In 1863, the Siege of Vicksburg began during the Civil War, ending July 4 with a Union victory.
In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, endorsed “separate but equal” racial segregation, a concept renounced 58 years later by Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
In 1910, Halley’s Comet passed by Earth, brushing it with its tail.
In 1911, composer-conductor Gustav Mahler died in Vienna, Austria, at age 50.
In 1920, Pope John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland.
In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a measure creating the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In 1934, Congress approved, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed, the so-called “Lindbergh Act,” providing for the death penalty in cases of interstate kidnapping.
In 1944, during World War II, Allied forces occupied Monte Cassino in Italy after a four-month struggle with Axis troops.
In 1953, Jacqueline Cochran, 47, became the first woman to break the sound barrier as she piloted a Canadair F-86 Sabre jet over Rogers Dry Lake, California.
In 1967, Tennessee Gov. Buford Ellington signed a measure repealing the law against teaching evolution that was used to prosecute John T. Scopes in 1925.
In 1973, Harvard law professor Archibald Cox was appointed Watergate special prosecutor by U.S. Attorney General Elliot Richardson.
In 1980, the Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington state exploded, leaving 57 people dead or missing.
In 1981, the New York Native, a gay newspaper, carried a story concerning rumors of “an exotic new disease” among homosexuals; it was the first published report about what came to be known as AIDS.
In 2010, grilled by skeptical lawmakers, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar acknowledged his agency had been lax in overseeing offshore drilling activities, and that might have contributed to the disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. A suicide bomber detonated his vehicle near a U.S. convoy in Afghanistan, killing 18 people, including six troops — five from the U.S., one from Canada. Following a 2009 party switch, Sen. Arlen Specter was defeated in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary, ending his re-election bid.
In 2015, an 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a three-member panel of the same court should not have forced YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to actors. President Barack Obama ended long-running federal transfers of some combat-style gear to local law enforcement in an attempt to ease tensions between police and minority communities, saying equipment made for the battlefield should not be a tool of American criminal justice.