What Happened on January 20?

  • Iran released 52 US hostages. (1981) The hostages had been held for almost 450 days, one of the longest durations of a hostage situation in modern history. The way President Carter handled the situation was extremely unpopular, and the hostages were only released after he turned the presidency over to Ronald Reagan.

  • The March Against Death took place. (1969) The March Against Death was a massive protest against American involvement in Vietnam. It consisted of almost 50,000 people, and lasted for more than two days and two nights. Despite the heavy news coverage it gathered, the march did not markedly affect US policy in the Vietnam War.

  • Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated for a fourth term. (1941) Roosevelt was the only president to be elected to four terms. He led America for almost 20 years before dying in 1945.

  • The Nazi Party arrived at the "final solution for the Jewish problem." (1942) The "solution" consisted of sending massive numbers of Jews and other "undesirables" to death camps. Though almost one million Jews had been killed before the "solution" was agreed upon, it ushered in the worst stage of the Holocaust.

  • The English Parliament held its first meeting. (1265) The parliament went on to become the main governing body in Britain. Though its power waxed and waned throughout the centuries, the parliament remains notable as one of the first systems of representative government.

  • Hong Kong was handed over to Britain. (1841) The port was a huge trading center even at that time, and was handed over to the British as a concession after the First Opium War. British occupation of Hong Kong was one of the first and longest-lasting European settlements in Asia, and greatly influenced the development of the surrounding area, as well as the relationship between China and the West.

  • The first full-length movie filmed outdoors was released. (1929) In Old Arizona was the first full-length talking motion picture to be filmed outdoors. It was also one of the first American Western movies, and heavily influenced the conventions of the genre, including the image of the "movie cowboy."

  • The first presidential tour ended. (1789) George Washington made a stagecoach tour of all the Northern States that had ratified the US constitution. Two months later, he set off on another multi-thousand mile tour of the Southern states.

  • John Marshall was appointed Chief Justice of the United States. (1801) Marshall had a hand in almost every major court case for the next half-century, and was largely responsible for shaping the US judicial system.

  • A massive persecution of Christians began in Rome. (250) Emperor Decius issued an edict for the suppression of Christianity throughout the Roman empire, sparking widespread persecution that lasted for more than ten years.

Discussion Comments


Some time in the early 1950's I attended a "Cowboy" movie in which the entire dialog was sung in an "operetta" style.

Very unconventional, and very poorly attended! It was 15 cents thoroughly wasted! --CHB


Were we lucky and he lived, FDR would still be president. Though the USA is still doing very well.

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