What Happened on June 21?

  • The U.S. Constitution took effect. (1788) New Hampshire ratified it, the 9th state to do so. It is the oldest and shortest written constitution currently observed.

  • Ku Klux Klan (KKK) members murder three civil rights workers. (1964) Eight KKK members were sentenced to prison, but none for more than six years. In 2005, 41 years later to the day, KKK member Edgar Ray Killen was convicted for the manslaughter and sentenced to 60 years. He was 80 years old when he went to prison.

  • John Hinkley Jr. was found innocent by reason of insanity. (1982) Hinkley shot President Ronald Reagan on March 30, 1981. He eluded a prison sentence but was committed to a psychiatric facility.

  • Josef Mengele's skeleton was identified. (1985) Nazi war criminal, Dr. Mengele died in Brazil in 1979. He had been on the war criminals list since 1944 and had gone into hiding. After his skeleton was positively identified, his family refused to take possession of the bones.

  • Jean-Paul Sartre was born. (1905) Sartre was a 20th century existentialist and philosopher. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1964, but was one of the very few people in history to turn it down.

  • The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) debuted its first game. (1997) The game featured the New York Liberty against the Los Angeles Sparks. The league started with eight teams and has grown to 12. The WNBA is fully backed by the NBA. The very first women's league, the Women's Professional Basketball League (WBL), played three seasons between 1978 and 1981.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag was protected by the U.S. Constitution. (1989) In Texas v. Johnson, the court protect flag burning, calling it an expression of free speech that was protected under the First Amendment.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court established the obscenity test. (1973) In Miller v. California, the court established the three-part "Miller Test," which governs U.S. obscenity laws. If speech is found to be obscene, it is not considered protected speech under the First Amendment.

  • American playwright Arthur Miller wouldn't name names. (1956) The House Committee on Un-American Activities wanted a list of people who might be communists; Miller wouldn't comply. Miller was one of hundreds of entertainers that the committee blacklisted under suspicion of being communist; most never were able to rebuild their careers. In 1947, the investigative committee blacklisted the first 10 people, famously called the Hollywood Ten.

  • The album Mr. Tambourine Man was released. (1965) The single from the album of the same name was released on April 12th that year. For many, the album signaled the start of the folk rock era — the press in the U.S. coined the term "folk rock" to describe the band's musical genre.

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