What happened on this day in history: Jazz icon Billie Holiday is born, mobster Joe Gallo is murdered at Umberto's Clam House, and more.
1803: Toussaint L’Ouverture Dies
Toussaint L’Ouverture dies while imprisoned at Fort-de-Joux, France from pneumonia and starvation at the age of 59. The leader of the Haitian independence movement, L’Ouverture’s rebellion succeeded in gaining control over the entire island of Hispaniola and ending slavery. However, he remained an enemy of the French, who arrested L’Ouverture in 1802.
1915: Billie Holiday Is Born
Eleanora Fagan, later known as Billie Holiday, is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A jazz singer, Holiday is perhaps best known for her rendition of “Strange Fruit,” a haunting ballad about the horrors of lynching. Though the song became highly controversial after Holiday debuted it in 1939, it was later dubbed the “best song of the century” by Time magazine.
1963: Josip Broz Tito Declared President Of Yugoslavia For Life
The new Yugoslavia constitution declares Tito as the country’s president for life. Born Josip Broz, Tito rapidly rose through the ranks of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and was elected as the Yugoslav premier after World War II. He remained in power until his death in 1980.
1972: Joe Gallo Is Murdered
Joseph “Crazy Joe” Gallo is shot and killed in New York City at the age of 43. An Italian-American mobster who worked with the Colombo family, Gallo was allegedly behind mob hits like the deaths of Albert Anastasia and Joseph Colombo. He was killed by unknown gunmen at Umberto’s Clam House while celebrating his birthday with his family.
1987: The Chippendales Murders Begin
The Chippendale murders begin in New York. In the 1980s and 1990s, the founder of the male dance group Chippendales, Steve Banerjee, plotted several murders across the United States to protect his brand. In 1979, Banerjee ordered someone to burn down “Moody’s Disco,” a rival nightclub. In 1987, Banerjee ordered the murder of choreographer Nick De Noia. The FBI later caught up to Banerjee after a hitman got cold feet, and before a court could sentence him for his crimes, Banerjee committed suicide.
1994: The Rwandan Genocide Begins
The Rwandan genocide begins after the death of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana in a plane crash. President Habyarimana had been traveling to attend peace talks to end the Rwandan Civil War. A day after his plane crashed, Rwandan Hutus began a genocide against the Rwandan Tutsis. An estimated 500,000 people died during the conflict, making it one of deadliest civil wars in human history.