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May 19 – this day in history

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; Image credit
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk; Image credit

There is something really interesting to note about May 19. If one looks through the annals of history, a large number of revolutionary figures were born on this day. For instance, Malcom X (born Malcolm Little in 1925 – the civil rights leader has been called the greatest African-American in history); Ho Chi Minh, the first president of Vietnam (born in 1890) and Nathuram Godse (born in 1910). May 19 is also the birthday of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Turkish marshal and politician, who was born in 1881 and was the 1st President of Turkey. In fact, Ataturk even initiated the Turkish War of Independence on this day in 1919 by landing at Samsun on the Anatolian Black Sea coast. Interestingly, he was not born with this surname. Atatürk (meaning “Father of the Turks”), was granted to him by the Turkish Parliament in 1934 and anybody else was barred from using this surname.

It turns out May 19 churned out as many creative people as revolutionary thinkers. Flemish painter and illustrator Jacob Jordaens (1593); American jazz tenor saxophonist, clarinetist, and bandleader Georgie Auld (1919); Grace Jones (1948) – Jamaican singer, songwriter, lyricist, supermodel, record producer, and former Bond Girl; and Indian actor, director, screenwriter, and playwright Girish Karnad (1938).

Marilyn Monroe; Image credit

There is lots more that happened in the eras gone by on May 19. Here is a quick round-up of events that stand out:
1536 – Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VIII of England, was beheaded after being accused of adultery, treason, and incest.
1780 – About midday, near-total darkness descends on New England, now known to be caused by forest fires in Canada.
1802 – The Legion of Honour was founded by Napoleon Bonaparte.
1884 – The Ringling Brothers circus premieres.
1896 – The Benz is the first automobile to arrive in the Netherlands.
1950 – Egypt closes passage through the Suez Canal to is closed to Israeli ships – for commercial and all other purposes.
1962 – U.S. President John F. Kennedy is given a birthday salute 10 days before his birthday at Madison Square Garden, New York City. This is where Marilyn Monroe performs her unforgettable version of “Happy Birthday”.
1995 – World’s youngest doctor, Balamurali Ambati, 17, graduates Mount Sinai.


Text by Aarti Kapur Singh

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