This Month in History: December

They say those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. While much of history would be fun to relive, it is important to know what events and people have come before us and to understand their impact on our lives and our world.

Let’s see some of the important events of Decembers past.

December 1: Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man after a long day of work,  starting a bus boycott that lasted more than a year, included a case considered by the Supreme Court, and led to the integration of the city’s bus system.

The boycott was supported and publicized by many important civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

Now there’s a wonderful museum that commemorates Rosa Parks and her influence on American history, located in downtown Montgomery.

Rosa Parks Library and Museum (Birds Eye)
Rosa Parks Library and Museum

December 8: John Lennon Assassination

The Beatles are the most famous band in music history, and John Lennon was the founding member and lead singer. After the band broke up in 1970, Lennon lived with his family in New York City.

On December 8, 1980, as he was returning from a recording session, he was assassinated by a deranged fan, Mark David Chapman.

His ashes were scattered near the family residence in Central Park, and the Strawberry Fields Memorial was later created for fans to pay their respects and remember the musician.

Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial) (Birds Eye)
Strawberry Fields (John Lennon memorial)

December 14: George Washington Dies

From a young age, George Washington seemed destined to influence history. As military hero, then commander of the military of what would become the United States of America, and the president of the Constitutional Convention, Washington was the country’s founding hero. He served as the United States’ first president before returning to private life at Mount Vernon in Virginia.

There he caught a cold and after a few days of complications, died on December 14, 1799. The country immediately mourned his death, and he still stands as a figure of legendary leadership, wisdom and humility.

George Washington's Mount Vernon Plantation (Birds Eye)
George Washington's Mount Vernon Plantation

December 18: Battle of Verdun Ends

World War I was the first major modern war, and held the entire world in its terrible grip. The size and scope of the battles were on scales never before seen. Battles raged on for months with little to show other than astronomical body counts on both sides.

The Battle of Verdun lasted from February 21 to December 18, 1916, when the Germans surrendered to the French. Roughly 300,000 men on both sides died, making it both one of the longest and most deadly battles in history.

A memorial on the battlefield commemorates both French and German troops, as well as the civilian casualties of the battle.

Verdun Memorial (Google Maps)
Verdun Memorial

December 21: Pan Am Flight 103 Blows Up

About one hour into the transatlantic flight from London to New York, Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up, killing all 259 people on the plane and 11 people on the ground.

The airplane debris landed near and in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, causing significant damage to homes and structures. While two Libyan nationals were accused and one convicted, their guilt has never been certain, significant problems with the investigation were identified, and new suspects have continued to be considered.

Remains of Pan Am Flight 103 (blown up over Lockerbie) (Google Maps)
Remains of Pan Am Flight 103 (blown up over Lockerbie)

December 25: Sir Isaac Newton is Born

On December 25, 1642, Isaac Newton was born in the small English town Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth.

Woolsthorpe Manor (Bing Maps)
Woolsthorpe Manor

By the time he died 84 years later, he had developed a body of work that has led him to be considered one of the world’s most important scientists. His understanding of gravity has been said to be inspired by watching an apple fall in his garden.

While it probably didn’t hit his head as written by Voltaire, he did write about the thinking and there is an apple tree in the garden of the family home, making it likely that the story is basically true.

Sir Isaac Newton's apple tree (StreetView)
Sir Isaac Newton's apple tree

December 29: Murder of Thomas Becket

Thomas Becket was born a minor English noble in 1119, but his hard work and good connections led to him being appointed Chancellor under King Henry II and eventually as Archbishop of Canterbury, the most important religious position in the country. Expected to put the concerns of the king over those of the church, Becket instead maintained the primacy of the church, infuriating the king who famously muttered “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome prince?”.

Shortly thereafter, he was assassinated by four knights. He quickly became a saint in the Catholic church and is still one of the most venerated saints in the Anglican church as well.

Canterbury Cathedral (Bing Maps)
Canterbury Cathedral

These are just a few of the interesting, important and world-changing events that have happened in the past. Perhaps the things we do will have as much impact on the future. It’s in our hands!

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