On This Day in History…: Significant Events in the American Year

Bonnie K. Goodman
5 min readMar 8, 2024

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Over sixteen years ago, on December 11, 2007, I posted my first “On This Day in History” feature on the History News Network, edited by Richard Shenkman, where I was a Features Editor. The post, “December 17, 1862, Grant Issues General Order № 11 expelling Jews during the Civil War,” was based on my graduate research in Southern Jewish history. At the time, I was a graduate student in the MA in Judaic Studies program in the Department of Religion at Concordia University. I wrote the feature sporadically for three years until 2010.

Ten years later, in 2018, after an illness, I was reassessing my career. For the previous five years, I dedicated myself to journalism, writing over 1,100 articles for Examiner.com, where I reported on Politics, Judaism, Education, and general news. Afterward, I wanted to return to my roots of academic writing, primarily history. For a long time, my mother asked me to restart writing “On This Day in History” stories. In June 2018, I took the plunge, posting them this time on Medium, with the title “OTD in History,” inspired by the popular social media hashtag. I wrote most of the articles in 2018 and 2019, mostly on American history, but some Jewish history. All these years later, I am still writing “On This Day in History” features but more sporadically, focusing instead on more comprehensive book-length historical research primarily in my field of American Jewish history.

In December 2022, I first compiled my “On This Day in History” articles, posting them on Academia.edu, a month after my mother died. It was all my articles. Here is a collection of those most relevant to American history, organized by calendar year instead of chronologically. Spanning 1620 to 2008, these snapshots of American history represent some “Significant Events in the American Year.” The stories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries cover the American Revolution, the new nation and antebellum years, and the Civil War.

While the twentieth-century stories cover Presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama, The Civil Rights Movement is well featured from its worst, most heinous moments and the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham Alabama to the shining moments of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the March on Washington both from 1963 and then Barack Obama accepting the 2008 Democratic Presidential nomination. Presidential elections throughout American history are represented, as well as scandals Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings, Watergate, Bill Clinton, and Monica Lewinsky, and a few pop culture events, including the Woodstock 1969 concert, symbolizing the anti-Vietnam War movement. This volume is a fun and serious journey through the calendar year in American history.

Both my father and mother are now gone, but they instilled in me that I could do anything I set my mind to do, and I have lived by that mantra my whole life, no matter the highs or lows. My father, Ralph Goodman died of cancer when I was only sixteen. He only knew me as a budding artist and was excited about my talent and paintings. As an architectural draftsman, art was his domain, and as a child, he would take art supplies from his drafting cabinet to give them to me to encourage my art.

Afterward, my mother was my best champion; she constantly encouraged me; she believed in writing and art skills more than anyone and probably more than anyone ever will in my life. What she enjoyed most was when I wrote or drew. My mother was my first teacher. Our house was filled with American history books; my mother instilled that love of American history early on. Predominant on her shelves were books on the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. Some of my most vivid childhood memories were watching the 1988 Democratic and Republican conventions, the first I remembered, and Ken Burns’s documentary series The Civil War.

Despite today’s controversies, “Gone With the Wind” was my mother’s favorite book and movie and soon became mine because of the romance of the antebellum and Civil War South and the strong heroine Scarlett O’Hara. I turned our shared interest in the movie into my M.A. thesis, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913,” about the real-life Southern Jewish Scarletts and Melanie Hamiltons. This has developed into a life-long study of Southern Jewry.

My mother went to university in the 1960s and was attempting to do graduate work in the sciences but had to deal with a male supervisor who did not want to see a woman succeed. My mother told me how his harassment led to one day just throwing her research papers in his face and walking away from her graduate studies. With her career goals stymied, my mother put all her efforts into my education so that I could succeed where she was blocked. I have discovered the same roadblocks remain if it is not men in the academic world. It is the women who try to pull you down. Nearly sixty years after my mother showed her defiance, women still have to work harder and have to do more to prove themselves and get the respect they deserve. I chose to release this book in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8 to show anything remains possible, including the publication of this volume, despite all the naysayers in my life right now.

I still hope to break that ceiling for my mother and everything she sacrificed. To my mother, my accomplishments were enough. My “On This Day in History” articles were my mother’s favorite among my articles and essays. In the weeks before she died, she told me she wanted me to keep going, writing, drawing, and painting. Over a year later, I am still writing, knowing that although she is no longer here, she still cheers me on. I will always hope to go further for her than myself because I am her success story. It is for my mother that I compiled all my “On This Day in History” articles in one place, and it is to her I dedicate this volume.

Author Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS from McGill University, is a librarian, historian, journalist, artist, and author of the recently released “On This Day in History…: Significant Events in the American Year.” She has done graduate work in education and history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Concordia University. The former History News Network (HNN) editor started the OTD in History series in 2007 and has been writing about exciting episodes in history ever since. She contributed the historical overviews to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is also the author of the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings,” one of the chapters of this volume.



Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a historian, librarian, and journalist. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.