- 1614 – Native American Pocahontas marries English colonist John Rolfe.
- 1621 – The Mayflower sets sail from Plymouth on a return trip to Great Britain.
- 1862 – American Civil War: Battle of Yorktown.
- 1895 – Oscar Wilde loses his criminal libel case triggered by accusations of homosexuality. The Marquess of Queensbury had left his calling card in the Albemarle Club with the added inscription, “For Oscar Wilde posing Somdomite” (sic).
- 1930 – In an act of civil disobedience, Mohandas Gandhi breaks British law after marching to the sea and making salt.
- 1951 – Ethel and Julius Rosenberg are sentenced to death. The U.S. couple was accused of passing information about nuclear weapons on to the Soviet Union. It later emerged that Ethel was not involved in her husband’s activities. Both were executed in 1953.
- 1955 – Winston Churchill resigns as U.K. Prime Minister. Churchill was instrumental in initiating the alliance between the U.K., the U.S., and the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. His political career spanned half a century.
- 1986 – A bomb exploded at a popular discotheque frequented by American military personnel in West Berlin, killing two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman. American intelligence analysts attributed the attack to Muammar Qaddafi of Libya. Nine days later, President Ronald Reagan ordered a retaliatory air strike against Libya.
- 1998 – The world’s largest suspension bridge opens to traffic. The Akashi Kaikyō Bridge in Japan features the world’s longest central span, measuring 1991 meters (6532 feet).
- 1856 – Booker T. Washington (Educator and civil rights leader)
- 1900 – Spencer Tracy (American actor)
- 1908 – Bette Davis (Actress)
- 1912 – John Le Mesurier (English actor)
- 1916 – Gregory Peck (Actor)
- 1917 – Robert Bloch (American author)
- 1937 – Colin Powell (Secretary of State)
- 1928 – Roy Kilner (English cricketer)
- 1975 – Chiang Kai-shek (Chinese military leader, politician, President of the Republic of China)
- 1976 – Howard Hughes (American engineer, director)
- 1994 – Kurt Cobain (American singer-songwriter, guitarist)
- 1997 – Allen Ginsberg (American poet)