This Week in History: February 23-March 1

Featured Article, History, This Week in History
on February 23, 2014

America’s first impeachment proceedings began this week in 1867. President Andrew Johnson and his Congress had never gotten along well, but this incident did nothing to help the tenuous relationship between the executive and legislative branches. Find out why Johnson was in hot water:

February 23:
The Battle of the Alamo Begins
Remember this day! The battle of the Alamo began on this day in 1836. This Mexican victory was a key moment in the Texas Revolution. Mexican forces 1,500-strong attacked the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, on February 23 in an attempt to reclaim land. The defenders of the Alamo held out for 10 days until March 6 when the Mexican army launched a final assault that killed all remaining Texan fighters. Some 600 Mexican soldiers were killed in the fighting. The Alamo grew into an American myth, with the courage of the fighters elevated to Grecian levels. The mantra, “Remember the Alamo” has remained a rallying cry ever since. Famed adventurer David Crockett died at this battle.

February 24:
Andrew-JohnsonPresident Johnson Impeachment Proceedings
America’s first impeachment happened on this day in 1867. Frustration between President Andrew Johnson and Congress boiled over when Johnson tried to test the newly passed Tenure of Office Act; Johnson removed Secretary of War Edward Stanton from his post. Congress impeached Johnson in late February and the trial began on March 5. On May 26 Johnson was acquitted of all charges and remained the president. The vote was 35-19, one vote away from the two-thirds majority needed for removing Johnson from office. Bill Clinton became the second president impeached in 1998.

February 25:
“On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences”
On this day in 1956, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev distanced himself from the regime of terror developed by former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin. In his monumental speech “On the Cult of Personality and Its Consequences,” Khrushchev criticized Stalin for his brutality and leadership style based on fear. Khrushchev said that Stalin’s cult of personality and the air he created engendered an atmosphere that ultimately went against the ideals of communism. This speech began a period of communication known as the Khrushchev Thaw. This speech, given in secret to high officials of the Communist Party, sparked outrage across the USSR.

February 26:
world-trade-center-bombing-1993World Trade Center Bombing
In retaliation for U.S. support for Israel and intervention in the Middle East, Ramzi Yousef and his fellow Muslim extremists bombed New York’s World Trade Center in 1993. The group parked a Ryder van in an underground parking garage and detonated a 1,300-pound bomb. The blast caused a 98-foot-wide hole in the parking garage sublevels, cut off power to the towers and sent smoke billowing up to the 98th floor. Six people died and over 1,000 were injured by the blast and smoke. Yousef and associates were charged with conspiracy, explosive destruction of property and interstate transport of explosives.

February 27:
ReichstagsbrandReichstag Fire
A key moment in the formation and ascension of the Nazi Party, the Reichstag Fire happened on this day in 1933. The Reichstag was the meeting place of the German Parliament; persons unknown set it ablaze. Police and government officials blamed and eventually executed Marinus van der Lubbe, a Dutch communist who had recently arrived in Berlin, for the catastrophe. Whether or not he was involved is debated. The Nazi Party used the fire as an example of Communist incursion into the Weimar Republic, stirring fears of Communist revolution. These fears allowed the Nazis to gain power quickly and handily.

February 28:
mash-series-finaleM*A*S*H Finale
The single most-watched event in American television history, the “M*A*S*H” finale, aired on this day in 1983. The series’ 251st episode depicted the end of the Korean War and resolved ongoing storylines. The finale surpassed the “Dallas” Who Shot J.R.? resolution episode in terms of ratings, becoming the highest rated event ever. The two-and-a-half hour episode garnered 77 percent of the viewing audience, some 121.6 million Americans. 2010’s Super Bowl XLIV surpassed the “M*A*S*H” finale in terms of viewers, but not ratings. “M*A*S*H” began in 1972 and was followed by two spin-offs, “AfterMASH” and “Trapper John, M.D.”

March 1
Ralph Waldo Ellison Birthday
Author of “Invisible Man” and respected black scholar and writer Ralph Waldo Ellison was born on this day in 1914 at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ellison studied at the Tuskegee Institute and moved to New York in 1936 where he met Langston Hughes and Alain Locke, two of the major thinkers of the Harlem Renaissance. Ellison chose merchant marine service over the draft in World War II. He returned to the U.S. and wrote his most famous work, “Invisible Man.” The book was a stark, honest look at black life in America and was quickly accepted as a culturally significant piece of literature. It won the 1953 National Book Award for Fiction. Ellison died in 1994.

Lindbergh Kidnapping
On the night of March 1, 1932, the 20-month-old son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was kidnapped from his New Jersey home. The kidnappers had written cryptic markings on a letter left at the scene of the crime and requested a ransom of $50,000. Lindbergh paid the ransom, but his son’s body was soon discovered a short distance from the family home. The toddler died from a blow to the head. Authorities traced purchases with the ransom money and soon discovered the perpetrator of the crime, Bruno Richard Hauptmann. The Lindbergh case and subsequent legislation made kidnapping a federal crime.