This Day in History: May
01: May 4, 2008: Star Wars Day Is Born
There’s no denying Star Wars is a powerful, enduring phenomena that resonates with audiences, but it also explores a number of important philosophical issues. Join Dr. David Kyle Johnson to unpack the deeper concepts behind this epic space opera.
02: May 14, 1607: Jamestown Colony Founded
Join a renowned anthropology professor to uncover the lost settlement of Jamestown and discover just how brutal life was for the early colonists during the inception of the first permanent British settlement in North America.
03: May 18, 1980: Mount Saint Helens Erupts
Join the Director of Programming for National Geographic Expeditions to relive the most destructive volcanic eruption in the continental United States—Mount St. Helens—from the perspective of a geologist.
04: May 11, 1997: Deep Blue Defeats Garry Kasparov
Join an international chess master to analyze how a computer beat a reigning world chess champion for the first time ever.
05: May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board of Education Is Decided
Join a professor of law to unpack key players and actions that helped pave the way for the Supreme Court’s landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision.
06: May 29, 1453: Constantinople Falls to the Ottomans
Understand how the fall of Constantinople marked not only the end of the Roman Empire, but also the flourishing of Ottoman influence, reshaping politics, society, and religion across Eastern Europe.
07: May 14, 1796: The First Vaccine Is Administered
Join Professor Barry C. Fox for a look back at how vaccines were created and how they have changed—and continue to change—the world.
08: May 25, 1787: The US Constitutional Convention Begins
Go back and visit the pivotal point in history when our Founding Fathers met to create a blueprint for American government and to discover what challenges they faced in communicating the need for the new US Constitution.
09: May 2, 1933: Loch Ness Monster Is Sighted
On May 2, 1933, a couple out for a ride near Loch Ness in Scotland claimed that a strange, long-necked creature had passed in front of them and gone into the lake. While it’s the first “modern” account of the Loch Ness Monster, the legend of “Nessie” dates to early medieval time, with Saint Columba—an Irish saint who reported a sighting in AD 563. Professor Sutherland takes a historical and modern look at this monster, who has haunted our imaginations for centuries.
10: May 16, 1966: Mao Launches Cultural Revolution
Mao Zedong, chairman of the People’s Republic of China, began the massive purge known as the “Cultural Revolution” on May 16, 1966. After his “Great Leap Forward” resulted in a famine, he tried to reestablish his reputation by lashing out against any perceived enemies of communism, specifically targeting the educated and the middle class. Join Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius to trace Mao’s campaign of terror over the decade that followed.
11: May 5, 1821: Napoleon Bonaparte Dies
Following his defeat at Waterloo, the former French emperor had been exiled to St. Helena, a remote island off the African coast under the control of his enemies. During the six years he spent there, as his territories steadily fell from his control, Napoleon considered a multitude of escape plans. Ultimately he decided against them, instead dedicating his time to preparing for what was to come.
12: May 26, 1897: Dracula Is Published
While still considered by many to be the literary blueprint for an entire genre of novels and films, Dracula was not the first to suggest the idea of the vampire. In fact, the foundations of the iconic monster came long before Stoker, during a summer getaway in Switzerland.