This Day In History, May 4th

What happened on this day in history: Construction begins on the Panama Canal, the Kent State massacre leaves four dead, and more.

1886: The Haymarket Riot Breaks Out

The Haymarket Riot breaks out at a Chicago labor protest, leading to the deaths of at least four civilians and seven police officers plus dozens of injuries. Labor activists had organized the rally to protest the police killings of several other workers at a strike the day before, and it turned violent when someone threw a bomb at the authorities. Eight protesters were convicted, though there was little evidence against them, and the riot ultimately proved to be a major setback for America’s organized labor movement.

1905: Construction Begins On The Panama Canal

Teddy Roosevelt At The Panama Canal

Wikimedia CommonsPresident Teddy Roosevelt sitting in a steam shovel at the Panama Canal in 1906.

After a failed attempt to build a waterway across Central America 25 years earlier, construction officially begins on the Panama Canal. The previous effort by a French company had been abandoned after 20,000 workers died and the business went bankrupt. The U.S. then gained jurisdiction over a 10-mile-wide strip of land across Panama on which to create the canal. Construction began on “Acquisition Day,” but it wasn’t complete until 1914.

1929: Audrey Hepburn Is Born

Audrey Hepburn Today In History

Wikimedia CommonsOne of the most celebrated performers of the 20th century, Audrey Hepburn is one of the few people to have ever won an Emmy, Oscar, Grammy, and Tony.

Actress Audrey Hepburn is born in Brussels, Belgium to a noble Dutch family. She moved to London in 1948 to study ballet, but she soon earned a role as a chorus girl in several West End musicals. Hepburn started appearing in small film roles, but she had a breakthrough in 1953 as the star of Roman Holiday alongside Gregory Peck. She won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA for her performance — and her acting career only skyrocketed from there. She’s remembered to this day as one of the most iconic actresses of her generation.

1961: The Freedom Riders Begin Their Historic Journeys

A group of 13 Freedom Riders board a Greyhound bus in Washington, D.C. and head to New Orleans to celebrate the anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The riders planned to protest segregated bus terminals, lunch counters, and restrooms during their journey, though violence from white protesters and police officers soon broke out along the route. Nevertheless, their journey inspired other Freedom Rides and brought significant attention to civil rights issues in the United States.

1970: The Kent State Massacre Leaves Four Dead

Kent State Massacre

John Paul Filo/Library of CongressJeffrey Miller was one of four students killed during the Kent State Massacre.

Four unarmed students at Ohio’s Kent State University are killed by National Guard soldiers during a peace rally to protest the Vietnam War. More than 300 students were gathered when 28 soldiers began firing into the crowd, killing four and wounding nine others. The massacre sparked a strike that saw 4 million students across the country walk out of school, and the photographs that emerged from the shooting became some of the most iconic images of the anti-Vietnam War movement.

2004: David Reimer Commits Suicide

David Reimer, a man who was forced to live as a girl, commits suicide at 38. After a botched circumcision left Reimer’s penis damaged, his parents decided to take one doctor’s advice: raise Reimer as a girl. Motive for this advice came partly out of intellectual curiosity. John Money, a sexologist, believed that gender was something learned at a young age, and Reimer’s case presented a rare opportunity to test that theory. Unfortunately, Reimer experienced terrible gender dysphoria until his parents revealed the truth. He lived as a male, taking testosterone supplements and receiving a prosthetic penis, until his death.