On this Day May 4
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1961 – Civil rights activists calling themselves the “Freedom Riders” decide to test a recent Supreme Court decision prohibiting racial segregation in interstate travel. They set out on a dangerous journey aboard buses from Washington, D.C. through the Deep South to New Orleans, defying segregated restrooms, restaurants and bus station waiting areas along the way.
1970 – Four students are killed, nine others wounded when National Guard troops open fire during a Vietnam War protest at Kent State University in Ohio. Guardsmen fire 67 rounds in 13 seconds. The tragedy sends shockwaves across the U.S. and around the world.
1977 – British journalist David Frost sits down with former President Richard Nixon for the first of four revealing television interviews. Nixon apologizes for putting “the American people through two years of needless agony” during the Watergate scandal.
2008 – The term “May the 4th be with you,” a tribute to the popular Star Wars phrase, “May the force be with you,” becomes a part of pop culture as it begins to be used among members of Star Wars-related Facebook groups that turn it into a celebration of the beloved sci-fi franchise. In 2011 and 2012, Star Wars Day is observed by fans in Toronto during a festival that draws significant media coverage. In 2013, just months after purchasing Lucasfilm, Disney officially recognizes May 4 as Star Wars Day, and its marketing of new movies, TV shows and merchandise continues to explode today.
1959 – The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presents the first Grammy Awards with ceremonies held simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles. Among the awards handed out, “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu” (better known as “Volare”) wins both song and record of the year for composer Domenico Modugno.
1973 – Led Zeppelin opens its 1973 North American tour in Atlanta. Billed as “the biggest and most profitable rock & roll tour in the history of the United States,” the group would gross more than $4 million from it.
1990 – Madonna kicks off the North American leg of her 57-date Blond Ambition World Tour with a performance in Houston, Texas at The Summit (now Lakewood Church). Years later, Rolling Stone magazine would call the tour “the Greatest Concert of the 1990s.”