December 18, 1865: Secretary of State William H. Seward proclaimed the Thirteenth Amendment to Constitution to have been adopted. It officially outlawed slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It reads:
| Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
On April 18, 1946: thirty-two-year-old Navy veteran Davis Knight married Junie Lee Spradley. In June 1948, the state indicted Mr. Knight for violating a law that prohibited “marriage or cohabitation between white persons and those with one-eighth or more Negro or Mongolian blood.” At trial, Mr. Knight insisted that he was white: his wife believed him to be white and his Navy service records listed him as white. The State set out to prove he was black. The whole case turned on the race of Mr. Knight’s deceased great-grandmother, Rachel; if she was black, Mr. Knight was at least one-eighth black and guilty. As evidence of Rachel’s race, the State presented several elderly witnesses, including an eighty-nine-year-old white man who testified that Rachel had lived on his father’s plantation and was a “known Negro.” On December 18, 1948 a jury found Davis Knight to be black and sentenced to five years in prison for marrying outside of his race. He appealed. On November 14, 1949 the Mississippi State Supreme Court reversed Davis Knight’s conviction. The Court held that, in Mr. Knight’s particular case, the State had failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove that his grandmother Rachel was fully black, so it had not proved that Mr. Knight was at least one-eighth black. Though the decision did not strike down the state’s miscegenation law, or prevent future prosecution of Mr. Knight or others, many white Mississippians protested the decision, hanging members of the court in effigy. The state’s ban on interracial marriage would stand for nearly two more decades, until the United States Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia struck down remaining anti-miscegenation laws in Mississippi and seventeen other states.
December 18, 1961: an agreement was reached in Albany, GA. It paved the way for the release of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and about 300 other Negroes from prison.
Murders of Three Civil Rights Workers
December 18, 1964: eighteen of the 21 Mississippians implicated in the murder of the three civil rights workers were arraigned before a US commissioner in Meridan, MS. Defendant Lawrence Rainey, Neshoba county sheriff, said, “Hey, let’s have some Red Man” –and bit off a cheek-filling plug. His deputy (and codefendant) Cecil Price (holding a bail application) smiled and other defendants and spectators laughed.
December 18, 1935, : the celebrated play The Children’s Hour, by Lillian Hellman, was denounced as “abhorrent” and “revolting” by Boston Mayor F. W. Mansfield on this day. The play has a lesbian theme, in which a young girl runs away from a boarding school and, to avoid being returned, tells her grandmother that the two headmistresses of the school are having a love affair. The accusation ruins the women’s careers and their relationship.
Japanese Internment Camps
December 18, 1944: brought by Japanese-American Fred Korematsu regarding the Japanese internment, the Supreme Court sided with the government in Korematsu v. United States ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional. (see Korematsu vs United States)
Nuclear and Chemical Weapons
December 18, 1957: the Shippingport Atomic Power Station in Pennsylvania, the first civilian nuclear facility to generate electricity in the United States, went online.
December 18, 1958: the US launched the world's first communications satellite, SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment), nicknamed "Chatterbox," aboard an Atlas rocket. The Atlas missile served as a platform for the experiment and the communications equipment was integrated into its faring pods. It transmitted the first message from space to Earth on a short-wave frequency—a pre-recorded statement from President Dwight D. Eisenhower: "This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite traveling in outer space. My message is a simple one: Through this unique means I convey to you and all mankind, America's wish for peace on Earth and goodwill toward men everywhere."
see 1960s December 18 Music for more
December 18, 1961 – January 12, 1962: a South African song from the 1920s, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens #1 Billboard Hot 100. December 18, 1961 – May 4, 1962 – Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii movie soundtrack continues as the Billboard #1 album. On December 17, 1963 radio DJ Carroll James at Washington. D.C. station WWDC, a U.K. copy of “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on the radio after a 15-year-old girl from Silver Spring, MD wrote to him requesting Beatles music after seeing the CBS-news segment. James Carroll became the first disc jockey to broadcast a Beatles record on American radio. He had obtained the record from his stewardess girlfriend, who brought the single back from the UK. Due to listener demand, the song was played daily, every hour. On December 18 – 19, 1963 Capitol Records threatened to sue WWDC to stop playing song, but then reversed itself and decided to rush-release “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” previously scheduled for January 13, 1964. Christmas leave was canceled at Capitol Records, as pressing plants and staff gear up for rush release. December 18, 1964, The Beatles: “Another Beatles Christmas Record” issued to fan club members. December 18, 1966, The Beatles after live performances: “The Family Way” movie premiered. Music by Paul McCartney. December 18, 1965, LSD : Big Beat Acid Test, The Big Beat Club, Palo Alto.
December 18, 1967: Katz v. United States, was a US Supreme Court case discussing the nature of the "right to privacy" and the legal definition of a "search". The Court's ruling refined previous interpretations of the unreasonable search and seizure clause of the Fourth Amendment to count immaterial intrusion with technology as a search, overruling Olmstead v. United States (see June 4, 1928) and Goldman v. United States. Katz also extended Fourth Amendment protection to all areas where a person has a "reasonable expectation of privacy".
