John Brown, the militant abolitionist most famous for his failed raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), was born May 9, 1800 in Torrington, Connecticut. Brown felt that violence was necessary to end American slavery, as years of speeches, sermons, petitions, and moral persuasion had failed.
May 7, 1992 – Michigan ratifies a 203-year-old proposed amendment to the United States Constitution making the 27th Amendment law. This amendment bars the U.S. Congress from giving itself a mid-term pay raise.
The Twenty-seventh Amendment (Amendment XXVII) to the United States Constitution prohibits any law that increases or decreases the salary of members of Congress from taking effect until the start of representatives' next set of terms of office. It is the most recently adopted amendment but was one of the first proposed.
The proposed congressional pay amendment was largely forgotten until 1982, when Gregory Watson, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, wrote a paper for a government class in which he claimed that the amendment could still be ratified. An unconvinced teaching assistant graded the paper poorly, motivating Watson to launch a nationwide campaign to complete its ratification.
The Chinese Exclusion Act was a United States federal law signed by President Chester A. Arthur on May 6, 1882, prohibiting all immigration of Chinese laborers. Building on the earlier Page Act of 1875 which banned Chinese women from immigrating to the United States, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first, and remains the only law to have been implemented, to prevent all members of a specific ethnic or national group from immigrating to the United States.
The act followed the Angell Treaty of 1880, a set of revisions to the U.S.–China Burlingame Treaty of 1868 that allowed the U.S. to suspend Chinese immigration. The act was initially intended to last for 10 years, but was renewed and strengthened in 1892 with the Geary Act and made permanent in 1902. These laws attempted to stop all Chinese immigration into the United States for ten years, with exceptions for diplomats, teachers, students, merchants, and travelers. The laws were widely evaded.
Exclusion was repealed by the Magnuson Act on December 17, 1943, which allowed 105 Chinese to enter per year. Chinese immigration later increased with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, which abolished direct racial barriers, and later by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished the National Origins Formula.
Image: A political cartoon from 1882, showing a Chinese man being barred entry to the "Golden Gate of Liberty". The caption reads, "We must draw the line somewhere, you know."
Although other attempts at breaking the color barrier on public transportation and in public accommodations had been attempted before, May 4, 1961 is generally regarded as the official start of the Freedom Riders campaign to protest segregation and other "Jim Crow" policies in the American South. Despite US Supreme Court rulings outlawing discrimination of this type, the laws were still enforced throughout the South and other regions of the country.
May 3, 1948 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Shelley v. Kraemer that covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to blacks and other minorities are legally unenforceable.
The case arose after an African-American family purchased a house in St. Louis that was subject to a restrictive covenant preventing "people of the Negro or Mongolian Race" from occupying the property. The purchase was challenged in court by a neighboring resident, and was blocked by the Supreme Court of Missouri before going to the U.S. Supreme Court on appeal. The Supreme Court of Missouri held that the covenant was enforceable against the purchasers because the covenant was a purely private agreement between its original parties. A materially similar scenario occurred in the companion case McGhee v. Sipes from Detroit, Michigan, where the McGhees purchased land that was subject to a similar restrictive covenant. In that case, the Supreme Court of Michigan also held the covenants enforceable.
Three justices—Robert H. Jackson, Stanley Reed and Wiley B. Rutledge—recused themselves from the case because they owned property subject to restrictive covenants. In a majority opinion that was joined by the other five participating justices, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Fred Vinson struck down the covenant, holding that the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause prohibits racially restrictive housing covenants from being enforced. Vinson held that private parties could abide by the terms of a racially restrictive covenant, but that judicial enforcement of the covenant qualified as a state action and was thus prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause.
Isabel González was a citizen of Puerto Rico who traveled to New York in 1902. Her fiancé had traveled there before her to find work, and was planning to send for her. When no word arrived of his fate, Isabel, who was carrying his child, decided to go to New York to look for him. Her brother and an aunt and uncle were already living in New York, she had all the proper documentation, and expected no problems with entry upon arrival because Puerto Rico was a US territory.
Upon arriving in Ellis Island, however, she was detained and, despite efforts by her family, denied entry on the grounds that as a pregnant and unmarried woman she was likely to become a public charge and, thus, was an "undesirable alien."
González thus became the focus of a civil lawsuit which eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court concluded that person's living within American territories were not "aliens" and could not be denied entry to the US on that ground. The Court further ruled, however, that the question of whether citizenship would be extended to the people of those territories was a matter for Congress. Thirteen years after González v. Williams, the United States Congress addressed the issue of citizenship as it related to Puerto Ricans. The Jones-Shafroth Act was passed in 1917 giving the island residents citizenship.
May 1, 1087 -- The Slave Trade Act 1807 takes effect, abolishing the slave trade within the British Empire.
