This Day In History, July 16th

What happened on this day in history: Pioneering civil rights activist Ida B. Wells is born, John F. Kennedy Jr. dies in a plane crash, and more.

1769: The First Catholic Mission Is Founded In California

The first Catholic mission is founded in present-day San Diego. Called Mission San Diego de Alcalá, it was created by a Franciscan priest named Father Junipero Serra. He went on to found eight more missions across present-day California.

1862: Ida B. Wells Is Born

July 16 In History

Public DomainIda B. Wells circa 1895.

Ida B. Wells is born in Holly Springs, Mississippi. A civil rights activist and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Wells started her life enslaved but was freed after the Civil War. She made a name for herself as a journalist and educator and powerfully documented the lynchings of Black Americans.

1945: The World’s First Atomic Bomb Is Tested

The world’s first atomic bomb is tested in Alamogordo, New Mexico. A product of the Manhattan Project, the bomb was finished as World War II began drawing to a close. It was soon deployed twice before war’s end when American forces dropped it on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

1979: Saddam Hussein Becomes President Of Iraq

Saddam Hussein becomes the president of Iraq. After assuming the presidency, Hussein used his power to gain a tight grip over Iraq. He used an extensive secret service network to suppress opposition, build up the armed forces, and build a cult of personality in Iraq. Until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, Hussein maintained power in the country. In 2006, Hussein was executed for crimes against humanity after a court found him guilty of murder and torture.

1999: John F. Kennedy Jr. Dies


Brownie Harris/Corbis via Getty ImagesJohn F. Kennedy Jr. was 38 years old when he fatally crashed his plane.

John F. Kennedy Jr. dies in a plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The son of President John F. Kennedy, John Jr. was flying his plane to a family wedding with his wife and sister-in-law. However, he became disoriented in the dark and crashed into the water, killing himself and his two passengers on impact.