1776 – American Revolution: With the Halifax Resolves, the North Carolina Provincial Congress authorizes its Congressional delegation to vote for independence from Britain.
1861 – American Civil War: The war begins with Confederate forces firing on Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
1862 – American Civil War: The Andrews Raid (the Great Locomotive Chase) occurs, starting from Big Shanty, Georgia (now Kennesaw).
1864 – American Civil War: The Battle of Fort Pillow: Confederate forces kill most of the African American soldiers that surrendered at Fort Pillow, Tennessee.
1865 – American Civil War: Mobile, Alabama, falls to the Union Army.
1927 – Rocksprings, Texas was hit by an F5 tornado that destroyed 235 of the 247 buildings in the town and killed 72 townspeople and injured 205; third deadliest tornado in Texas history.
1934 – The strongest surface wind gust in the world at the time of 231 mph, is measured on the summit of Mount Washington, New Hampshire. It has since been surpassed.
1934 – The U.S. Auto-Lite strike begins, culminating in a five-day melee between Ohio National Guard troops and 6,000 strikers and picketers.
1945 – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt dies while in office; Vice President Harry Truman, becomes President upon Roosevelt's death.
1945 – The U.S. Ninth Army under General William H. Simpson crosses the Elbe River astride Magdeburg, and reached Tangermünde—only 50 miles from Berlin.
1955 – The polio vaccine, developed by Dr. Jonas Salk, is declared safe and effective.
1961 – The Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin becomes the first human to travel into outer space and perform the first manned orbital flight, Vostok 1.
1981 – The first launch of a Space Shuttle (Columbia) takes place: The STS-1 mission.
1990 – Jim Gary's "Twentieth Century Dinosaurs" exhibition opens at the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He is the only sculptor ever invited to present a solo exhibition there.
1999 – US President Bill Clinton is cited for contempt of court for giving "intentionally false statements" in a sexual harassment civil lawsuit.
1724 – Lyman Hall, American physician, clergyman, and politician (d. 1790)
1898 – Lily Pons, French-American soprano and actress (d. 1976)
1930 – Manuel Neri, American sculptor and painter
1932 – Tiny Tim, American singer and ukulele player (d. 1996)
1940 – Herbie Hancock, American pianist, composer, and bandleader
1957 – Vince Gill, American singer-songwriter and guitarist
1957 – Tama Janowitz, American novelist and short story writer
1971 – Shannen Doherty, American actress, director, and producer
1979 – Claire Danes, American actress
1878 – William M. Tweed, American lawyer and politician (b. 1823)
1912 – Clara Barton, American nurse and humanitarian, founded the American Red Cross (b. 1821)
1945 – Franklin D. Roosevelt, American lawyer and politician, 32nd President of the United States (b. 1882)
1975 – Josephine Baker, American-French actress, singer, and dancer (b. 1906)
1977 – Philip K. Wrigley, American businessman, co-founded Lincoln Park Gun Club (b. 1894)
1981 – Joe Louis, American boxer, wrestler, and actor (b. 1914)
1989 – Abbie Hoffman, American activist, co-founded Youth International Party (b. 1936)
1989 – Sugar Ray Robinson, American boxer and actor (b. 1921)
1999 – Boxcar Willie, American singer-songwriter (b. 1931)
2013 – William Y. Thompson, American historian and author (b. 1922)
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