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2023 was a year of big anniversaries

Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Activists marked 60 years since the march in 2023.
AFP via Getty Images
Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on August 28, 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the Mall in Washington, D.C. Activists marked 60 years since the march in 2023.

A lot of big news happened in 2023, but it was also a year to remember things that happened in other years.

That's right — we're diving into history with a year-end roundup of anniversaries.

It was 50 years ago that hip-hop began at a Bronx party. Exactly one month later, a brutal military coup in the South American country of Chile shocked many Americans into political action.

It's been 60 years since 250,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C., for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas three months later.

Israel declared independence 75 years ago, while Palestinians mourned 75 years since the Nakba, or catastrophe.

Without further ado, here's a list of articles from 2023 about notable historical happenings, organized by what month they originally occurred.

January

The panel on the right, from KC Green's web comic strip "On Fire," became a popular online meme by 2014.
/ KC Green
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KC Green
The panel on the right, from KC Green's web comic strip "On Fire," became a popular online meme by 2014.

2013: In 2023, it feels like the world is on fire. But it'll be OK if you just tell yourself, "this is fine" ... right? In 2013, Question Hound's most famous comic strip debuted, which over the years spawned a mass of internet memes.

1943: Casablanca opened nationwide in the U.S. The movie about refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe included actors who were refugees themselves.

1923: Sam Phillips was born. The record producer brought the world Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and B.B. King. He founded the legendary Memphis label Sun Records and was a key architect of rock 'n' roll. Here's his story.

Also in 1923: Prognosticators prognosticated a whole slew of ideas for a century in the future: "No More Hard Work By 2023!" (Note: It's not clear what month in 1923 these predictions were published, but we wrote about them in January.)

February

The Branch Davidian cult compound observation tower near Waco, Texas, is engulfed in flames on April 19, 1993. The siege began in February.
Tim Roberts / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
The Branch Davidian cult compound observation tower near Waco, Texas, is engulfed in flames on April 19, 1993. The siege began in February.

2003: The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas as it returned to Earth. Seven astronauts were killed. NASA's deputy administrator talked with NPR about what she remembered from that day and how the disaster affected future missions.

Also in 2003: Secretary of State Colin Powell delivered a speech to the United Nations Security Council saying Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had "weapons of mass destruction." His claims turned out to be based on faulty information.

1993: Federal agents arrived at the compound of the Branch Davidian Christian sect near Waco, Texas. A gunfight ensued, during which five Branch Davidians and four federal agents were killed. The events led to a 51-day siege, ending with a fire that killed scores of people inside. Fresh Air talked with the author of a new book that covers the standoff and the Branch Davidian leader, David Koresh.

1973: About 200 Native American activists seized the South Dakota town of Wounded Knee, kicking off a monthslong occupation that helped galvanize the movement for Indigenous rights across the U.S. They aimed to protest corruption in tribal leadership and highlight the U.S. government's failure to honor Native treaties.

March

U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion 8th Regiment enter in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, where allied troops found stubborn resistance in their northbound advance toward the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on March 23, 2003.
Eric Feferberg / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
U.S. Marines from the 2nd Battalion 8th Regiment enter in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, where allied troops found stubborn resistance in their northbound advance toward the Iraqi capital Baghdad, on March 23, 2003.

2003: President George W. Bush sent U.S. troops to invade Iraq, launching a war with profound effects for the U.S. and the Middle East. At least 270,000 Iraqis, mostly civilians, were killed, as were some 4,600 U.S. service members.


1973: Pink Floyd released the classic album Dark Side of the Moon. NPR answered the burning question: What does a psychologist think of the lyrics?

April

Madhur Jaffrey, Indian American actress, chef and author, poses for a portrait leading up to the release of <em>An Invitation to Indian Cooking: 50th Anniversary Edition</em> at her home in Hillsdale, N.Y., on June 23. The book was originally published in 1973.
/ Gabriela Bhaskar for NPR
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Gabriela Bhaskar for NPR
Madhur Jaffrey, Indian American actress, chef and author, poses for a portrait leading up to the release of An Invitation to Indian Cooking: 50th Anniversary Edition at her home in Hillsdale, N.Y., on June 23. The book was originally published in 1973.

2003: The English translation of the classic memoir Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi was published. Using black-and-white comics, it told the story of a young girl who grows up in Iran during the 1979 revolution and its tumultuous aftermath.

