This week in history we’ll look back at some events of the past that signify times of great loss and great gain, all of which serve as important milestones in the complex story of American history.
On April 15, 1912, 108 years ago, the legendary British ocean liner, the R.M.S. Titanic, sank into the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Built in Belfast, Ireland, the Titanic was, at the time, the world’s largest and most luxurious passenger ship ever constructed. 2,200 passengers and crew members boarded the ship as it departed from Southampton, England and set off for New York City.
At midnight on April 14, the ship’s maiden voyage was cut short after the vessel struck an iceberg and damaged several compartments of the bow. Water continued to surge into the ruptured side of the ship, only in the front, causing the bow of the ship to plunge deeper into the water as the stern (back side) raised high in the air to a near vertical position. The ship was so massive it could not support its own weight. It snapped in half and both ends descended into the depths of the Atlantic, hitting the ocean floor at 2:20 a.m. on April 15.
What made the event so memorable and tragic was the incredible loss of life. 1,500 passengers and crew members died that night, either going down with the ship or freezing to death in the icy waters of the North Atlantic. This could all have been avoided if the ship owners had included more lifeboats in the ship’s design, rather than enlarging the rooms of the first class passengers. Women and children were among the ship’s only survivors as they were the only people allowed in the lifeboats.
The only good thing to come out of this event (with the exception of the Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet classic) was the heightening of government restrictions on ocean liners, requiring enough lifeboats to hold everyone aboard and mandatory lifeboat drills with every voyage.
Also on April 15, in 1947, 73 years ago, Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier by becoming the first African-American Major League Baseball player.
Born to a family of sharecroppers in Georgia, Robinson was called up to the Majors after showing tremendous athletic prowess at the collegiate and minor league levels. He was the star of the Brooklyn Dodgers, earning titles such as the National League’s Rookie of the Year in 1947 and the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 1949. He led the team to win six National League pennants and one World Series title in 1955 over the course of his career. He retired in 1957 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962, the first year he was eligible.
Despite his incredible success in a short 10 year span, Robinson faced intense racial descrimination for the duration of his time in Major League Baseball. In addition to daily threats and slurs from both fans and other players, Robinson was even forced to stay at different hotels than the rest of his teammates when playing in the Jim Crow South.
Jackie Robinson will go down in history as one of the greatest American baseball players of all time. Fifty years after his first day, in 1997, the MLB commemorated his career by retiring his No. 42 from the entirety of the league, the first player to ever receive this honor.
Gino Giansanti is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.