politician to support Edward.
Despite the seemingly united front against him, Edward could not be dissuaded. He proposed a morganatic marriage, in which Wallis would be granted no rights of rank or property, but Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin rejected this as impractical on December 2. The next day, the scandal broke on the front pages of British newspapers and was discussed openly in Parliament. With no resolution possible, the king renounced the throne on December 10. The next day, Parliament approved the abdication instrument, and Edward VIII’s 325-day reign came to an end. That evening, the former king gave a radio broadcast in which he explained: “I have found it impossible to carry on the heavy burden of responsibility and to discharge the duties of King, as I would wish to do, without the help and support of the woman I love.” On December 12, his younger brother, the duke of York, was proclaimed King George VI. That day, the new king made his older brother the duke of Windsor.
By that time, Edward had already left for Austria, where he lived with friends apart from Mrs. Simpson as her divorce proceedings progressed. Her divorce became final in May 1937, and she had her name legally changed back to Wallis Warfield. On June 3, 1937, the duke of Windsor and Wallis Warfield married at the Chateau de Cande in France’s Loire Valley. A Church of England clergyman conducted the service, which was witnessed by only about 16 guests. Wallis was now the duchess of Windsor, but King George, under pressure from his ministers, denied her the title of “royal highness” enjoyed by her husband.
For the next two years, the duke and duchess lived primarily in France but visited other European countries, including Germany, where the duke was honored by Nazi officials in October 1937 and met with Adolf Hitler. After the outbreak of World War II, the duke accepted a position as liaison officer with the French. In June 1940, France fell to the Nazis, and Edward and Wallis went to Spain. During this period, the Nazis concocted a scheme to kidnap Edward with the intention of returning him to the British throne as a puppet king. George VI, like his prime minister, Winston Churchill, was adamantly opposed to any peace with Nazi Germany. Unaware of the Nazi kidnapping plot but conscious of Edward’s pre-war Nazi sympathies, Churchill hastily offered Edward the governorship of the Bahamas in the West Indies. The duke and duchess set sail from Lisbon on August 1, 1940, narrowly escaping a Nazi SS team sent to seize them.
In 1945, the duke resigned his post, and the couple moved back to France. They lived mainly in Paris, and Edward made a few visits to England, such as to attend the funerals of King George VI in 1952 and his mother, Queen Mary, in 1953. It was not until 1967 that the duke and duchess were invited by the royal family to attend an official public ceremony, the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to Queen Mary. Edward died in Paris in 1972 but was buried at Frogmore, on the grounds of Windsor Castle. In 1986, Wallis died and was buried at his side.]]>
John Adams, the second president of the United States, becomes the first president to reside in Washington, D.C., when he takes up residence at Union Tavern in Georgetown.
The city of Washington was created to serve as the nation’s capital because of its geographical position in the center of the existing new republic. The states of Maryland and Virginia ceded land around the Potomac River to form the District of Columbia, and work began on Washington in 1791. French architect Pierre Charles L'Enfant designed the city’s radical layout, full of dozens of circles, crisscross avenues, and plentiful parks. In 1792, work began on the neoclassical White House building at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue under the guidance of Irish-American architect James Hoban, whose White House design was influenced by Leinster House in Dublin and by a building sketch in James Gibbs’ Book of Architecture. In the next year, Benjamin Latrobe began construction on the other principal government building, the U.S. Capitol.
On June 3, 1800, President Adams moved to a temporary residence in the new capital as construction was completed on the executive mansion. On November 1, the president was welcomed into the White House. The next day, Adams wrote to his wife about their new home: “I pray heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house, and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but wise men ever rule under this roof!” Soon after, Abigail Adams arrived at the White House, and on November 17 the U.S. Congress convened for the first time at the U.S. Capitol.
During the War of 1812, both buildings were set on fire in 1814 by British soldiers in retaliation for the burning of government buildings in Canada by U.S. troops. Although a torrential downpour saved the still uncompleted Capitol building, the White House was burned to the ground. The mansion was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged under the direction of James Hoban, who added east and west terraces to the main building along with a semicircular south portico and a colonnaded north portico. Work was completed on the White House in the 1820s and it has remained largely unchanged since.
