Independence Day – 5 moments that changed American history - Reuters News Agency

Independence Day – 5 moments that changed American history

As Americans around the world gear up to celebrate the Fourth of July, let’s revisit some of the moments that changed American history forever.
By Sandra Sparrowhawk | Jul 1, 2019
Each year, on 4th July, the United States of America celebrates its most significant national holiday, Independence Day.

On the same day in 1776, the Thirteen American Colonies, who at the time were still embroiled in a war with the British, declared themselves to be independent states no longer ruled by the British Empire. The Revolutionary War would last for five more years until 1783, when the United States, with the signing of the Treaty of Paris with Britain, formally became a free and independent nation.

As this year marks the 243rd Independence Day, let’s look back at some of the turning points in US history.

The Mann Act is passed

On June 25th, 1910, the Mann Act, or White Slave Traffic Act, was passed prohibiting the interstate or foreign commerce transport of “any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose.”

Though the law’s primary intent was to address immorality, prostitution and human trafficking, its ambiguous language eventually resulted in consequences that would go beyond the original intent.

An example of this was the wrongful conviction of heavyweight champion Jack Johnson in 1912. Johnson was convicted not once, but twice under the Mann Act and sentenced to a year in prison as a result of racially motivated charges against him.

He was posthumously pardoned by president Donald Trump in May 2018 – 105 years after his conviction.

The 19th Amendment is adopted

The 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote, was formally ratified into the U.S. Constitution by proclamation of Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby on August 18, 1920. The amendment was the result of more than 70 years of fighting by women’s suffragists and acted as a stepping-stone towards a long-overdue progress on the female higher education and professional front.

Its two sections read: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex” and “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

Though this political equality was implied in the 14th Amendment in 1868, the majority of states continued to limit or ban women’s suffrage until 1920.

Charles Lindbergh arrives in Paris

On May 21st, 1927, Charles Lindbergh did what no other pilot had accomplished before him: He successfully completed a solo, nonstop transatlantic flight in his monoplane, the ‘Spirit of St. Louis’. He did so in precisely 33 hours and 32 minutes.

Though Lindberg was not the first pilot to fly across the Atlantic, or even the first to do so without any stopovers, he was the first to master the journey alone – a feat that left a tremendous impression on the nation and the world.

For the first time ever, humankind began to visualize the opportunities the sky and eventually, global air traffic presented – akin to the roads used by cars today.

Jackie Robinson breaks color barrier in major league baseball

Jackie Robinson’s debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15th, 1947, marked the first time an African American participated in a major league baseball game since the 19th century. At the time, America was a largely segregated society and manager Branch Rickey’s decision to put Robinson on the ML team was met with public criticism that initially led to his ill-treatment by both fans of the sport and fellow players.

Though there was no law prohibiting African Americans from entering the major league at the time, the Commissioner of Baseball at the time, Kenesaw Landis, advised everyone “to abide by the gentleman’s agreement.”

It would take another 12 years before every major league team had at least one African American player on their team.

Apollo 11 lands on the moon

When on May 25th, 1961, former president John F. Kennedy optimistically announced that a human would be flying to the moon and back by the end of the decade, Americans had only just completed their first manned space mission (lasting a total of 15 minutes!). A moon landing at a time when humanity’s technology reached as far as black and white television and rotary phones was still unimaginable.

And yet, on July 21st, 1969, Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot onto another planet when Apollo 11 successfully landed on the moon with him and lunar module pilot Buzz Aldrin in tow.

“That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind” were the famous first words commander Neil Armstrong radioed back to Earth when touching down on the lunar surface 50 years ago.

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