Today in History: June 4

A six-week-long demonstration on behalf of democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, in which more than a million people peacefully assembled and made their voices heard, was quashed with tanks and armed troops and gunfire on this date in 1989. Trucks, tanks, and soldiers and police on foot surged into the protest while firing their weapons at will. Even onlookers in nearby buildings were hit.

Very little verified information ever made it out in the aftermath. The Chinese government does not acknowledge the massacre and in official publications the event is euphemistically called the “June 4 Incident.”

The identity of one man who was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and swinging a bag of what appeared to be his week’s groceries in one hand while he held up the line of tanks for a precious few minutes the day after the massacre remains unknown and ever-unknowable. The lack of information is indicated by the estimated number of injured and dead: it is believed that the number of dead lies somewhere between 241 (the government’s announced claim, although it further claimed that no one died in the square itself) and several thousand were killed by the Chinese government and upwards of 10,000 were injured.

CNN’s coverage that day (below the jump):

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Henry Ford test-drove his invention, the “Ford Quadricycle,” on the street outside his house on Bagley St. in Detroit on this date in 1896. It was ethanol-powered and had two gears, but it took so much torque to shift into second that he left it in first and drove it between 10 and 20 miles per hour. The quadricycle had no reverse gear.

The automobile age was underway, for Ford, Detroit, the U.S., the world. Ford was 32 years old.

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The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed the Senate by a vote of 56-25 on this date in 1919. The amendment prevented anyone from being denied the right to vote for the reason of gender. It took a little over a year for it to be ratified by two-thirds of the states to become the law of the land. Before the 19th was made law, many states, most of them out west, gave citizens full suffrage, but many states prevented women from voting at all or they “allowed” them only to vote in local elections.

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Coach John Wooden died six years ago today at the age of 99.

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Dr. Ruth Westheimer is 88 today. Bruce Dern is 80. Mortimer Zuckerman is 79. Robert Fulghum is 79. John Hockenberry is 60. Cecilia Bartoli is 50. Horatio Sanz is 47. Noah Wyle is 45. Russell Brand is 41. Angelina Jolie is 41.

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