1993: The World Wide Web launched into the public domain, making it simple for anyone to navigate the internet.

1973: Anyone looking for authentic Indian recipes has likely come across Madhur Jaffrey's books. Her first cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking, was published in 1973. She told NPR how she stays so passionate about food: "I love to eat. When you love to eat, you say, 'Oh, this is possible.' You keep thinking of the possibilities."

1948: The World Health Organization was founded "to promote and protect the health of all peoples." As the United Nations agency turned 75, eight global health specialists offered bold new agenda items to add to its docket. Among them: thinking more about adolescent health and the ethics of new technology.

May

Blue jeans were patented in 1873, 150 years ago, and have remained in fashion ever since. A group of American teenagers is pictured wearing denim circa 1955.
/ Pavelle Jacobs/Three Lions/Getty Images
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Pavelle Jacobs/Three Lions/Getty Images
Blue jeans were patented in 1873, 150 years ago, and have remained in fashion ever since. A group of American teenagers is pictured wearing denim circa 1955.

1963: Young students in Birmingham, Ala., peacefully marched to demand an end to segregation. It became known as "The Children's Crusade." The brutal response from white segregationists shocked the world and galvanized support for passage of the Civil Rights Act.

1948: Israel was established as a homeland for Jews, while the majority of Palestinians were displaced. Palestinians call it the Nakba — "the catastrophe." The history continues to loom large in the current conflict.

1873: Blue jeans were patented by Jacob Davis and Levi Strauss. Davis had the idea to add metal rivets at the stress points of denim work pants, making them stronger. Jeans have continued to evolve with our culture, and have a complex history.

June

On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7.
/ NASA
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NASA
On June 18, 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman to fly in space when the space shuttle Challenger launched on mission STS-7.

2013: The Guardian and The Washington Post published articles about the National Security Agency's mass collection of data on American citizens, based on information provided by Edward Snowden. One result of the disclosures is that many Americans now better understand how governments and tech companies collect personal data.

1983: NASA mission specialist Sally Ride lifted off aboard the Challenger space shuttle to become the first American woman in space. It was part of a six-day mission that would orbit Earth and deploy communications satellites.

1973: Calypso artist Lord Shorty released "Indrani," a song that fused Indian instrumentation with African-influenced calypso rhythms. He's credited with creating a new musical genre: soca. (Note: It's not totally clear what month in 1973 this happened, but we're going with June because of the date listed here.)

1963: Civil rights organizer Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his driveway in Jackson, Miss., by a white segregationist. While civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. pushed for equality across the U.S., Evers focused his efforts on his native Mississippi.

1943: During World War II, Black and white U.S. soldiers fought each other in Bamber Bridge, England. When Black soldiers stood up to racism and discrimination, one of them was shot dead, and more than 30 others were court-martialed for mutiny. The Battle of Bamber Bridge was a precursor to battles that would unfold on American streets during the Civil Rights era.

July

A Mr. ZIP decal appears on a U.S. mail letter box in Florida in 2019. The character was part of a campaign to promote the use of ZIP codes, which were introduced in 1963, 60 years ago.
Phillip Pessar / Flickr Creative Commons
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Flickr Creative Commons
A Mr. ZIP decal appears on a U.S. mail letter box in Florida in 2019. The character was part of a campaign to promote the use of ZIP codes, which were introduced in 1963, 60 years ago.

1963: The Zone Improvement Plan code rolled out. (Did you know that's what ZIP code stood for?) The new codes, along with new sorting machines, made sorting the mail a whole lot faster. A cartoon mailman, Mr. ZIP, helped to promote the new effort.

Also in 1963: A group of Black girls was arrested during a march to desegregate a theater in Americus, Ga. They were held for 45 days in a squalid cell in an abandoned stockade. Their parents didn't know where they were. It took an activist photographer taking surreptitious photos of their living conditions to pressure authorities to release them.

August

Flavor Flav of the rap group Public Enemy performs during a celebration for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop on August 12, 2023, in New York City. The genre has become a worldwide phenomenon after beginning in New York in 1973.
David Dee Delgado / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Flavor Flav of the rap group Public Enemy performs during a celebration for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop on August 12, 2023, in New York City. The genre has become a worldwide phenomenon after beginning in New York in 1973.

1993: The alternative rock band The Breeders released their breakout album, Last Splash. If you listened to rock radio in the '90s, you definitely heard their song "Cannonball" at least one or 100 times.

