Monday January 29th
In 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union, and became the 34th State of the United States of America. Having been ‘settled’ in the earlier part of the 19th Century, Kansas was one of the major battlegrounds between pro-slavery and abolitionist parties. When Kansas entered the Union it did so as a Free State (i.e. one where slavery is illegal or being fazed out). 46 years later, in 1907, Charles Curtis became the first Native American US Senator.
Famous Death: Poet Robert Frost (1874-1963)
Holiday: Kansas Day (Kansas, USA)
Tuesday January 30th
On this day, in 1948, Mahatma Gandhi is assassinated by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse in New Delhi. Gandhi, a proponent of non-violent protest, was a key figure in the Indian struggle for independence from the British Empire. He would famously go on fasts to protest the injustices of colonialism and religious violence. Gandhi was a supporter of a single independent Indian state operating on religious pluralism, but a Muslim independence movement and British plans got in the way of this dream. This view, as well as his efforts to salve sectarian tension, lead many extremists to think he was too accommodating, which ultimately lead to his death, aged 78.
Famous Death: Pioneering stop-motion animator Arthur Rankin Jr. (1924-2014)
Holiday: Day of Saudade (Brazil)
Wednesday January 31st
Guy Fawkes is executed on this day in 1606 for his part in the Gunpowder Plot. Fawkes, a devout Catholic who sought to return a Catholic monarch to the throne, was found guarding gunpowder under Westminster. Found guilty of treason against King James I, Fawkes was to be executed by hanging. However, he was able to cheat the hangman by falling from the scaffold on which he was to be hung, breaking his neck in the fall.
Famous Death: Radio & Television personality Terry Wogan (1938-2016)
Holiday: Street Children’s Day (Austria)
Thursday February 1st
On this day, in 1865, US President Abraham Lincoln signs the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude in the US, except as part of a punishment for a crime. The amendment is also considered to include sex trafficking and other, more modern forms of slavery. It would be ratified by the majority of Northern states, as well as some of the border and reconstructed Southern states, causing it to become law before the end of 1865.
Famous Death: Frankenstein author Mary Shelley (1797-1851)
Holiday: Hijab Day (Worldwide)
Friday February 2nd
In 1943, the Battle of Stalingrad finally came to an end as the last German troops in the city surrender to Soviet forces. Friedrich Paulus, the officer in command of the forces on the ground, had been ordered not to surrender, flee or make an attempt to break the Soviet lines. Hitler even promoted Paulus to the rank of Generalfeldmarschall, as no German field marshal had ever surrendered. The German’s reportedly negotiated surrender without Paulus.
Famous Death: Punk pioneer Sid Vicious (1957-1979)
Holiday: Groundhog Day (US & Canada)