January 1, 1959: After leading a revolution to overthrow U.S.-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista, Fidel Castro seizes power in Cuba, establishing a Communist dictatorship.
January 1, 1963: The Emancipation Proclamation is issued as a presidential proclamation and executive order, legally freeing slaves in the states opposing the Union.
January 6, 1412: Joan of Arc is born in Domrémy-la-Pucelle, France. She goes on to have mystic visions of God and inspire French troops during the Hundred Years’ War, only to be burned at the stake for heresy by the British. She is canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church in 1920.
January 7, 1610: Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei discovers Jupiter’s four largest moons. Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto become known as the Galilean Moons.
January 11, 1755: Alexander Hamilton, United States Founding Father and co-author of the Federalist Papers, is born in the British West Indies.
January 13, 1990: Democrat Douglas Wilder becomes the first elected African-American governor in the United States.
January 17, 1942: Heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali is born in Louisville, Kentucky as Cassius Clay.
January 19, 1809: Edgar Allan Poe, American poet and writer, is born in Boston, Massachusetts. He is most famous for his poem “The Raven.”
January 21, 1903: “The Wizard of Oz” makes its Broadway debut at the Majestic Theater.
January 22, 1973: Abortion becomes legal in the United States as the Supreme Court announces in its decision of the Roe vs. Wade case, and strikes down state laws restricting abortion in the first six months of pregnancy.
January 23, 1849: Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the first woman doctor in the United States when she is awarded her MD by the Medical Institute of Geneva, New York.
January 30, 1969: British band the Beatles give their last public performance, a spontaneous concert on the roof of their London recording studio.