On June 3, 1965, 120 miles above the Earth, Major Edward H. White II opens the hatch of the Gemini 4 and steps out of the capsule, becoming the first American astronaut to walk in space. Attached to the craft by a 25-foot tether and controlling his movements with a hand-held oxygen jet-propulsion gun, White remained outside the capsule for just over 20 minutes. As a space walker, White had been preceded by Soviet cosmonaut Aleksei A. Leonov, who on March 18, 1965, was the first man ever to walk in space.
READ MORE: Space Exploration: Timeline and Technologies
Implemented at the height of the space race, NASA’s Gemini program was the least famous of the three U.S.-manned space programs conducted during the 1960s. However, as an extension of Project Mercury, which put the first American in space in 1961, Gemini laid the groundwork for the more dramatic Apollo lunar missions, which began in 1968.
The Gemini space flights were the first to involve multiple crews, and the extended duration of the missions provided valuable information about the biological effects of longer-term space travel. When the Gemini program ended in 1966, U.S. astronauts had also perfected rendezvous and docking maneuvers with other orbiting vehicles, a skill that would be essential during the three-stage Apollo moon missions.]]>
With protests for democratic reforms entering their seventh week, the Chinese government authorizes its soldiers and tanks to reclaim Beijing’s Tiananmen Square at all costs. By nightfall on June 4, Chinese troops had forcibly cleared the square, killing hundreds and arresting thousands of demonstrators and suspected dissidents
READ MORE: What Were the Tiananmen Square Protests?
On April 15, the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party head who supported democratic reforms, roused some 100,000 students to gather at Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to commemorate the leader and voice their discontent with China’s authoritative government. On April 22, an official memorial service for Hu Yaobang was held in Tiananmen’s Great Hall of the People, and student representatives carried a petition to the steps of the Great Hall, demanding to meet with Premier Li Peng. The Chinese government refused the meeting, leading to a general boycott of Chinese universities across the country and widespread calls for democratic reforms.
Ignoring government warnings of suppression of any mass demonstration, students from more than 40 universities began a march to Tiananmen on April 27. The students were joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, and by mid-May more than a million people filled the square, the site of Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
On May 20, the government formally declared martial law in Beijing, and troops and tanks were called in to disperse the dissidents. However, large numbers of students and citizens blocked the army’s advance, and by May 23 government forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Beijing. On June 3, with negotiations to end the protests stalled and calls for democratic reforms escalating, the troops received orders from the Chinese government to seize control of Tiananmen Square and the streets of Beijing. Hundreds were killed and thousands arrested.
In the weeks after the government crackdown, an unknown number of dissidents were executed, and hard-liners in the government took firm control of the country. The international community was outraged by the incident, and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries sent China’s economy into decline. By late 1990, however, international trade had resumed, thanks in part to China’s release of several hundred imprisoned dissidents.
READ MORE: China: A Timeline]]>
Larry McMurtry, one of the most well-known modern writers working in the western genre, is born in Wichita Falls, Texas.
McMurtry’s family had been involved in Texas ranching for three generations, and he was exposed to ranching life from an early age. McMurtry, however, ultimately proved more interested in books than in cattle. After studying at Rice University, McMurtry traveled to California, where he joined Wallace Stegner’s creative writing program at Stanford University. Stegner, who had written several highly successful western novels, including The Big Rock Candy Mountain (1943), recognized McMurtry’s talent and encouraged his ambitions to write about the modern West.
Uncertain if he could make a living solely through writing, McMurtry established bookstores in Texas and Washington, D.C., and divided his time between the two areas. In his early fiction, McMurtry also combined a rural and urban perspective, giving rise to what some have called the “urban western.” The impact of modern society on the traditional ways and ideals of the American West fascinated McMurtry. The West of his novels is a place where cowboys on horseback confront wealthy oilmen in Cadillacs; where the sons and daughters of ranchers prefer the glitter and flash of the movie palaces to a hard life living off the land.
