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What Happened on March 21?

  • The first rock and roll concert was held in America. (1952) The Moondog Coronation Ball was hosted by DJ Alan Freed, who is said to have coined the term "rock and roll." The first rock and roll concert was shut down after the first act, when it appeared that a riot might break out.

  • The Selma to Montgomery march began. (1965) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began leading thousands of Civil Rights demonstrators from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama. The march was a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement and was protected by Federal troops by the order of the President.

  • President Jimmy Carter announced that the US would boycott the Moscow Olympics. (1980) Carter was responding to the USSR failing to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, and the decision was accepted, if not popular, in America. The USSR responded by boycotting the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

  • Alcatraz prison was closed. (1963) "The Rock" was originally a military prison, but then became a maximum security facility until it was shut down by Attorney General Robert F Kennedy in 1963. Notable Alcatraz inmates include Al Capone, Ellsworth Raymond "Bumpy" Johnson, and Arthur R. "Doc" Barker.

  • The first Earth Day was held. (1970) The first Earth Day proclamation was issued by San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto, and several cities in California held celebrations and street parties. Earth Day went on to be celebrated in over 170 countries by the end of the 20th century.

  • Pope Pius VII was crowned with a papier-mâché tiara. (1800) The church was in a shambles after French invasions of Italy, and when Pope Pius VI died, his predecessor did not have access to the papal jewels. Locals quickly made a papier-mâché papal tiara for Pius VII, which remained in use until 1845.

  • Journalist Henry Stanley began searching for Dr. David Livingstone. (1871) Livingstone had been on an expedition in Africa for six years with little contact, and most people presumed he was dead. Stanley found him in October of 1871, and greeted him with the now famous phrase, "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?"

  • The first zoological society in the US was incorporated. (1859) The Philadelphia Zoological Society was the first of its kind in the US, though it didn't open until 1874 because of the Civil War. The zoo has historically been one of the best in America in terms of animal care and breeding programs, and was one of the first to house animals in natural habitats.

  • Otto von Bismarck came to power in Germany. (1871) Bismarck was an extremely influential politician, and was best known for uniting modern Germany for the first time in history.

  • The iconic Dallas season finale aired. (1980) The show is still known for its cliffhanger ending in which the character J.R. was shot by an unknown assailant. The phrase, "Who shot J.R.?" was a nationwide phenomenon until the next season, and people even gambled on the result. The craze spread outside the US too — on the day the next episode aired, the Turkish parliament held a special holiday so members could go home to watch.

Discussion Comments

By merlinus — On Mar 21, 2018

Stanley's formal greeting to Dr. Livingstone, was because the word 'hello' was not used as a greeting until after the telephone was invented in 1876 (a variant of the hunting cry 'Haloo'.)

By Hazali — On Mar 22, 2014

Though we still have a long way to go as far as racism is concerned, Martin Luther King Jr was certainly one of the first people to make a stand against it. Not only was his "I Have A Dream" speech powerful and influential, but it was definitely a step in the right direction. Even till this day, he's left a mark.

By Viranty — On Mar 22, 2014

In reference to the fourth bullet point, why exactly was Alcatraz prison closed?

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