The National Assembly in the Philippines announced the plebiscite in 1937, which would decide whether or not women should gain the right to vote. Multiple women's movement started during 1910 which led to the plebiscite in 1937 where women voted for or against for women's suffrage rights. Filipino women worked hard to mobilize and fight for women's suffrage in the early 1900s and on April 30 gained victory after 447,725 out of 500,000 votes affirmed to having women's right to vote.
In Los Angeles, California, four Los Angeles police officers that had been caught beating an unarmed African American motorist in an amateur video are acquitted of any wrongdoing in the arrest. Hours after the verdicts were announced, outrage and protest turned to violence as the LA riots began. Protestors in south-central Los Angeles blocked freeway traffic and beat motorists, wrecked and looted numerous downtown stores and buildings, and set more than 100 fires.
On March 3, 1991, paroled felon Rodney King led police on a high-speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles County before eventually surrendering. Intoxicated and uncooperative, King resisted arrest and was brutally beaten by police officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind. Unbeknownst to the police, a citizen with a personal video camera was filming the arrest, and the 89-second video caught the police beating King with their batons and kicking him long after he was capable of resistance. The video, released to the press, caused outrage around the country and triggered a national debate on police brutality.
Rodney King was released without charges, and on March 15 Sergeant Stacey Koon and officers Powell, Wind, and Briseno were indicted by a Los Angeles grand jury in connection with the beating. All four were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and excessive use of force. Though Koon did not actively participate in the beating, as the commanding officer present at the scene he was charged with aiding and abetting. Powell and Koon were also charged with filing false reports.
Because of the uproar in Los Angeles surrounding the incident, the judge, Stanley Weisberg, was persuaded to move the trial outside Los Angeles County to Simi Valley in Ventura County. On April 29, 1992, the 12-person jury issued its verdicts: not guilty on all counts, except for one assault charge against Powell that ended in a hung jury. The acquittals touched off the LA riots, which grew into the largest U.S. civil disturbances of the 20th century.
Violence first erupted at the intersection of Florence Boulevard and Normandie Avenue in south-central Los Angeles. Traffic was blocked, and rioters beat dozens of motorists, including Reginald Denny, a truck driver who was dragged out of his truck and nearly beaten to death. A news helicopter, hovering over the street, recorded the event. Los Angeles police were slow to respond, and the violence radiated to areas throughout the city. California Governor Pete Wilson deployed the National Guard at the request of Mayor Tom Bradley, and a curfew was declared. By the morning, hundreds of fires were burning across the city, more than a dozen people had been killed, and hundreds were injured.
The unrest continued during the next 24 hours, and Korean shop owners in African American neighborhoods defended their businesses with rifles. On May 1, President George Bush ordered military troops and riot-trained federal officers to Los Angeles and by the end of the next day the city was under control. The three days of disorder killed more than 60 people, injured almost 2,000, led to 7,000 arrests, and caused nearly $1 billion in property damage, including the burnings of more than 3,000 buildings.
Under federal law, the four officers could also be prosecuted for violating Rodney King’s constitutional rights. On April 17, 1993, a federal jury convicted Koon and Powell for violating King’s rights by their unreasonable use of force under color of law. Although Wind and Briseno were acquitted, most civil rights advocates considered the mixed verdict a victory. On August 4, Koon and Powell were sentenced to two and a half years in prison. King died in 2012, of an accidental drowning.
Citation InformationArticle Title Riots erupt in Los Angeles after police officers are acquitted in Rodney King trialAuthorHistory.com EditorsWebsite Name HISTORYURL https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/riots-erupt-in-los-angeles
On May 27, 1861, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney of Maryland issues Ex parte Merryman, challenging the authority of President Abraham Lincoln and the U.S. military to suspend the writ of habeas corpus (the legal procedure that prevents the government from holding an individual indefinitely without showing cause) in Maryland.
Early in the war, President Lincoln faced many difficulties due to the fact that Washington was located in slave territory. Although Maryland did not secede, Southern sympathies were widespread. On April 27, 1861, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus between Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia to give military authorities the necessary power to silence dissenters and rebels. Under this order, commanders could arrest and detain individuals who were deemed threatening to military operations. Those arrested could be held without indictment or arraignment.
On May 25, John Merryman, a vocal secessionist, was arrested in Cockeysville, Maryland. He was held at Ft. McHenry in Baltimore, where he appealed for his release under a writ of habeas corpus. The federal circuit court judge was Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, who issued a ruling, Ex parte Merryman, denying the president’s authority to suspend habeas corpus. Taney denounced Lincoln’s interference with civil liberties and argued that only Congress had the power to suspend the writ.
Lincoln did not respond directly to Taney’s edict, but he did address the issue in his message to Congress that July. He justified the suspension through Article I, Section 9, of the Constitution, which specifies a suspension of the writ “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”
Although military officials continued to arrest suspected Southern sympathizers, the incident led to a softening of the policy. Concern that Maryland might still secede from the Union forced a more conciliatory stance from Lincoln and the military. Merryman was remanded to civil authorities in July and allowed to post bail. He was never brought to trial, and the charges of treason against him were dropped two years after the war.