On this day 40 years ago, a Japanese adventurer did alone what had previously been achieved only with large teams—Naomi Uemura became the first man ever to reach the North Pole solo. He almost gave up twice. On the fourth day of his trek, a polar bear invaded his camp, ate his supplies, and poked his nose against the sleeping bag where Uemura lay tense and motionless… (1978)
Mr. Uemura, who was also the first man ever to raft the Amazon alone, said of his 57-day Arctic push, “What drove me to continue was the thought of countless people who had helped and supported me.” He also wrote adventure books for Japanese children and was known as a modest, gentle, self-effacing man who cared about others.
He was also the first man ever to climb Denali solo, but disappeared on another attempt to climb that mountain in the winter. He was 43.
MORE Good News on this Day:
- Mozart’s first opera, The Marriage of Figaro, premiered in Vienna, lighthearted and comic, with momentous music, yet closed after only nine performances (1786)
- Samuel Morse sent the first message by telegraph (1844)
- Reconstruction began in The South, opening voter registration to African-Americans (1867)
- Aspirin was introduced in Germany by Bayer (1889)
- On the third day of Los Angeles riots in response to a verdict in the Rodney King beating trial, King appealed for calm: “People, I just want to say, can we all just get along?” (1992)
- The Europe Union welcomed as members Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic –back from Communist rule – and Cyprus and Malta (2004)
- Today is the 14th annual Global Love Day, with governors and mayors joining people in 145 countries celebrating humanity and calling for unconditional love throughout the entire day (2004)
- Sweden legalized same-sex marriage (2009)
- President Barack Obama announced the end of Osama bin Laden‘s decade-long reign of terror as leader of al Quida, after U.S. Special Forces stormed his compound resulting in his death (2011)
Also, on this day in 1950 writer Gwendolyn Brooks became the first black person (her preferred term) to win a Pulitzer prize. The quintessential Chicago poet published her first poem at age 13 (75 were published by 16). Her second book of poems, the Pulitzer-winning Annie Allen, focused on the life of an inner city girl in the neighborhood where Brooks grew up. She said, “I lived in a small second-floor apartment at the corner, and I could look first on one side and then the other. There was my material.”
Also known as International Workers’ Day, it celebrates the achievements of the international labor movement. An eight-hour workday was demanded by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in the U.S. and elsewhere. Beginning May 1, it staged a general strike. Riots broke out, but they did eventually achieve the official sanction of the eight-hour day.