What happened on this day in history: Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in 1968, the World Trade Center opens in 1973, and more.
1841: William Henry Harrison Dies
William Henry Harrison dies at the age of 68 in Washington D.C., possibly from pneumonia, though contaminated drinking water is also suspected.
The ninth president of the United States, Harrison died just 31 days after his inauguration. His death plunged the nation into crisis because no president had died in office before, and it was unclear if his vice president, John Tyler, should assume the full powers of the presidency in his place. He’s widely considered one of the worst presidents in American history despite his short tenure.
1928: Maya Angelou Is Born
Maya Angelou is born in St. Louis, Missouri. A poet, author, and civil rights activist, Angelou had a traumatic childhood that she often channeled into her writing. She wrote seven autobiographies, including Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), and poems like “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she recited at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993.
1958: Cheryl Crane Stabs Johnny Stompanato To Death
Cheryl Crane stabs Johnny Stompanato to death in Beverly Hills, California. The 14-year-old daughter of actress Lana Turner, Crane allegedly killed Stompanato because he was abusive toward her mother. A court ultimately ruled that Stompanato’s death was a “justifiable homicide.”
1968: Martin Luther King Jr. Is Assassinated
Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 39.
A writer, Baptist minister, and one of the leaders of the civil rights movement, King had long advocated for Black and poor Americans, preaching that nonviolent protest could create widespread change. He was shot and killed by James Earl Ray in the early evening while standing on the hotel’s balcony.
1973: The World Trade Center Opens In New York
The World Trade Center opens in New York City. Then the world’s tallest buildings, both towers stood approximately 1,3000 feet tall (though an antenna on the North Tower made it around 1,700 feet tall). The buildings were destroyed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.