This Day In History, August 21st

What happened on this day in history: Nat Turner's rebellion begins in southeastern Virginia, the Mona Lisa is stolen off the walls of the Louvre, and more.

1831: Nat Turner Launches A Rebellion Of Enslaved People

Nat Turner leads a rebellion of around 75 enslaved Africans against their enslavers in Southampton County, Virginia. They killed about 55 white people in the area, making it the deadliest slave revolt in the history of the United States. The rebellion was suppressed after a few days, and Turner was tracked down and executed about six weeks later.

1911: The Mona Lisa Is Stolen

Today In History August 21

Public DomainThe Mona Lisa is returned to the Louvre after being stolen.

The Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, is stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris. The thief, Vincenzo Peruggia, went undetected until about two years later when he tried to sell the painting to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. He was soon arrested, but he served only seven months in jail. Peruggia claimed he’d stolen the painting in order to bring it back to Italy, where he believed it belonged.

1955: The Kelly-Hopkinsville UFO Incident Takes Place

The Sutton family from Kelly, Kentucky rushes into the police station in nearby Hopkinsville and claims a UFO landed on their farm. Multiple family members swore they saw aliens disembark and peep into their windows.

Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 80: UFOs Part 1: History’s First Encounter With “Little Green Men,” also available on Apple and Spotify.

Their story, now known as the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter, made national news as one of the most detailed alleged UFO sightings on record. When curious onlookers traveled to see the farm for themselves, the Suttons tried to charge for admission, causing the public to believe they concocted the story for money.

1959: Hawaii Becomes The 50th U.S. State

Hawaii becomes the 50th state of the United States. Back in the 19th century, Hawaii was ruled by a monarchy and was deeply economically tied to the United States. But in 1887, a group of non-native businessmen and lawyers forced Hawaiian King Kalākaua to sign a constitution that stripped power from the monarchy and prevented most Native Hawaiians from voting.

In 1893, a group of non-native landowners overthrew Queen Lili’uokalani and established the Republic of Hawaii. Soon afterward, it would become the Territory of Hawaii. After years of failed attempts to grant Hawaii statehood, the U.S. Congress finally passed a resolution that officially entered Hawaii into the Union in 1959.

1986: Carbon Dioxide Erupts From Lake Nyos In Cameroon

Lake Nyos

Public DomainLake Nyos, eight days after the eruption.

A large cloud of lethal gas erupts from the bottom of Lake Nyos in Cameroon, killing 1,746 people and more than 3,500 livestock nearby. Known as a limnic eruption, the resulting cloud descended on nearby villages, displacing the air and suffocating people up to 15 miles away. Experts believe the disaster may have been triggered by a landslide or a small volcanic eruption.

1992: The Ruby Ridge Siege Begins

The Ruby Ridge siege begins near Ruby Ridge in Idaho when federal agents preparing to arrest white separatist Randy Weaver come across his son and dog in the woods, resulting in a shootout that leaves Deputy U.S. Marshal William F. Degan, 14-year-old Sammy Weaver, and the dog, Striker, dead.