February 4

February 4

February 4


February 4, 1846: the Alabama state legislature voted to construct the first state-run prison on January 26, 1839. In 1841, Alabama built the Wetumpka State Penitentiary. The prison received its first inmate in 1842: a white man sentenced to 20 years for harboring a runaway slave. In the antebellum penitentiary, 99 percent of inmates were white, as free black people were not legally permitted to live in the state, and enslaved black people were instead subject to unregulated “plantation justice” at the hands of slave owners and overseers.

The penitentiary was supposed to be self-sufficient, but soon proved costly as the prison industries of manufacturing wagons, buggies, saddles, harnesses, shoes, and rope failed to generate enough funds to maintain the facility. On February 4, 1846, the state legislature chose to lease the penitentiary to J.G. Graham, a private businessman, for a six-year term. Graham appointed himself warden and took control of the entire prison and its inmates, claiming all profits made from inmate labor and eliminating every other employment position except physician and inspector. Alabama continued to lease the prison to private businessmen until 1862, when warden/leaser Dr. Ambrose Burrows was murdered by an inmate.

This initial leasing of the prison and its inmates marked the beginning of the convict leasing system in Alabama, and that system was soon renewed. In 1866, after the end of the Civil War, the government again authorized inmates to be leased to work outside of the prison, and 374 prisoners were leased to the firm Smith & McMillen to work rebuilding the Alabama & Chattanooga Railroad. In this post-Emancipation society, black people were no longer enslaved, and the convict population that was formerly almost all white was now 90 percent black. The system of convict leasing became one that forced primarily black prisoners – some convicted of minor or trumped up charges – to work in hard, dangerous, conditions for no pay. This practice continued until World War II.
Greensoro NC sit-in
The Greensoro NC sit in continued. On February 4, 1960 more than 300 students participated in the protests. Students from N.C. A&T, Bennett College and Dudley High School occupied every seat at the lunch counter. Three white supporters (Genie Seaman, Marilyn Lott and Ann Dearsley) from the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now UNCG), joined the protest. As tensions grew, police kept the crowd in check. Waiting students then marched to the basement lunch counter at S.H. Kress & Co., the second store targeted by the Student Executive Committee, and the Greensboro sit-ins spread.

That evening, student leaders, college administrators and representatives from F.W. Woolworth and Kress stores held talks. The stores refused to integrate as long as other downtown facilities remained segregated. Students insisted the F.W. Woolworth and Kress retail stores would remain targets, and the meeting ended without resolution.
Malcolm X

February 4, 1965: 17 days before he was assassinated, Malcolm X spoke at the Brown Chapel in Selma. King  was still in jail and the SNCC had invited Malcolm X to speak to the young civil rights activists. Malcolm compared the “house Negro” and the “field Negro” and talked about the importance of not becoming complacent in “massa’s house” or comfortable with the status of being an oppressed people.

Coretta Scott King later reported that X said to her: “Mrs. King, I want you to tell your husband that I had planned to visit him in jail here in Selma, but I won’t be able to do it now. I have to go back to New York because I have to attend a conference in Europe, an African student conference, and I want you to say to him that I didn’t come to Selma to make his job more difficult, but I thought that if the white people understood what the alternative was that they would be more inclined to listen to your husband. And so that’s why I came.”
Amadou Diallo

February 4

February 4, 1999: four New York City Police Department plain-clothed officers (Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss) shoot and kill 23-year-old Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo. The four officers fired a total of 41 shots hitting Diallo nineteen times.

US Labor History

February 4, 1887, Interstate Commerce Act created the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate Railroads, the first industry to be subject to Federal regulation.

February 4, 1896: ironworkers from six cities met in Pittsburgh to form the Int’l Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America. Their pay in Pittsburgh at the time: $2.75 for a 9-hour day.

Yalta Conference

February 4

February 4, 1945: Yalta Conference. (Ukraine, SSR). Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Josef Stalin meet in the Soviet resort town of Yalta to make plans for the postwar era. In a problematic compromise, Roosevelt accedes to Churchill's and Stalin's plans for spheres of influence in Europe even while convincing the British and Soviet leaders to sign on to a statement affirming the principles of democracy.


February 4

February 4, 1948:  Sri Lanka independent from from the United Kingdom.


February 4, 1951: thirty-nine religious leaders, including Protestant ministers and Jewish Rabbis, urged the New York State Board of Regents not to revoke the license of the controversial Italian film, The Miracle . The article in The New York Times did not mention the well-known fact that leaders of the Catholic Church were leading the fight to ban the film. The controversy eventually ended in the U.S. Supreme Court when, in the landmark decision Burstyn v. Wilson, decided on May 26, 1952  and which involved The Miracle, the Court ruled that movies were a form of expression protected by the First Amendment.


