20 Years Ago
March To Freedom
Nelson Mandela, 71, walks out of South Africa’s Victor Verster prison a free man February 11, 1990, after serving 27 years for his activities with the African National Congress against the apartheid-based government. The country’s most famous political prisoner, Mandela is hailed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the “symbol of our people.” Mandela shares the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize—for breaking down the apartheid system—with President F. W. de Klerk, who freed him. In 1994, he becomes president after South Africa’s first democratic elections.
100 Years Ago
Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova sells out New York’s Metropolitan Opera House for her American debut, February 28, 1910. She is praised for her charm and sense of humor. For her part, she finds the city “so tall!” Pavlova’s many world tours—she leaves Russia for good in 1914—draw new audiences to ballet. She dies in 1931.
140 Years Ago
Voice Of Reason
Two days after Mississippi is readmitted to the Union on February 23, 1870, Hiram Revels, a minister and Civil War chaplain, takes the oath as senator, becoming the first African- American to serve in the U.S. Congress. Revels, a Republican, favors reinstating black legislators ousted in Georgia; amnesty for former Confederates who swear loyalty to the Union; and school desegregation in the District of Columbia. He leaves Congress in 1871 to be the first president of Mississippi’s Alcorn State University.
140 Years Ago
New York City officials get a firsthand look at underground travel when inventor and Scientific American editor Alfred E. Beach unveils his pneumatic subway February 26, 1870. Consisting of a car propelled by a giant fan through an eight-foot- wide masonry tunnel underneath Broadway near City Hall, Beach’s subway carries passengers some 300 feet and back; ticket proceeds go to charity. His plans to expand the line foiled by politics, Beach closes his subway in 1873. Boston opens the nation’s first multi-station subway line in 1897; New York’s arrives in 1904.
190 Years Ago
The Right Woman
Susan B. Anthony is born in Adams, Massachusetts, February 15, 1820. The daughter of an abolitionist father, as a young woman Anthony joins the antislavery and temperance movements. Denied the right to speak at an 1853 rally because of her sex, she begins her campaign for women’s rights, founding women’s suffrage organizations and speaking around the country. Through her newspaper, The Revolution, she calls for equal pay, voting rights and “justice for all.” In 1873 she is tried for voting in Rochester, New York; fined $100, she refuses to pay. Anthony dies in 1906, fourteen years before the 19th Amendment gives women the vote.