Good News in History, January 4

50 years ago today, Ohio agreed to pay $675,000 each to the relatives of Kent State victims who were shot during a 1970 Vietnam war protest on campus. Joseph Kelner, a personal injury attorney, won the settlement in the iconic court case by taking on both the sitting governor of Ohio and the president of Kent State University after four students were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard shooting 67 rounds into a crowd of demonstrators.

The plaintiffs accepted the settlement with the condition that defendants agree to state publicly that they regretted what had happened. (1971)

Image credit: LOGAN WEAVER

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • Happy Birthday to the author/historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, who turns 78 years old today (1943)
  • Burma gained its independence from the UK (1948)
  • US President Lyndon Johnson laid out his plans for “The Great Society” which included broad tax cuts, civil rights reforms and major spending for education, medical care, urban problems, and transportation (1965)
  • The Doors released their self-titled debut album “The Doors”, one of the most acclaimed LPs in all of popular music, which featured their breakthrough million-selling single, Light My Fire (1967)
  • Afghans approved a new constitution (2004)
  • The United States Congress elected Nancy Pelosi as the first female Speaker of the House in U.S. history (2007)
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention removed a ban on persons with HIV from entering the country (2010)

On this day in 1809, Louis Braille, the inventor of a reading and writing system for the blind, was born in France. Losing his sight at an early age, the precocious boy perfected his system of dots by the time he was 15-years-old. Now known as Braille, it went unused for years after his death, but eventually was recognized as a revolutionary invention, and adapted for use in languages worldwide. The simple tactile code has remained virtually unchanged to this day.

Photo by Diego Molano, CC license

“We do not need pity, nor do we need to be reminded we are vulnerable,” said Mr. Braille. “We must be treated as equals – and communication is the way this can be brought about.” WATCH how he started with an Army code for communicating in silence and darkness.


And, Happy Birthday to Michael Stipe, the visual artist and former lead singer of R.E.M, who turns 61 years old today. Since the band dissolved in 2011, the singer, songwriter, and visual artist has rarely appeared on stage. (1960)Michael-Stipe-2015-on-stage-youtube

168 years ago today, New Yorker Solomon Northup finally regained his freedom, after having been drugged, kidnapped, and sold into slavery in Louisiana. One of the few kidnapped free black people to regain independence after being tricked and enslaved, he published Twelve Years a Slave later that year, which became a national bestseller. He wrote the seminal memoir in three months with the help of David Wilson, a local writer and journalist, and it sold 30,000 copies within three years.

Once again a free man, Northup rejoined his wife and children and again worked as a carpenter. (He had also previously been a professional violinist.) He became active in the abolitionist movement and lectured on slavery throughout the northeastern U.S. in the years before the American Civil War. WATCH the real-life descendants of Northup—and historical slave owners—come together for racial reconciliation on the grounds where he once lived as a slave… (1853)


And, on this day 378 years ago, perhaps the greatest physicist the world has known, Isaac Newton, was born. Widely recognized as one of the most influential scientists of all time, he invented his own calculus when he was 26 years old.

An English mathematician, astronomer, and theologian, his book Principia, “Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy”, formulated our understanding of the mechanics of motion and gravity, which dominated scientists’ view of the physical universe for the next three centuries. This farmer’s son also built the first practical reflecting telescope, and made pathbreaking observations in optics, figuring out that white light is really made of multiple colors. WATCH a cool video… (1543)

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