December 18, 1968: Mohawk Indians form a blockade at the Cornwall International Bridge between the U.S. and Canada in protest of the U.S. restricting Native peoples' free movement between the two countries. Many protesters were arrested but the Canadian government dismissed the charges.
December 18, 1970: the blast from a planned atomic test accidentally released a plume of hot gases and radioactive dust three and a half minutes after ignition and continuing for many hours, raining fallout on workers. Six percent of the explosion's radioactive products were vented atomic leak in Nevada forced hundreds of citizens to flee the test site.
My Lai Massacre
December 18, 1971: after a trial that included testimony from 106 witnesses, Colonel Henderson was acquitted of all charges.
Operation Linebacker Two
December 18, 1972: President Nixon ordered a new bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese. Operation Linebacker Two lasted for 12 days, including a three day bombing period by up to 120 B-52s. Strategic surgical strikes were planned on fighter airfields, transport targets and supply depots in and around Hanoi and Haiphong. U.S. aircraft dropped more than 20,000 tons of bombs in this operation. Twenty-six U.S. planes were lost, and 93 airmen were killed, captured or missing. North Vietnam admitted to between 1,300 and 1,600 dead.
December 18, 1989: a mail bomb killed Robert Robinson, an attorney in Savannah, Georgia, in his office. Robinson was in his second term as 5th District alderman when he was killed. A year after his slaying, federal officials obtained a 70-count indictment against Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 56, of Rex, including a murder charge in the slaying of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert S. Vance on Dec. 16, 1989, in a mail bomb explosion at his home in Mountain Brook, Ala. The indictment charged Moody with transporting explosive material with intent to kill, causing a death. Moody was convicted in federal court in June 1991 of 70 offenses, including murder in the Vance slaying, and sentenced to serve consecutive life terms without parole. He was later convicted in an Alabama circuit court in Birmingham in the slayings of Vance and Robinson and sentenced to death in February 1997.
December 18, 1998: the House of Representatives engaged in a fierce, daylong debate whether to impeach President Clinton. A CNN survey suggested there were enough votes to approve one or more articles of impeachment.
December 18, 2007: the U.N. General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, overcoming protests from a bloc of states that said it undermined their sovereignty. The resolution which calls for 'a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty,' was passed by a 104 to 54 vote, with 29 abstentions. Two similar moves in the 1990s failed in the assembly. The resolution's text stops short of an outright demand for immediate abolition; it carries no legal force but backers say it has powerful moral authority. Among nations who voted against were Egypt, Iran, Singapore, the United States and a bloc of Caribbean states. Eighty-seven countries -- including the 27 European Union states, more than a dozen Latin American countries and eight African states -- jointly introduced the resolution, though opponents singled out the EU as the driving force. December 18, 2009: use of capital punishment by states continued its steady decline, with fewer death sentences handed down in 2009 than any year since the death penalty was reinstated by the Supreme Court in 1976. Year-end figures by the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) showed 11 states were considering abolishing executions, with many legislators citing high costs associated with incarcerating and handling often decades-long appeals by death row inmates... Fifty-two inmates were executed in 11 states in 2009. As in previous years, Texas in 2009 led the states in executions, with 24 -- four times as many as the next-highest, Alabama. Nine men who had been sentenced to death were exonerated and freed in 2009, most after new DNA or other forensic testing cleared them, or raised doubts their culpability. That was the second highest total since the death penalty was reinstated 33 years earlier.
District of Columbia
December 18, 2009: District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty signed a freedom to marry bill into law after it passed by a large majority of City Council members. January 1, 2010 New Hampshire same-sex couples begin marrying in the state.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
December 18, 2010: the U.S. Senate voted 65 to 31 in favor of repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the Clinton-era military policy that forbid openly gay men and women from serving in the military. Eight Republicans sided with the Democrats to strike down the ban. The ban will not be lifted officially until President Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, agree that the military is ready to enact the change and that it won't affect military readiness.
Iraq War II
December 18, 2011: the last convoy of heavily armored U.S. troops left Iraq, crossing into Kuwait in darkness in the final moments of a nine-year war.
December 18, 2014: Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning said the state was joining Oklahoma in a federal lawsuit that sought a declaration that Colorado's legalization of marijuana violated the United States Constitution. "Federal law undisputedly prohibits the production and sale of marijuana," said Bruning. "Colorado has undermined the United States Constitution, and I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will uphold our constitutional principles." Bruning said the "illegal products of this system" are heavily trafficked into neighboring states, causing an unnecessary burden on the state of Nebraska. The Colorado Attorney General's Office said it would defend the state's marijuana laws. "We are not entirely surprised by this action," Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said. "However, it appears the plaintiffs' primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court." On March 21, 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court declined 6 - 2 to hear Nebraska and Oklahoma’s proposed lawsuit meaning the nation’s highest court will not rule on the interstate dispute.