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This Day in U.S. History: May 20


1520 – The massacre at the festival of Tóxcatl takes place during the Fall of Tenochtitlan, resulting in turning the Aztecs against the Spanish.

1775 – Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence is signed in Charlotte, North Carolina

1861 – American Civil War: The state of Kentucky proclaims its neutrality, which will last until September 3 when Confederate forces enter the state. Meanwhile, the State of North Carolina secedes from the Union.

1862 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signs the Homestead Act into law.

1864 – American Civil War: Battle of Ware Bottom Church: In the Virginia Bermuda Hundred Campaign, 10,000 troops fight in this Confederate victory.

1873 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.

1891 – History of Cinema: The first public display of Thomas Edison's prototype kinetoscope.

1899 – The first traffic ticket in the US: New York City taxi driver Jacob German was arrested for speeding while driving 12 miles per hour on Lexington Street.

1902 – Cuba gains independence from the United States. Tomás Estrada Palma becomes the country's first President.

1916 – The Saturday Evening Post publishes its first cover with a Norman Rockwell painting (Boy with Baby Carriage).

1927 – At 07:52 Charles Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field in Long Island, New York, on the world's first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. He touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris at 22:22 the next day.

1932 – Amelia Earhart takes off from Newfoundland to begin the world's first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean by a female pilot, landing in Ireland the next day.

1940 – The Holocaust: The first prisoners arrive at a new concentration camp at Auschwitz.

1956 – In Operation Redwing, the first United States airborne hydrogen bomb is dropped over Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.

1964 – Discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Robert Woodrow Wilson and Arno Penzias.

1969 – The Battle of Hamburger Hill in Vietnam ends.

1983 – First publications of the discovery of the HIV virus that causes AIDS in the journal Science by Luc Montagnier.

1985 – Radio Martí, part of the Voice of America service, begins broadcasting to Cuba.

1996 – Civil rights: The Supreme Court of the United States rules in Romer v. Evans against a law that would have prevented any city, town or county in the state of Colorado from taking any legislative, executive, or judicial action to protect the rights of gays and lesbians.

2013 – An EF5 tornado strikes the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, killing 24 people and injuring 377 others.


1663 – William Bradford, English-American printer (d. 1752)

1743 – Toussaint Louverture, Haitian revolutionary, Lieutenant Governor of Saint-Domingue (d. 1803)

1759 – William Thornton, Virgin Islander-American architect, designed the United States Capitol (d. 1828)

1768 – Dolley Madison American wife of James Madison, 4th First Lady of the United States (d. 1849)

1818 – William Fargo, American businessman and politician, co-founded Wells Fargo and American Express (d. 1881)

1899 – John Marshall Harlan II, American lawyer and jurist (d. 1971)

1908 – Francis Raymond Fosberg, American botanist and author (d. 1993)

1908 – James Stewart, American actor and singer (d. 1997)

1911 – Gardner Fox, American author (d. 1986)

1913 – William Redington Hewlett, American engineer, co-founded Hewlett-Packard (d. 2001)

1927 – Bud Grant, American football player and coach

1944 – Joe Cocker, English singer-songwriter (The Grease Band) (d. 2014)

1949 – Mary Pope Osborne, American author

1958 – Ron Reagan, American journalist and radio host

1972 – Busta Rhymes, American rapper, producer, and actor (The Conglomerate and Leaders of the New School)

1984– Patrick Ewing, Jr., American basketball player


1989 – Gilda Radner, American actress, singer, and screenwriter (b. 1946)

1992 – Roger Keith Coleman, American coal miner and murderer (b. 1958)

2008 – Hamilton Jordan, American politician, 8th White House Chief of Staff (b. 1944)

2011 – Randy Savage, American wrestler and actor (b. 1952)