Good News in History, February 1

125 years ago today, the Italian opera La boheme by Puccini premiered in Turin, Italy, with an orchestra conducted by the 28-year-old great Arturo Toscanini.

One of the most frequently presented operas worldwide, the four act performance is based on a collection of vignettes portraying two young bohemians lovers living in the Latin Quarter of Paris in the 1840s. If you’ve never watched the opera, YouTube offers a number of versions you can view in their entirety for free. (1896)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Thomas Edison finished the first motion picture studio, the Black Maria in New Jersey (1893)
  • New York’s Grand Central Terminal opened as the world’s largest train station (1913)
  • The Royal Canadian Mounted Police began (1920)
  • Voice of America began broadcasting news in German to short wave radios in Germany to combat Nazi propaganda, just weeks after the United States entered World War II (1942)
  • Canada introduced the Civil Marriage Act, making Canada the fourth country to sanction same-sex marriage (2005)
  • Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir was elected the first female Prime Minister of Iceland, and became the first openly gay head of state in the modern world (2009)
  • Today is the first day of Black History Month in the United States. It marks the day four black college students began to stage their sit-in at a lunch counter—a protest that lasted weeks and pressured governments to pass desegregation laws. It also honors the anniversary of the birth in 1902 of Langston Hughes, the black American poet and prominent figure of the Harlem Renaissance. (1902-1967).

61 years ago today, four black students from North Carolina A&T State University sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter inside a Greensboro Woolworth store. Although they were refused service, they stayed until closing. More joined them over the next few days and sit-ins spread to other North Carolina cities. On July 25, 1960, after losing $200,000 in sales because boycotts were set up, the Greensboro store abandon its segregation policies.

Photo by RadioFan, via CC license

Four years after the Greensboro Four (Joseph McNeil, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and David Richmond) staged their sit-in, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandated desegregation in all public accommodations, including beaches, libraries, parks and museums.

A section of the lunch counter from the Greensboro Woolworth (pictured, above) is preserved in the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and the original building at 132 South Elm Street now houses the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. (1960)

And on this day in 1982, Late Night With David Letterman first aired.

David Letterman Late Night small

Edgy and unpredictable, with recurring segments like Stupid Pet Tricks, Stupid Human Tricks, and Top 10 lists, the show won millions of devoted fans. As the longest-running late-night talk show host, Letterman won two Daytime Emmys and ten Primetime Emmys and was among the most nominated people in the history of the award show with 52 nominations. He retired in May, 2015. WATCH the show’s most memorable moments…

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