What Happened on February 21?

  • Richard Nixon arrived in Beijing. (1972) The visit was an unprecedentedly friendly move on the part of both countries, which had been at odds since the late 1940s. Both sides made political concessions, and Nixon came away with a present of two pandas.

  • Malcolm X was assassinated. (1965) The major Civil Rights movement leader and human rights activist was assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam on this day as he gave a speech for the Organization of Afro-American Unity. The funeral received a lot of publicity because of his controversial standing in the public opinion, but the New York Post wrote that "even his sharpest critics recognized his brilliance."

  • Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto. (1848) The pamphlet went on to become one of the most influential writings in modern history, and influenced the thought of Lenin, Stalin, Mao Zedong, and others.

  • The first successful flying car flew. (1937) Walter Waterman's "Arrowbile," a vehicle that worked as a car on the ground, but could also fly like an airplane, had its first flight. Waterman was also a major force behind the invention of the modern airplane, and his Arrowbile, along with other contributions, can still be seen in the Smithsonian museums.

  • The Battle of Verdun began. (1916) This was the longest battle of World War I, and lasted for about ten months. Though little actual ground was gained, both sides suffered over 60 percent losses, characterizing the useless, bloody nature of the war for many people.

  • Double agent Aldrich Ames was arrested. (1994) Ames was a major CIA operative, but was caught selling secrets to the USSR. He was responsible for the deaths of at least ten US spies, and also had the distinction of being the most highly-paid double agent in US-USSR history.

  • NASCAR was incorporated. (1948) The National Association for Stock Car Racing quickly became extremely popular, since the racers drove the same kinds of cars that as normal drivers. NASCAR went on to become a multi-billion dollar event with lucrative corporate sponsorship and a huge international fanbase.

  • The Polaroid camera had its first demonstration. (1947) The inventor, Edwin Land, demonstrated the "Polaroid Land Camera," the first instant camera on this day to the Optical Society of America. The Polaroid camera went on sale to the public the next year, and could produce about one picture per minute.

  • Henry Kissinger began secret negotiations with North Vietnam. (1970) It was the first of several secret meetings between Kissinger and North Vietnamese officials, none of which were especially effective. The war would go on for five more years.

  • The last Carolina Parakeet died. (1918) The only native parrot species in the Eastern US, the Carolina Parakeet went extinct through a combination of loss of environment and overhunting for their decorative feathers. Coincidentally, the last Carolina Parakeet died in the same cage in which the last Passenger Pigeon died.

Discussion Comments


@Chmander - Yeah, more than often, it's our fault that species end up extinct. For example, did you know that in this day and age, tigers are endangered? They're constantly being hunted for their fur, and their numbers are dying out. I wonder if there's anything we can do to save them.


I didn't know about Carolina Parakeet before reading, but it's sad to know that they died off. That's the thing with a lot of these species. It seems like they're going to be around forever, but because of us, their numbers lower and lower, until they eventually die out.

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