1973: A DJ rocked a modest party for fellow teenagers in a small community room in a Bronx apartment building. It's considered the birth of hip-hop, which has grown into a global musical force.

1963: More than 250,000 people gathered for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. His most famous words that day were not planned. Clarence B. Jones helped King write the speech. He was watching from behind that day and could tell it was going to be memorable when his attention turned to King's feet.

In 2023, activists gathered to mark 60 years since the speech and to say that America had slid backwards in its fight against hatred and bigotry.

September

Chilean army troops fire on the La Moneda presidential palace on Sept. 11, 1973, in Santiago, Chile. Backlash to the U.S. role in the coup later led to human rights taking a larger place in U.S. foreign policy.
/ AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Chilean army troops fire on the La Moneda presidential palace on Sept. 11, 1973, in Santiago, Chile. Backlash to the U.S. role in the coup later led to human rights taking a larger place in U.S. foreign policy.

2003: Johnny Cash died. He had loomed large over American music for more than half a century. His son told NPR that Cash's songs connected with people "in ways that could tell the story of those people's lives and, of course, initially his own."

1998: Florence Griffith Joyner, known as "Flo-Jo," died at age 38. She set records as the fastest woman to run the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, which still stand today. Here's her story.

1973: Salvador Allende, Chile's socialist president, was overthrown in a military coup. The country went on to be ruled by a right-wing dictatorship for 17 years, which killed and tortured thousands of people. The United States had helped set the stage for the coup. A backlash led to Congress and human rights concerns taking on a larger role in U.S. foreign policy.

1963: Members of the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., killing four Black girls. Survivors of the blast say there are lessons for the country today as politicians seek to whitewash racist history.

October

2018: Saudi agents killed and dismembered dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Khashoggi was a U.S. resident and wrote for The Washington Post. U.S. intelligence concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation. The crown prince has yet to face serious consequences, and the U.S. is back to business as usual with Saudi Arabia.

1993: The Nightmare Before Christmas was released in theaters. How did a weird little animated movie become a holiday classic?

1973: A group of Arab countries led by Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel, starting the Yom Kippur War. The brief conflict played a large part in shaping U.S. foreign policy and energy policy afterward.

Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel this year took place exactly 50 years and one day after the war's start.

1923: The jungle gym was patented. Early ideas came from mathematician Charles Hinton and it was further refined by his son, Sebastian Hinton. The design has endured because of its simplicity. And it packs in just enough risk to be fun.

November

2003: The supersonic airliner Concorde made its final flight, marking the end of a groundbreaking chapter in aviation history. The plane, which debuted commercially in 1976, could travel from London to New York in about 3 and a half hours. But it was also a gas guzzler, loud and expensive. A high-profile crash sealed its fate.

1963: President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. Secret Service agent Clint Hill was in the car behind and leaped on to shield JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy from any additional bullets that could have been fired. He felt guilty for the president's death for years, but was later praised for saving the first lady's life.

December

Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela arrives to address a mass rally a few days after his release from prison on Feb. 25, 1990, in the town of Bloemfontein. In 2023, people around the world marked a decade since his death.
Trevor Samson / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela arrives to address a mass rally a few days after his release from prison on Feb. 25, 1990, in the town of Bloemfontein. In 2023, people around the world marked a decade since his death.

2013: Nelson Mandela died at age 95. He spent 27 years as a political prisoner before being elected president in South Africa's first democratic elections. Here are the speeches that made him the voice of the movement against apartheid.

His granddaughter Ndileka Mandela now uses the phrase "climate apartheid" to describe how countries in the Global South are facing more dire impacts from climate change than rich countries. She says it's meant to be jarring and provocative.

1983: The Talking Heads recorded the acclaimed concert film Stop Making Sense. It was re-released in theaters in 2023. But what might have been most notable: The four band members got together to talk about it. Frontman David Byrne also talked separately with Fresh Air about the film.

1973: The Exorcist was first released. The celebrated movie isn't just typical horror — it raises questions about God, the devil, and how humans respond when bad things happen to good people.

1923: Opera singer Maria Callas was born. More than 46 years after her death, she still looms large in the opera world. She was a game-changing opera singer, and at the same time a cultural icon, in spite or perhaps because of the hardships she faced.

Amy Morgan contributed research.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.

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