December 7, 1874: during the Reconstruction era that followed Emancipation and the Civil War, African American Mississippians made significant strides toward political equality. Despite the passage of black codes designed to oppress and disenfranchise black people in the South, many African American men voted and served in political office on federal, state, and local levels. Peter Crosby, a former slave, was elected to Sheriff in Vicksburg, Mississippi – but shortly after taking office, Crosby was indicted on false criminal charges and removed from his position by a violent white mob. On December 7, 1874, the “Vicksburg Massacre” occurred, in which whites attack and killed many black citizens who had organized to try to help Crosby regain his office. The violence prompted President Ulysses S. Grant to finally send troops to mediate the conflict. Crosby regained his position as Sheriff soon after, through the use of force and the courts. In early 1875, J.P. Gilmer, a white man, was hired to serve as Crosby's deputy. After a disagreement, Crosby tried to have Gilmer removed from office. Gilmer responded by shooting Crosby in the head on June 7, 1875. Gilmer was arrested for the attempted assassination, but never brought to trial. Crosby survived the wound but never made a full recovery, and had to serve the remainder of his term through a representative white citizen. The violence and intimidation tactics utilized by white Mississippians intent on restoring white supremacy soon enabled forces antagonistic to the aims of Reconstruction and racial equality to regain power in Mississippi. In 1883 in Pace v. Alabama the U.S. Supreme Court had unanimously ruled that state-level bans on interracial marriage did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment.
On December 7, 1964 the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in McLaughlin v. Florida that laws banning interracial sex did violate the Fourteenth Amendment. McLaughlin v. Florida struck down Florida Statute 798.05, which read: "Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the nighttime the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred dollars." While the ruling did not directly address laws banning interracial marriage, it laid down the groundwork for a ruling that definitively did.
Margaret Sanger had ordered a new type of diaphragm (referred to as a pessary) that had been developed in Japan. Custom officials, acting under the 1930 Tariff Act, which included the provisions of the 1873 Comstock Act (March 3, 1873) which outlawed the distribution of birth control information and devices, seized them. On December 7, 1936, in U.S. v. One Package of Japanese Pessaries, the U.S. Court of Appeals held that the ban on birth control devices was “unreasonable” and overturned the ban. Sanger said that the decision “firmly establishes the precedent that contraceptive material may be lawfully admitted into this country and by implication disseminated through the mails in this country if intended for legitimate use. (full story >>> NYU article)
World War II
December 7, 1941:Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Canada responded later that day by declaring war on Japan. On December 8, the United States and United Kingdom also declared war on Japan. In response on December 11, Japan's ally, Germany, declared war on the United States.
SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE
December 7, 1960: Madalyn Murray (later O'Hair) filed suit in the Superior Court of Baltimore, Maryland, asking the Court to rule that required Bible reading and recitation of the Lord's Prayer in the city's public schools were unconstitutional.
On December 7, 1962 workers at the Richards Oil Plant in Savage Minnesota forgot to open steam lines that heated oil pipes at the plant. On December 8, these pipes burst in low temperatures and spilled one million gallons of petroleum into the Minnesota River. By January 24, 1963, the Department of Health traced downstream oil back to Richards Oil. Employees claimed only a small leak had occurred. The Department of Health requested that Richards Oil clean up the oil but could only take action if there was a public health emergency. Richards continued to drain oil until March.
December 7, 1963: CBS Sports Director Tony Verna used a system he’d invented to enable a standard videotape machine to instantly replay during the Army-Navy game. It was used only once for a touchdown withTV commentator Lindsey Nelson advising viewers "Ladies and gentle men, Army did not score again!" (more >>> NPR story)
December 7, 1963 – January 3, 1964: “Dominque” by the Singing Nun #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The singing nun was Jeanine Deckers (17 October 1933 – 29 March 1985) a Belgian nun, and a member (as Sister Luc Gabriel) of the Dominican Fichermont Convent in Belgium. December 7, 1963 – February 14, 1964 – the Singing Nun’s The Singing Nun is the Billboard #1 album. (see Jeanine Deckers for full story)
On December 7, 1972 Apollo 17 blasted off. On December 11, Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt became the last people to walk on the moon. They remained on the moon for three days (75 hours). Schmitt was the first scientist-astronaut to land on the moon.
December 7, 1978: the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that Leonard was unfairly discharged from the military.
December 7, 1982: the first execution by lethal injection took place at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas. Charles Brooks, Jr., convicted of murdering an auto mechanic, received an intravenous injection of sodium pentathol, the barbiturate that is known as a "truth serum" when administered in lesser doses.
December 7, 1985: President Ronald Reagan met with his national security advisers and approved the major parts of the Iran-Contra affair. CIA Director William Casey also approved the plan, but Secretary of State George Shultz and Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger objected, arguing that it was illegal. They even joked with Reagan that, if anyone went to jail, “visiting hours are on Thursday.” (The Iran-Contra affair involved a complex set of international deals in which President Ronald Reagan and members of his administration violated the law and civil liberties principles.)
The Cold War
December 7, 1987: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev arrived for his summit with President Ronald Reagan. Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, charmed the American public and media by praising the United States and calling for closer relations between the Soviet Union and America.
December 7, 2002: in a declaration to the United Nations Iraq denied it had weapons of mass destruction. (full story >>> NYT article)
US Labor History
December 7, 2009: delegates to the founding convention of the National Nurses United (NNU) in Phoenix, Ariz., unanimously endorsed the creation of the largest union and professional organization of registered nurses in U.S. history.