Of McMurtry’s early novels, his best known was Horseman, Pass By (1961), which became the basis for the popular movie Hud. Homer Bannon, an elderly Texas rancher who symbolizes the courage and endurance of the Old West, refuses to allow oil drilling on his ranch. His stepson, Hud Bannon (played by Paul Newman in the movie), scorns Homer’s values and cares only about the potential profits of oil. He begins legal proceedings to have his stepfather declared incompetent and make himself the executor of the estate.
Many of McMurtry’s other novels, including Leaving Cheyenne (1963), The Last Picture Show (1966), and Moving On (1970), reflect a similar concern with the place of traditional western values in a ruthless modern world. McMurtry’s most successful novel, however, is set in the late 19th century during the early days of the open-range cattle industry. Lonesome Dove (1986) tells the story of two aging Texas Rangers who embark on an epic cattle drive north to Montana where they plan to start anew. More heroic than McMurtry’s earlier novels, Lonesome Dove nonetheless defies the conventions of the traditional western novel with its often starkly realistic and brutal portrait of life in the Old West.
In his 1988 novel, Anything for Billy, McMurtry continued to undermine the mythic view of the Old West. A sophisticated and historically informed portrait of Billy the Kid, Anything for Billy portrays the famous gunslinger as a charismatic but confused young man swept along by social and political forces he cannot control or really understand. McMurtry gives a similar treatment to the popular myths concerning Calamity Jane in his 1990 novel, Buffalo Girls.
A sophisticated observer of both the “Old” and the “New” West, McMurtry died on March 25, 2021.]]>
Santa Cruz, California, a favorite early haunt of author Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters, was an established capital of the West Coast counterculture scene by the mid-1960s. Yet just 10 years earlier, the balance of power in this crunchy beach town 70 miles south of San Francisco tilted heavily toward the older side of the generation gap. In the early months of the rock-and-roll revolution, in fact, at a time when adult authorities around the country were struggling to come to terms with a booming population of teenagers with vastly different musical tastes and attitudes, Santa Cruz captured national attention for its response to the crisis. On June 3, 1956, city authorities announced a total ban on rock and roll at public gatherings, calling the music “Detrimental to both the health and morals of our youth and community.”
It was a dance party the previous evening that led to this reaction on the part of Santa Cruz authorities. Some 200 teenagers had packed the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium on a Saturday night to dance to the music of Chuck Higgins and his Orchestra, a Los Angeles group with a regional hit record called “Pachuko Hop.” Santa Cruz police entered the auditorium just past midnight to check on the event, and what they found, according to Lieutenant Richard Overton, was a crowd “engaged in suggestive, stimulating and tantalizing motions induced by the provocative rhythms of an all-negro band.” But what might sound like a pretty great dance party to some did not to Lt. Overton, who immediately shut the dance down and sent the disappointed teenagers home early.
It may seem obvious now that Santa Cruz’s ban on “Rock-and-roll and other forms of frenzied music” was doomed to fail, but it was hardly the only such attempt. Just two weeks later in its June 18, 1956 issue, Time magazine reported on similar bans recently enacted in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and in San Antonio, Texas, where the city council’s fear of “undesirable elements” echoed the not-so-thinly-veiled concerns of Santa Cruz authorities over the racially integrated nature of the event that prompted the rock-and-roll ban issued on this day in 1956.
READ MORE: 5 Reasons Why Woodstock '69 Became Legendary]]>
Union General Ulysses S. Grant makes what he later recognizes to be his greatest mistake by ordering a frontal assault on entrenched Confederates at Cold Harbor, Virginia. The result was some 7,000 Union casualties in less than an hour of fighting.
Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had already inflicted frightful losses upon each other as they wheeled along an arc around Richmond, Virginia—from the Wilderness forest to Spotsylvania and numerous smaller battle sites—the previous month.
