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This Day in History


DCMP has an accessible video for your students for every day of December, with topics ranging from Civil Rights to the Hubble Space Telescope.

  • December 1, 1955: The birth of the modern American Civil Rights Movement occurred as Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back section of a municipal bus.
  • December 2, 1804: Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France by Pope Pius VII in Paris.
  • December 3, 1857: Polish novelist Joseph Conrad was born in the Ukraine. He is best known for his tales of seafaring life including Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim.
  • December 4, 1791: The Observer, now the oldest Sunday newspaper in the world, was first published in Britain.
  • December 5, 1492: Haiti was discovered by Christopher Columbus.
  • December 6, 1865: The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery.
  • December 7, 1941: The U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by nearly 200 Japanese aircraft.
  • December 8, 1765: Eli Whitney was born in Westborough, Massachusetts. His invention, the cotton gin, helped increase the production of cotton, and he also developed the concept of mass production of interchangeable parts and the assembly line.
  • December 9, 1993: Astronauts completed a five-day repair job in space on the Hubble Space Telescope.
  • December 10, 1785: Educator Thomas Gallaudet was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He cofounded the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut in 1817.
  • December 11, 1901: The first transatlantic radio signal was transmitted by Guglielmo Marconi from Cornwall, England to St. John’s, Newfoundland.
  • December 12, 1870: Joseph Hayne Rainey of Georgetown, South Carolina became the first African American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • December 13, 1577: Francis Drake departed Plymouth, England in the Golden Hind on his voyage around the world.
  • December 14, 1799: George Washington died at Mount Vernon.
  • December 15, 1832: French engineer Alexandre Eiffel was born in Dijon, France. He designed the Eiffel Tower and also helped design the Statue of Liberty.
  • December 16, 1773: The Boston Tea Party occurred as colonial activists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped containers of tea into the water.
  • December 17, 1903: Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first powered-controlled airplane flights. They made four flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
  • December 18, 1916: During World War I, The Battle of Verdun concluded after ten months of fighting.
  • December 19, 1946: War broke out in French Indochina as Ho Chi Minh attacked the French seeking to oust them from Vietnam.
  • December 20, 1606: The Virginia Company expedition to America began as three small ships, Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, departed London under the command of Captain Christopher Newport. In May of 1607, the royally chartered company established the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown.
  • December 21: Winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, today is the beginning of summer.
  • December 22, 1783: George Washington appeared before Congress and voluntarily resigned his commission after winning the American Revolution.
  • December 23, 1888: Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh cut off his ear.
  • December 24, 1745: American patriot Benjamin Rush was born in Byberry, Pennsylvania. His writings on mental illness earned him the title “Father of Psychiatry.” He was one of the first to describe alcoholism as a chronic disease.
  • December 25, 1642: Isaac Newton was born in England. He was a mathematician, scientist, and author. He was best known for his work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica on the theory of gravitation.
  • December 26, 2005: A magnitude 9.3 earthquake on the seafloor of the Indian Ocean set off a series of giant tsunami waves that smashed in to the shorelines of a dozen countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, and Somalia.
  • December 27, 1831: Charles Darwin set out from Plymouth, England aboard the ship HMS Beagle on his five-year global scientific expedition. In 1859, he published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection based on his discoveries.
  • December 28, 1832: John C. Calhoun became the first American to resign the office of vice president. He went on to become a U.S. Senator from South Carolina.
  • December 29, 1916: Conspirators lured the Russian monk Rasputin to a private home in an attempt to assassinate him.
  • December 31, 1879: Thomas Edison provided the first public demonstration of his electric incandescent lamp at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
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