Celebrations Today – May 21
Holidays and observances
- Afro-Colombian Day (Colombia)
- Christian feast day:
- Arcangelo Tadini
- Blessed Adílio Daronch and Manuel Gómez González
- Blessed Franz Jägerstätter
- Earliest day on which Corpus Christi can fall, while June 24 is the latest; held on Thursday after Trinity Sunday. (Roman Catholic Church)
- Emperor Constantine I
- Eugène de Mazenod
- Helena of Constantinople, also known as “Feast of the Holy Great Sovereigns Constantine and Helen, Equal-to-the-Apostles.” (Eastern Orthodox Church)
- John Elliot (Episcopal Church)
- Saints of the Cristero War, including Christopher Magallanes
- May 21 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)
- Circassian Day of Mourning (Circassians)
- Day of Patriots and Military (Hungary)
- Independence Day, celebrates the Montenegrin independence referendum in 2006, celebrated until the next day. (Montenegro)
- Navy Day (Chile)
- Saint Helena Day, celebrates the discovery of Saint Helena in 1502. (Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha)
- World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development (International)
Celebrations Today – USA: May 21
National Take Your Parents to the Playground Day *
National American Red Cross Founder’s Day
National Memo Day
National Strawberries and Cream Day
National Waitstaff Day
American Red Cross Founder’s Day
National I Need a Patch for That Day
National Waiters and Waitresses Day
National Rapture Party Day
Sister Maria Hummel Day
World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
Today in US History: May 21
Zachary Taylor and His Cabinet, All Seated Except President Taylor (detail),
Mathew Brady’s studio, 1849.
America’s First Look into the Camera: Daguerreotype Portraits and Views, 1839-1864
In this detail of President Zachary Taylor with his cabinet, Reverdy Johnson, attorney general, is seated at the far right. Click on the thumbnail for an enlargement showing the entire group portrait.
On May 21, 1796, attorney and statesman Reverdy Johnson was born in Annapolis, Maryland. Johnson represented Maryland, a slaveholding state south of the Mason-Dixon line, as a Whig, in the U.S. Senate from 1845-49 and again following the Civil War as a Democrat from 1863-68. Under President Zachary Taylor, he served as attorney general from 1849 until Taylor’s death in 1850. Johnson was considered a brilliant constitutional lawyer and won an 1854 Supreme Court decision in favor of a patent for the McCormick reaper.
Men binding grain being cut by McCormick’s horse-drawn reaper, invented in 1831,
Photo by McCormick Company.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog
Although he personally opposed slavery and emancipated slaves inherited from his father, Johnson represented the slave-owning defendant in the 1857 Dred Scott case in which the U.S. Supreme Court decided that slaves could not be citizens of the United States. The court’s decision intensified antislavery sentiment in the North and fed the antagonism that sparked the Civil War. In 1865, the ruling was made obsolete with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment prohibiting slavery.
Contemporary condemnation of the Dred Scott decision can be found in the the minutes and sermon of the Second Presbyterian and Congregational Convention held in Philadelphia in 1858:
…it was Resolved, That the recent decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Dred Scott, the evident design of which is, to degrade and rob the free people of color of civil and political rights, to perpetuate Slavery, and dishearten true philanthropy in the United States: is alike a sin against God, and a crime against humanity; and that Judges Curtis and McLean, who dissented from the infamous decision, are worthy of all praise.Motion of Rev. E. P. Rogers
The minutes and sermon of the Second Presbyterian and Congregational Convention, held in the Central Presbyterian Church, Lombard Street, Philadelphia, on October 28, 1858.
African-American Perspectives, 1818-1907
This map depicts free states in pink and slave states in dark green. The light green area in the West was composed of a number of territories at that time.
Reynold’s Political Map of the United States…,
[New York]: William C. Reynolds, 1856.
The African American Odyssey
During the Civil War, Reverdy Johnson strove to keep Maryland in the Union as exemplified in a major address to a Unionist meeting in January 1861. He maintained a close relationship with the Lincoln administration by serving as a member of the failed Washington Peace Conference that met in February 1861. Two years later, he was sent by President Lincoln to New Orleans to investigate complaints about the Union occupation of the city. Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus was supported by Johnson as evidenced in this meeting between the two in April 1861.
Johnson was moderate in his attitude toward post-Civil War reconstruction of the rebellious Southern states. When impeachment proceedings were brought against Andrew Johnson, largely for his lenient treatment of the South, Reverdy Johnson was instrumental in securing the president’s acquittal.
Following a two-year appointment as minister to Great Britain from 1868-69, Johnson returned to his law practice in Annapolis where he died in 1876 as a result of a fall.
To learn more about the historical events in which Reverdy Johnson played a pivotal role:
Supreme Court Room,inside the Capitol, Washington, D.C.,
William Henry Jackson, photographer, circa 1902.
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920
- See the Special Presentation on the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson included in A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation, 1774-1875.
- The Library’s Manuscript Division holds the largest collection of Reverdy Johnson papers with correspondence relating to his early law career, Congressional terms, the 1862 investigation of General Benjamin Franklin Butler, and service as U.S. Minister to the Court of St. James.
- Search on Dred Scott as a phrase, in the full text search box in African American Perspectives, 1818-1907 and in Words and Deeds in American History. Read, for example, Minutes and Sermon of the Second Presbyterian and Congregational Convention from October 1858, which includes a condemnation of the recent Dred Scott decision.
- Read a series of sixty-eight letters between Johnson, Abraham Lincoln, and others in the Abraham Lincoln Papers.
- Visit the online exhibition African American Odyssey which explores black America’s quest for equality from the early national period through the twentieth century. Also available is The African-American Mosaic, the first Library-wide resource guide to the institution’s African-American collections including books, periodicals, prints, photographs, music, film, and recorded sound covering 500 years of history.
- Search on keyword Dred Scott in Slaves and the Courts, 1740-1860 to read more about this famous law case. Read, for example, The Case of Dred Scott in the United States Supreme Court.
- See the presentation titled “The Dred Scott Case” mounted by the National Park Service in conjunction with The Museum of Westward Expansion. This complex, part of the national park system, includes the Old Courthouse where the first two trials of the Dred Scott case were held.
Today in History – May 21-External Links
Today’s Weather in History
Today in Earthquake History
This Day in Naval History
Today’s Document from the National Archives
Today’s Events, Births & Deaths –Wikipedia
Today in History by AP
On this Day -1950 to 2005 – Today’s Story–BBC
On This Day: The New York Times
This Day in History –History.com
Today in Canadian History – Canada Channel
History of Britain that took place On This Day
Russia in History –Russiapedia