This Month in History: April

April is all about springtime, things being renewed and looking forward; but it’s still important to look back on important events in history.

Let’s look at some important events that took place in Aprils past.

Supreme Court Ruling on African American Voting Rights

On April 3, 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down their ruling in Smith v. Allwright, helping to reestablish African American voting rights. This ruling determined that states and political parties cannot discriminate against voters or potential voters based on race.

At the time, Texas and other states delegated management of political primaries to the parties, which sometimes chose to prohibit African Americans from voting in their primary elections. This decision is often considered the first of many steps to breaking down racist Jim Crow laws.

US Supreme Court (StreetView)
US Supreme Court

First Modern Olympic Games Open in Athens, Greece

In ancient Greece, city-states held an Olympiad every four years with athletic competitions including wrestling, running and the javelin toss. The tradition lasted about 1200 years ending around 400 AD. After a 1500 year hiatus, the games were restarted on April 6, 1896, in Athens.

The modern games brought back a tradition of friendly competition, athleticism and national pride. The 1886 games were held in the ancient Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, which had been used for competitive sports events anciently.

It was was excavated in 1869 and, after some renovations made it safe for use, was the stadium for several Olympic events.

Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaron) (Google Maps)
Panathenaic Stadium (Kallimarmaron)

Official End of American Civil War

The Civil War was the bloodiest war fought on American soil, when the states fought over issues including slavery, sovereignty, and states’ rights for four years. On April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to General Grant’s Union Army at Appomattox Court House. While skirmishes occurred for a few more months, removing Lee’s army from the war meant the South had no chance of victory, and the surrender has been commemorated as the official end of the Civil War.

The battlefield has been turned into a national park, so everyone can learn more about the end of the war.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park (Google Maps)
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park

Lee surrendered to Grant at the McLean House, which is now a museum site.

McLean House - Civil War surrender site (StreetView)
McLean House - Civil War surrender site

Start of the American Civil War at Fort Sumter

When Confederate troops in Charleston started firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, on April 12, 1861, it signaled the start of the Civil War. In the months leading up to the battle, tensions were high between the federal military who held the fort and the Confederate troops in Charleston, South Carolina, who were part of the states who seceded from the Union. After little more than a day of fighting, the federal troops surrendered. The Battle of Fort Sumter was over, and the Civil War had begun.

You can visit the island fort in Charleston Harbor, and even learn about the lone soldier who died as a result of the battle, who haunts the fort to this day.

Fort Sumter (Google Maps)
Fort Sumter

Paul Revere’s Midnight Run

After years of conflict, war between Britain and her American colonies seemed inevitable by early 1775. Paul Revere and others in Boston waited to see British troop movements and warn surrounding cities, with the plan to hang lanterns in the Old North Church steeple. The famous “one if by land and two if by sea” was their signal.

On April 18, troops moved out, and the signal went up. Revere slipped out of Boston and was able to warn the residents of Concord, Massachusetts to hide their weapon supplies before the British arrived. The next day, April 19, the first battles of the Revolutionary War took place in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.

You can visit the Old North Church in Boston. It’s part of the “Freedom Trail”, a red trail painted throughout the city to provide a free walking tour of the city’s amazing history.

Old North Church Boston (Google Maps)
Old North Church Boston

Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

The Nazis persecuted Jews across Europe, including in Warsaw, Poland. In the early part of the war, Jews were forced to live in specific neighborhoods, called ghettos. As the war dragged on, the Nazis rounded up Jews and sent them to concentration camps. On April 19, 1943, the Nazis started rounding up the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto, but they were met with a coordinated revolt. Between 100 and 300 Nazi soldiers were killed, and an estimated 13,000 Jews died in the revolt, fighting or as victims of the violence during the weeks-long siege.

Parts of the wall still remain, and are preserved as a monument to what happened, and that it should not be allowed to happen ever again.

Section of the Warsaw Ghetto wall (Google Maps)
Section of the Warsaw Ghetto wall

There is also a memorial monument to honor those who died in the revolt.

Monument to the Ghetto Heroes (StreetView)
Monument to the Ghetto Heroes

William Shakespeare is Born

On April 23, 1564, the world gained one of it’s most talented and prolific playwrights. William Shakespeare was born that day in Stratford-upon-Avon. He was baptized on April 26 in the local church, so it’s assumed he was born on the 23rd, because babies at that time were baptized a few days after their birth.

Shakespeare's Birthplace (StreetView)
Shakespeare's Birthplace

Over his lifetime, Shakespeare wrote at least 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and other writings. Many of his plays were performed at the Globe Theater, which later burned down. It was rebuilt in 1997, and is a major tourist attraction in London, performing Shakespeare’s works in honor of The Bard.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre (Birds Eye)
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre

Rodney King Riots

On March 3, 1991, four Los Angeles police officers brutally beat Rodney King after he evaded arrest in a residential area of San Fernando.

Location of the Rodney King Beating (Birds Eye)
Location of the Rodney King Beating

The beating, caught on camera, led to the officers being prosecuted, but on April 29, 1992, three were acquitted and the fourth was not convicted. Hours after the verdicts were announced, the city erupted in violent riots. Over the next six days, 63 people were killed, more than 2,000 were injured, and more than $1 billion in damage to property was sustained across the city.

These are just some of the important, influential and remarkable things that have taken place in history. As we know now more than ever, history is continually being made, and things that happen today will be remembered and retold for generations.