As a developed nation, the United States doesn’t have a history as long as some of its allies and counterparts, but much has happened in America since its inception. There are certain dates in American history that are ingrained into the minds of every citizen, and even many of those who have never been to the country.
Many of these dates even pop up in the citizenship test, as Americans are mildly obsessed with celebrating anniversaries of certain events. It’s hard to whittle it down to just five dates that really stand out above the rest in terms of importance, but these ones are all dates that every American knows.
July 4, 1776
Every July 4th, Americans celebrate the anniversary of the country’s independence from Great Britain. While the Declaration of Independence was approved two days prior, it was on July 4, 1776, that the colonies adopted the document and it was officially established that the United States was a new nation. Interestingly enough, one of the founding fathers thought that July 2nd should be the day we all celebrate.
John Adams wrote in a message to his wife Abigail that July 2nd would be an annual event where fireworks and parades occur. He had the spirit of the holiday correct thanks to accurately predicting how we would all celebrate, he was just off on what date it would happen. If you ever want to catch the average American in a great mood, July 4th is the day to do it.
January 1, 1863
The President of the United States has the power to issue an executive order, and that’s what Abraham Lincoln did on the first day of 1863 by signing the Emancipation Proclamation. On this date, more than 3 million African Americans who were enslaved were freed with the stroke of a pen. Anyone who refused to free slaves from their property on that date would be considered criminals and enemies of the state.
“And upon this act, sincerely believed to be an act of justice, warranted by the Consitution, upon military necessity, I invoke the considerate judgment of mankind, and the gracious favor of Almighty God,” the document reads. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed during the middle of the Civil War, which began on April 12, 1861 and didn’t come to an end until April 9, 1865.
December 7, 1941
Heading into December 1941, World War II had been almost exclusively fought in Europe and parts of Asia. That would all change on December 7, as Japan launched an attack on the United States by striking the Pearl Habor naval base in Hawaii. The United States had held neutrality as the country was in a phase of isolationism, but would instantly declare war on Japan.
Multiple battleships were sunk with nearly 200 aircraft destroyed. More than 2,300 Americans lost their lives that day with another 1,110 wounded. This began the massive US involvement in World War II, which turned the tide toward an Allied victory. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said, December 7, 1941, is “a date which will live in infamy.”
July 20, 1969
While there are no time zones on the moon, we know when Neil Armstrong took the first steps of any human in history. The Apollo 11 mission launched on July 16, 1969 marking the most significant mission in the space race. The shuttle was able to successfully land the Americans on the moon, with Armstrong announcing to the world that it was “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The timing couldn’t have been any better for Americans as the decade started with then-President John F. Kennedy declaring that the United States would set foot on the moon by the end of the 1960s. There would be multiple missions that landed on the moon over the next few years, but there hasn’t been one since December 1972.
September 11, 2001
After Pearl Harbor, there was another attack on the United States that changed the course of both American and world history, and it occurred on September 11, 2001. It was an unassuming, warm, and sunny day in New York City and Washington D.C., but several hijackers took control of planes that would crash into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon while another plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after passengers thwarted the terrorists.
Throughout the United States, there are reminders of the date, often accompanied by the words “Never forget.” After determining that Al-Qaeda was responsible for the attacks on the United States, a war in the middle east broke out and culture altogether changed around the world, especially when it came to airline security.