American Suffragist Susan B. Anthony was born on this day in 1820. Anthony is considered to be one of the foremost figures in the 19th Century struggle for women’s rights and equality. She was also a heavily involved in the abolition movement, fighting against the horrific institution of slavery.
Pro baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson was born on this day in 1919. An outstanding player who would go on to win MVP awards and Championships, Robinson will forever be remembered as the first African-American to play Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. He stood up to unspeakable racism with dignity and grace. In 1997, on the 50th anniversary of his breaking the colour barrier, Major League Baseball retired Jackie’s number, 42.
Sikhs in Canada and around the world observe the birthday of Guru Gobind Singh who was born in 1666 in Patna, India. He was the 10th and last of the (human) Gurus of Sikhism. He established the Khalsa, the organization of men and women baptized into the Sikh faith. He also established the Guru Granth Sahib, the holy book of Sikhism, as the final Guru for the Sikh people. For more on Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikh faith, check out some of the following links:
Cassius Clay was born on this day in 1942. After winning a Gold Medal in the Olympics for the United States, he would turn professional and go on to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. He changed his name to Muhammad Ali as part of his conversion to Islam. Ali would win the Heavyweight Title an unprecedented three times, most famously regaining the title in 1974, seven years after having his title stripped from him in 1967. When Ali was drafted for military service by the US government, likely for duty in Vietnam, Ali refused induction as a conscientious objector, citing his religious beliefs and his opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali famously told the world that “No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slavemasters over dark people the world over. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end”
Ali was arrested and found guilty of draft evasion. Boxing authorities stripped him of his title and banned him from the sport for nearly 4 years. Although the Supreme Court eventually overturned his criminal conviction, he had lost his title and many years of his athletic prime. Remarkably, he fought his way back to the top, defeating George Forman in the legendary “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974. After losing the title again in 1978 to Leon Spinks, Ali won the rematch to regain the Belt for an unprecedented third Heavyweight Boxing Title.
Ali is arguably the greatest athlete in history. In his prime, he was certainly the most famous and recognizable athlete in the entire world. Ali was a polarizing figure, as many hated him for his brash, self-aggrandizing demeanor and his outspoken religious and political statements. However, even more people loved him. To a generation of people all over the globe, Ali was a counter-cultural hero who represented the struggle against racism, against war and against the conservative authorities of the day.
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born on this day in 1929.
Dr. King was the leading figure of the Civil Rights Movement, as African-Americans struggled for freedom and equality in the United States. Dr. King was a brilliant orator and an inspirational leader. Dr. King was committed to the principals to non-violence, in part based on the example of Gandhi in India. He believed that the only path towards a peaceful resolution of the plight of black people in the United States was through non-violence, civil disobedience, and peaceful protest.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is celebrated as a national holiday in the United States on the 3rd Monday of January.
South African author Alan Paton was born on this day in 1903. The author of Cry the Beloved Country used his novels as part of his lifelong fight against Apartheid in his homeland. He died in 1988, not able to live long enough to see the rise Nelson Mandela and the end of Apartheid just a few years later.
Nobel Laureate and former University of British Columbia Professor Har Gobind Khorana was born on this day in 1922. Khorana received the Nobel Prize in Physiology, along with his team, for their pioneering research and discoveries with DNA and unlocking our genetic code. He died in 2011.
Bono was born Paul Hewson on this day in 1960 in Dublin, Ireland. He took the stage name of Bono Vox as the lead singer of U2, which rose to fame as one of the biggest rock bands of all time. Beyond rock’n’roll, Bono is an outspoken activist and supporter of many humanitarian causes.