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This Day in U.S. History: May 4


1493 – Pope Alexander VI divides the New World between Spain and Portugal along the Line of Demarcation.

1626 – Dutch explorer Peter Minuit arrives in New Netherland (present day Manhattan Island) aboard the See Meeuw.

1776 – Rhode Island becomes the first American colony to renounce allegiance to King George III.

1865 – Surrender of the Confederate departments of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana at Citronelle, Alabama.

1871 – The National Association, the first professional baseball league, opens its first season in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

1886 – Haymarket affair: A bomb is thrown at policemen trying to break up a labor rally in Chicago, United States, killing eight and wounding 60. The police fire into the crowd.

1904 – The United States begins construction of the Panama Canal.

1932 – In Atlanta, mobster Al Capone begins serving an eleven-year prison sentence for tax evasion.

1942 – World War II: The Battle of the Coral Sea begins with an attack by aircraft from the United States aircraft carrier USS Yorktown on Japanese naval forces at Tulagi Island in the Solomon Islands. The Japanese forces had invaded Tulagi the day before.

1945 – World War II: Neuengamme concentration camp near Hamburg is liberated by the British Army.

1946 – In San Francisco Bay, U.S. Marines from the nearby Treasure Island Naval Base stop a two-day riot at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. Five people are killed in the riot.

1953 – Ernest Hemingway wins the Pulitzer Prize for The Old Man and the Sea.

1961 – American civil rights movement: The "Freedom Riders" begin a bus trip through the South.

1970 – Vietnam War: Kent State shootings: The Ohio National Guard, sent to Kent State University after disturbances in the city of Kent the weekend before, opens fire killing four unarmed students and wounding nine others. The students were protesting the Cambodian Campaign of the United States and South Vietnam.

1988 – The PEPCON disaster rocks Henderson, Nevada, as tons of Space Shuttle fuel detonate during a fire.

1998 – A federal judge in Sacramento, California, gives "Unabomber" Theodore Kaczynski four life sentences plus 30 years after Kaczynski accepts a plea agreement sparing him from the death penalty.

2007 – Greensburg, Kansas is almost completely destroyed by a 1.7 mi wide EF5 tornado. It was the first-ever tornado to be rated as such with the new Enhanced Fujita scale.


1796 – Horace Mann, American educator and politician (d. 1859)

1796 – William H. Prescott, American historian and scholar (d. 1859)

1820 – Julia Gardiner Tyler, American wife of John Tyler, 11th First Lady of the United States (d. 1889)

1825 – Augustus Le Plongeon, English-American historian, photographer, and academic (d. 1908)

1826 – Frederic Edwin Church, American painter (d. 1900)

1889 – Francis Spellman, American cardinal (d. 1967)

1907 – Lincoln Kirstein, American soldier and playwright, co-founded the New York City Ballet (d. 1996)

1913 – John Broome, American author (d. 1999)

1922 – Eugenie Clark, American biologist and academic (d. 2015)

1940 – Robin Cook, American physician and author

1941 – George Will, American journalist and author

1951 – Colleen Hanabusa, American lawyer and politician

1951 – Jackie Jackson, American singer-songwriter and dancer (The Jackson 5)

1953 – Pia Zadora, American actress and singer

1967 – Ana Gasteyer, American actress and singer

1970 – Dawn Staley, American basketball player

1978 – Erin Andrews, American sportscaster and journalist

1979 – Lance Bass, American singer, dancer, and producer


1970 – Victims of the Kent State shootings

Allison Krause, American student (b. 1951)

Jeffrey Miller, American student (b. 1950)

Sandra Scheuer, American student (b. 1949)

William Knox Schroeder, American student (b. 1950)

1972 – Edward Calvin Kendall, American chemist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1886)

1973 – Jane Bowles, American author and playwright (b. 1917)

2005 – David Hackworth, American colonel and journalist (b. 1930)

2009 – Dom DeLuise, American actor, director, and producer (b. 1933)