This Week in History: 4/8/19-4/12/19

On April 11, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American player in Major League Baseball history when he played in an exhibition game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

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

On April 9, 1838, the National Gallery in London opened for the first time in its new permanent home. Located in Trafalgar Square, it has become one of the most visited and popular art museums in the world. The museum is free of charge to enter, as the paintings are owned by the British government on behalf of its citizens. It holds some of the rarest art pieces ever produced, including several paintings by Vermeer, Peter Paul Rubens and Raphael. As the collection grew more and more, the National Gallery ran out of space, leading to the opening of the Tate Gallery on the River Thames.

On the same day in 1865, Robert E. Lee signed the terms of surrender at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia in front of Ulysses S. Grant and the rest of the Union command, officially ending the Civil War. Hostilities started in 1861 when Confederate forces seceded from the United States and bombarded Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. Over the next four years, countless battles were waged, and thousands of American lives were lost. After the war ended the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were ratified, abolishing slavery, ensuring the right to due process and barring disenfranchisement. Unfortunately, the man who held the country together during this time period, President Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated just five days after the war ended on April 14.

On April 10, 1981, Bobby Sands was elected to serve as a member of Parliament in the United Kingdom. Sands, who was a member the Irish Republican Army, was actually serving a prison sentence for firearm possession in England at the time of his election. During his captivity, Sands helped organize and lead a hunger strike in 1981 to protest the removal of Special Category Status for IRA prisoners, which stripped them of several rights, including not having to wear prison uniforms, being housed with their fellow inmates and extra food and visitation privileges. Since Sands and his IRA members had been sentenced during “The Troubles,” a time period of great tension between Irish Republican factions and the British government, the prisoners were deemed paramilitary members and treated much more harshly. Eventually 10 men died during the hunger strike, including Bobby Sands himself on May 5, leading to worldwide media attention and an increase in IRA enlistment.

On April 11, 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American player in Major League Baseball history when he played in an exhibition game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Having played on the Dodgers farm team the year before, he made his regular season debut the following week. Known for his aggressive and risky style of play, the Dodgers initially started him at first base. Robinson became an MLB All Star, helping the Dodgers go to the World Series six times in his career and racking up numerous awards and accolades along the way. After his retirement from baseball in 1957, he was an easy choice for the Hall of Fame in 1962. Robinson passed away in 1972 in Stamford, Connecticut, but he left behind an indelible mark on baseball, the Civil Rights Movement and society as a whole. As a testament to his importance, all 30 teams in the MLB retired his jersey number, 42.


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