Cultural Milestones

February 4

February 4, 1964: Robert F. Borkenstein et al. published  "The Role of the Drinking Driver in Traffic Accidents," also known as the Grand Rapids Study, for Indiana University's Department of Police Administration. It stated that the probability of accident involvement increased rapidly at alcohol levels over .08 percent and became extremely high at levels over .15 percent. ... Drivers with an alcohol level of .06 percent have an estimated probability of causing an accident double that of a sober driver. Drivers with .10 percent B.A.L. are from six to seven times as likely to cause an accident as one with .00 percent alcohol level. When the .15 percent alcohol level is reached, the probability of causing an accident is estimated at more than 25 times the probability for that of a sober driver.

February 4

February 4, 2004: Mark Zuckerberg launched the social networking website Facebook.

Music et al

February 4
Rock Venues
February 4, 5, and 6, 1966: Chet  Helms founded Family Dog Productions to begin promoting concerts at The Fillmore Auditorium, alternating weekends with promoter, Bill Graham. (see Fillmore Auditorium for more)
Beat Generation

February 4

February 4, 1968: Neal Cassady died. Both a major figure of the Beat Generation and the psychedelic era of the 1960s. Drove Ken Kesey’s famous bus, Furthur, cross-country to 1964 NY World’s Fair.
John Lennon
February 4, 1972: after reading FBI surveillance reports, US Senator Strom Thurmond told Attorney General John Mitchell that Lennon should be deported because he consorted with known radicals such as Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman.

Symbionese Liberation Army

February 4

February 4, 1974: Three members of the S.L.A. forced their way into Patti Hearst's apartment, beat her fiancé Steven Weed and abducted her. Hearst was the newspaper heiress and  a 19-year-old Berkeley student.


February 4

February 4, 1989, Oliver W. Sipple, the former marine who thwarted an assassination attempt on President Gerald R. Ford, died in his apartment in San Francisco. He was 47 years old. He unsuccessfully sued the press for exposing him as a homosexual. Later,  the California Supreme Court dismissed Sipple’s suit.

 A spokesman for the coroner's office in San Francisco said that Mr. Sipple had been dead several days when a friend found his body. The spokesman said that an autopsy had not yet been performed but that Mr. Sipple had apparently died of ''natural causes.'' In an account yesterday about his death, The San Francisco Examiner said he had received treatment in recent years for schizophrenia, alcoholism and several other health problems. (see Oliver W Sipple)

February 4, 2004: The Massachusetts high court ruled that only full, equal marriage rights for gay couples, not civil unions, would be constitutional. "The history of our nation has demonstrated that separate is seldom, if ever, equal," an advisory opinion from the four justices who ruled in favor of gay marriage stated. A bill creating only civil unions, not full marriage rights, would be "unconstitutional, inferior, and discriminatory status for same-sex couples."


February 4
Paul Miller
On March 14, 2013 Paul Miller had shot and killed his neighbor Dana Mulhall.  On February 4, 2013, Miller claimed a "Stand Your Ground" defense. On May 24, 2013 a Flagler County (Florida) jury convicted Paul Miller, 66 of murder in the shooting death Mulhall. The jury had been told that Miller went inside his house to retrieve his loaded hand gun off the top of a curio, concealed it by putting it in his back waistband before going outside and shooting Mulhall five times. 

"Miller’s actions prove he intended to kill Mr. Mulhall. He was combative in his language, gesture and actions," said Assistant State Attorney Jaquelyn Roys. "If indeed the defendant feared his neighbor, as he claimed, he had an opportunity to call the police when he went inside the house. Instead, Miller chose to confront his neighbor with gunfire."  Miller had claimed self-defense, saying he lived in fear of his neighbor. The jury deliberated 90 minutes before finding Miller guilty.


February 4

February 4, 2015:  U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated that cannabis use could be beneficial for certain medical conditions and symptoms, the first time in the nation’s history that a sitting Surgeon General acknolwedged cannabis as a legitimate medicine.

We have some preliminary data showing that for certain medical conditions and symptoms that marijuana can be helpful,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CBS News.

                Murthy went on to say that he believed the data should be the driving force in lawmakers determining future policies for cannabis; “I think we have to use that data to drive policymaking, and I’m very interested to see where that data takes us,” he said. 
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