a piece of history
October 26, 2017

Thursday is the deadline Congress set 25 years ago for the release of the remaining government files on the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. President Trump, who can withhold some of the documents if he decides they compromise government sources or methods, teased the release again on Wednesday, tweeting: "The long anticipated release of the #JFKFiles will take place tomorrow. So interesting!" The CIA has been urging Trump to withhold some information, while scholars and conspiracy theorists — including longtime adviser Roger Stone — are pushing Trump to release every scrap of information.

"Clearly there are documents, plural, files, plural, being appealed to him," University of Virginia historian Larry Sabato tells The Associated Press, adding that Trump is still being pressured by spy agencies. "I'm told reliably that it continues and that it has intensified." Still, Trump can't withhold documents just because the government finds them embarrassing, and scholars and JFK assassination buffs will be scouring the document dump for information on Lee Harvey Oswald, identified as the lone shooter who was then shot dead by Jack Ruby, including any government coverup and intelligence on what Oswald was doing in Mexico City before the assassination.

Some people will also be looking for any mention of Rafael Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz's father, who was alleged in a 2016 tabloid article to have been photographed with Oswald before the assassination. That unconfirmed claim was greatly amplified by Cruz's primary rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Donald Trump. Peter Weber

October 21, 2017

President Trump indicated on Twitter Saturday he will most likely release 3,600 top-secret files about the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy this coming week, with the caveat that new information could lead him to change his mind:

The Oct. 26 release deadline was set by a 1992 law. Trump can miss that deadline if he certifies that publishing the papers at that time would cause "an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations [that] outweighs the public interest in disclosure." Members of both houses of Congress from both major parties have sponsored legislation urging Trump to go ahead with publication. Bonnie Kristian

August 20, 2017

The wreckage of the USS Indianapolis, the American warship used to deliver parts for "Little Boy," the atomic bomb later dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, was discovered after 72 years Saturday.

The World War II heavy cruiser was sunk on July 30, 1945 by a Japanese submarine. It went down in just 12 minutes, too quickly to send a distress signal. About 900 of the 1,197 sailors and Marines on board survived the initial sinking, but only 316 were alive to be rescued several days later, when help arrived.

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen led the team that found the wreck. "To be able to honor the brave men of the USS Indianapolis and their families through the discovery of a ship that played such a significant role in ending World War II is truly humbling," Allen said of the discovery. "As Americans, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the crew for their courage, persistence, and sacrifice in the face of horrendous circumstances." Bonnie Kristian

July 3, 2017

Excavations at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello plantation property in Virginia have uncovered the quarters of Sally Hemings, the enslaved woman who is believed to have borne six of Jefferson's children.

The room was located next to Jefferson's bedroom. Measuring about 14 feet by 13 feet, it was converted into a men's restroom in 1941 to accommodate growing crowds of tourists. A bathroom renovation in the 1960s maintained that use, but in recent years, historians reviewed a description of Monticello penned by one of Jefferson's grandsons. The document identified the location of Hemings' quarters, and investigations began.

Since ripping out the later construction, archaeologists have found the room's original floors, remnants of a stove and fireplace, and other valuable artifacts. The space will be restored to focus exclusively on Hemings' life and legacy, part of a broader restoration project at Monticello that takes a more honest look at the experiences of the property's enslaved residents than past iterations of the museum have done.

"This discovery gives us a sense of how enslaved people were living. Some of Sally's children may have been born in this room," said Gardiner Hallock, Monticello's director of restoration. "It's important because it shows Sally as a human being — a mother, daughter, and sister — and brings out the relationships in her life." Bonnie Kristian

April 22, 2017

Two Harvard researchers on Friday presented their discovery of a rare parchment manuscript of the Declaration of Independence discovered in a small town in southern England last year. "The Sussex Declaration," as the document has been dubbed, is believed to have been made in America in the 1780s. It is one of only two known parchment copies of the Declaration worldwide.

"I was just looking for copies of the Declaration of Independence in British archives," said researcher Emily Sneff, when she noticed a record office listing mentioned "parchment," suggesting a rare find. "I reached out to them a bit skeptically," Sneff recalled. "The description was a little vague, but once we saw an image and talked to a conservator we started to get excited."

The Sussex Declaration differs from the parchment copy at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., mainly in the order of the signers' names. In the Washington copy, the names are organized by state; in the Sussex copy, they are not. "The list of names was intentionally scrambled," Sneff suggested, "to drive home the point that the signers of the Declaration of Independence signed as individuals, as a community" rather than solely as representatives of states. Bonnie Kristian

December 7, 2016

On Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, radio station WNYC shared its original broadcast aired on Dec. 7, 1941. The station, which was reportedly the first in New York City to report the attack, offered play-by-plays of American retaliation against the Japanese and of the Hawaiian governor's reports to then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt over the phone as a "second wave of Japanese planes began flying over Hawaii."

Take a listen below. Becca Stanek

December 2, 2015

On Dec. 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white man. Although the story is now ingrained in American history, at the time, it barely received a mention in a local newspaper.

It wasn't until a few days later, on Dec. 5, that the nation first heard the name "Rosa Parks." It was then that The Associated Press wrote about the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the $14 fine that Parks received for "having disregarded... a driver's order to move to the rear of the bus." To mark the 60th anniversary of this civil rights milestone, AP made its initial story on the boycott available once again.

As the article explains, in 1955 Montgomery, "Negro passengers ride in the rear of buses here, white passengers in front under a municipal segregation ordinance." AP quoted a boycott spokesman as saying it would last until bus riders were no longer "intimidated, embarrassed, and coerced." Parks, described as a "42-year-old department store seamstress," was first charged with "violating a city ordinance that gives bus drivers police powers to enforce racial segregation," and after appealing her fine was released under a $100 bond; her lawyers would not tell AP if they "planned to attack the constitutionality of segregation laws affecting public transportation." The manager of City Lines Buses, which operated the buses in Montgomery, told AP he estimated "80 or maybe 90 percent" out of the "several thousands Negroes" who usually rode the bus joined the boycott. Read the article in its entirety here. Catherine Garcia

August 12, 2015

A researcher made an incredible discovery while working on a book about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr: A recording of his "I Have a Dream" speech, given nearly a year before he famously delivered it in front of thousands of people in Washington, D.C.

English professor Jason Miller found the tape inside a box labeled "Martin Luther King Jr. — Please do not erase" at the Rocky Mount, North Carolina, library. Miller had been looking for more information on King and his use of poetry by Langston Hughes in speeches when he made the discovery, and knew it was King as soon as he played the tape. "Hearing those words was absolutely remarkable," Miller told ABC News.

The recording is believed to be the first version of the iconic speech, previewed inside the gym at Rocky Mount High School on Nov. 27, 1962 — several months before his Aug. 28, 1963, address in Washington. Historians knew the speech was first delivered in North Carolina, but no one had ever heard a recording before it was unveiled Tuesday in North Carolina State University's Hunt Library, ABC 11 reports. Herbert Tillman was a senior at Rocky Mount High School when he sat in on the speech, and remembers how it felt to be there. "I was all into it, all eyes, all ears, and I just felt so uplifted," he said. Catherine Garcia

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