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This Week in History

This Week in History

This Week in History: February 20-26 – Lesson


John Glenn orbiting Earth. (Photo by Β© Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

MLK and Rosa Parks arrested in bus boycott and the first American orbited Earth.

β€œHistory is a vast early warning system.” ~ Norman Cousins

February 20, 1962: First American Orbits Earth

Astronaut John Glenn was the first American to orbit Earth. Aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft, Glenn completed three orbits in just under five hours. He reached an altitude of 162 miles. He was the third American to be put into space, following Alan Shepard and Virgil β€œGus” Grissom. The first human in space was Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who completed one orbit on April 12, 1961.

During this time there was an intense Space Race going on between Russia and America. After Glenn’s successful flight, President John F. Kennedy, in September 1962, announced plans to land an American on the moon before the end of the decade.

February 22, 1956: Alabama Bus Boycott Ends


Rosa Parks (centre), riding on a newly integrated bus following a Supreme Court ruling ending the Montgomery bus boycott. (Photo by Don Cravens/Getty Images)

Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and 73 others were arrested on February 22, 1956, as leaders of the Montgomery bus boycott, then released on bond. The protest began December 1, 1955, after Parks – a black seamstress and civil rights activist – was fined for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person in Montgomery, Alabama. Her arrest sparked outrage among the black community, who then refused to use the bus service. The boycott lasted 382 days.

Other Notable Mentions

February 21, 1965: Malcolm X, a Black Muslim leader and activist, was shot and killed while giving a speech in New York City.

February 21, 1972: President Richard Nixon arrived in China for what would be a historic meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai.

February 21, 1994: CIA agent Aldrich Ames was arrested after being accused of spying for the Soviet Union from 1985 to 1991.


President Nixon inspects Chinese soldiers with Premier Zhou Enlai. (Photo by Β© CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

February 23, 1942: The first attack on the U.S. mainland during World War II happened when a Japanese submarine shelled an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California.

February 24, 1582: The calendar changed. Pope Gregory XIII corrected mistakes on the ancient Julian calendar. He dropped 10 days and said that the day after October 4, 1592, would be October 15. The Gregorian calendar was adopted by Catholic countries and later Protestant nations and others.

February 26, 1848: Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto. This publication called for the end to private property as well as a system where workers would own all means of production, factories, machinery, and land.

Famous Birthdays

President George Washington (February 22, 1732) was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

W.E.B. Du Bois (February 23, 1868) was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. He was a black educator, leader, activist, and author.

William L. Shirer (February 23, 1904) was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was a news reporter stationed in Europe and witnessed the rise of Adolf Hitler. He wrote the first major history of Nazi Germany, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

β€œBuffalo Bill” Cody (February 26, 1846) was born in Scott County, Indiana. He claimed to have killed more than 4,000 buffalo in 17 months. His Wild West show traveled the U.S. and Europe for 30 years.

β€œHistory is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.” ~ Alexis de Tocqueville