On May 30, Lee and Grant collided at Bethesda Church. The next day, the advance units of the armies arrived at the strategic crossroads of Cold Harbor, just 10 miles from Richmond, where a Yankee attack seized the intersection. Sensing that there was a chance to destroy Lee at the gates of Richmond, Grant prepared for a major assault along the entire Confederate front on June 2.
But when Winfield Hancock’s Union corps did not arrive on schedule, the operation was postponed until the following day. The delay was tragic for the Union, because it gave Lee’s troops time to entrench. Perhaps frustrated with the protracted pursuit of Lee’s army, Grant gave the order to attack on June 3—a decision that resulted in an unmitigated disaster. The Yankees met murderous fire, and were only able to reach the Confederate trenches in a few places. The 7,000 Union casualties, compared to only 1,500 for the Confederates, were all lost in under an hour.
Grant pulled out of Cold Harbor nine days later and continued to try to flank Lee’s army. The next stop was Petersburg, south of Richmond, where a nine-month siege ensued. There would be no more attacks on the scale of Cold Harbor.
READ MORE: 7 Important Civil War Battles]]>
On June 3, 1916, United States President Woodrow Wilson signs into law the National Defense Act, which expanded the size and scope of the National Guard—the network of states’ militias that had been developing steadily since colonial times—and guaranteed its status as the nation’s permanent reserve force.
Though Theodore Roosevelt and other Republicans were pushing for U.S. intervention in World War I, Wilson, elected in 1912, maintained a position of neutrality throughout the first several years of the war. In the first half of 1916, however, with forces from the regular U.S. Army as well as the National Guard called out to face Mexican rebel leader Pancho Villa during his raids on states in the American Southwest, Wilson and Congress saw the need to reinforce the nation’s armed forces and increase U.S. military preparedness. The National Defense Act, ratified by Congress in May 1916 and signed by Wilson on June 3, brought the states’ militias more under federal control and gave the president authority, in case of war or national emergency, to mobilize the National Guard for the duration of the emergency.
The National Defense Act mandated that the term National Guard be used to refer to the combined network of states’ militias that became the primary reserve force for the U.S. Army. The term had first been adopted by New York’s militia in the years before the Civil War in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French hero of the American Revolution who commanded the Garde Nationale during the early days of the French Revolution in 1789. The National Defense Act also set qualifications for National Guard officers, allowing them to attend Army schools; all National Guard units would now be organized according to the standards of regular Army units. For the first time, National Guardsmen would receive payment from the federal government not only for their annual training—which was increased from 5 to 15 days—but also for their drills, which were also increased, from 24 per year to 48. Finally, the National Defense Act formally established the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) to train and prepare high school and college students for Army service.
Also in June 1916, Wilson secured passage of the Naval Appropriations Act, which set out to create a U.S. Navy equal to the most powerful in the world—Britain’s—by 1925. That November, Wilson was re-elected with the campaign slogan, "He kept us out of the war." His success was due less to his neutrality, however, than to his record on domestic policy, as U.S. public opinion—as well as the president’s own—had begun to move closer in line with those who favored intervention. By the following spring, Wilson had moved his country to the brink of war after continued German attacks on American interests at sea. On April 2, 1917, he would go before Congress to ask for a declaration of war. Four days later, the U.S. formally entered World War I.
READ MORE: Should the U.S. Have Entered World War I?]]>
On June 3, 1940, the German air force bombs Paris, killing 254 people, most of them civilians.
Determined to wreck France’s economy and military, reduce its population, and in short, cripple its morale as well as its ability to rally support for other occupied nations, the Germans bombed the French capital without regard to the fact that most of the victims were civilians, including schoolchildren. The bombing succeeded in provoking just the right amount of terror; France’s minister of the interior could only keep government officials from fleeing Paris by threatening them with severe penalties.
Despite the fact that the British Expeditionary Force was on the verge of completing its evacuation at Dunkirk, and that France was on the verge of collapse to the German invaders, the British War Cabinet was informed that Norway’s king, Haakon, had expressed complete confidence that the Allies would win in the end. The king, having made his prediction, then fled Norway for England, his own country now under German occupation.]]>