This week in history

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On March 28, 1990, Olympic athlete Jesse Owens was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George H.W. Bush (The New York Times)

This week in history we will see the anniversaries of several important events that helped shaped the world we live in. Here is a quick rundown: 

On March 25, 1911, the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory in New York City caught on fire and resulted in the deaths of nearly 150 people, most of whom were women. The fire started from a small scrap bin on the eighth floor of the building and quickly consumed the upper floors of the factory. Common practice at the time was to lock employees into their work space to prevent them from taking extra breaks and stealing company property, however, the doors to the factory were never unlocked when the fire broke out. This was one of the main reasons the death toll was so high and led to many workers throwing themselves out the windows to avoid the flames. This disaster became one of the worst industrial accidents in American history and spurred massive reform in labor safety laws. This occurred during the time of the Progressive Movement and was just one of many sweeping reforms in society. It also led to the owners of the company to be tried for manslaughter over the failure to unlock the doors and giving their employees a chance to escape. The factory building was renovated, and it is now owned and used by New York University. 

On the same day in 1989, the Louvre Museum in Paris opened with its new glass pyramid entrance designed and constructed by artist I.M Pei.Visited by nearly ten million people last year, the glass pyramid has become one of the most recognizable structures in the world. 

On March 28, 1990, Olympic athlete Jesse Owens was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by President George H.W. Bush. Owens became one the most celebrated and accomplished athletes of all time at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, where he won four gold medals in the 100 and 200 meter races, the 4×100 relay race and the long jump. His performance at the games made him an American icon and helped to dispute Adolf Hitler’s claims that white athletes were superior. Prior to the Olympics, Owens set three world records and tied another in 1935 at a Big Ten track meet, all within the same hour. Since his death in 1980, Jesse Owens has become one of the most famous sports icons of the 20th century. 

Lastly, on March 29, 1951, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the United States. They were suspected of stealing and sending information to the Soviet Union, who was a US ally at the time, about nuclear weapons designs, sonar and radar technologies, as well as jet propulsion plans. They were both executed for their crimes in 1953 by electric chair. While both their sons maintained their innocence, Russian documents that were declassified years after the trial detailed the Rosenberg’s involvement and the means by which they shared information with their Russian contacts.  


Seamus McKeever is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at seamus.mckeever@uconn.edu.

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