This week in history: ACLU defends the First Amendment, Martin Luther King, Jr. shot, and Pompeii is excavated. Read more below and dive deeper with The Great Courses Plus.
April 3rd, 1957 — Poem “Howl” is defended against obscenity charges
Learn more about the Amendments in History of the Supreme Court
April 4th, 1968 — Dr. King Shot
America lost a powerful presence on April 4, 1968. A clergyman and a civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was fatally shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Because of his unpopular views of equality, Dr. King often received death threats. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, King told his wife Coretta, “This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society.”¹ While King died fighting for equality, his cause continued and motivated the creation of the Lorraine Motel museum.
The Lorraine Motel is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum complex and is still standing as it was when King was shot. The museum traces the civil rights movements from the 17th century on in American history.
Learn more about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement in A History of the United States, 2nd Edition
April 6th, 1748 — Pompeii Excavation BeginsPompeii was an ancient Roman city in the Campania region of Italy. It sat on the foothills of Mount Vesuvius along with other towns such as Herculaneum. These two towns and many surrounding villas were destroyed under 13-20 feet of volcanic ash and pumice when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. A young man by the name of Pliny the Younger witnessed the eruption and described the destruction in a letter to his uncle. This was one of the only surviving pieces of proof of the existence of Pompeii until about 1500 years later.
Pompeii was initially rediscovered in 1599 and explored 150 years later. Spanish Engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre started the 1748 excavations. To everyone’s surprise, the artifacts were nearly perfectly preserved due to lack of air and moisture. Human remains, though, were gone, but their cavities were preserved. Plaster was used to fill in the voids where people lived their final moments and now give us a clear view of what life was like during Pax Romana and during the disaster.