March 4, 1933: First Inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt
On this day in 1933, the first inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt was held in Washington, D.C. The longest-serving president in U.S. history, and leader through the Great Depression and World War II — two of the nation’s worst crises — Franklin Delano Roosevelt is considered by many to be our greatest president.
Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Joseph Robinson in Washington, Washington, D.C., March 4, 1933 (National Archives).
March 3rd 1931: ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ adopted
On this day in 1931, the United States formally adopted 'The Star-Spangled Banner' as its national anthem. The song was written by Francis Scott Key, who was inspired after witnessing the defence of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. He was particularly moved by the sight of an American flag being raised over the fort in defiance of the British; this image inspired the poem which provides the lyrics to ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. The tune came from a well-known 18th century British song. The anthem was a popular patriotic American song for many years, and was commonly used by the armed forces prior to its official adoption. In 1931, at the urging of many patriotic organisations, a congressional resolution was signed by President Hoover which affirmed Key’s song as America’s national anthem.
Black history is American history! Thank you for celebrating with us all month long!
February 25, 1870: America’s First Black Senator Is Sworn In
Hiram Rhodes Revels, the country’s first African American member of U.S. Congress, took his seat on this day in 1870, representing the state of Mississippi. Southern Democrats, who were for the most part supporters of segregation, tried to block his nomination.
Just before the Senate agreed to admit a black man to its ranks on February 25, Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sized up the importance of the moment: “All men are created equal, says the great Declaration,” Sumner roared, “and now a great act attests this verity. Today we make the Declaration a reality…. The Declaration was only half established by Independence. The greatest duty remained behind. In assuring the equal rights of all we complete the work.”
Revel’s term lasted little more than a year. Hiram Rhodes Revels impressed many political observers with his oratorical gifts and moderate temperament.
Dive deeper into the story behind Revel’s election with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’s The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross.
February 24th 1803: Marbury v. Madison
On this day in 1803 in the case Marbury v. Madison the US Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review. The case arose when Secretary of State James Madison failed to deliver documents to Justice of the Peace for DC William Marbury which officially granted his title. The Court decided that the section of the 1789 Judiciary Act allowing Marbury to bring his claim to the Court was itself unconstitutional. On February 24th the Court ruled unanimously to this effect. The decision gave the Supreme Court the power to interpret the constitution and strike down laws as ‘unconstitutional’. Since then, the Court have made many high-profile rulings branding things unconstitutional. For example: school segregation in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954); school prayer in Engel v. Vitale (1962); teaching creationism in science lessons in Edwards v. Aguillard (1987) and the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor (2013).
Astronaut John H. Glenn, Jr. became the first American to orbit the Earth on February 20, 1962. With the world watching the historic and live-televised event, Glenn orbited the Earth three times in his space capsule, Friendship 7. Four hours and 55 minutes after ignition, John Glenn and Friendship 7 returned to Earth and splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean.
The John Glenn Story, 1963
From the series: Headquarters’ Films Relating to Aeronautics, 1962 - 1981,Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.