Sep 16, 1932:
Gandhi begins fast in protest of caste separation
On this day in 1932, in his cell at Yerovda Jail near Bombay, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi begins a hunger strike in protest of the British government's decision to separate India's electoral system by caste.
A leader in the Indian campaign for home rule, Gandhi worked all his life to spread his own brand of passive resistance across India and the world. By 1920, his concept of Satyagraha (or "insistence upon truth") had made Gandhi an enormously influential figure for millions of followers. Jailed by the British government from 1922-24, he withdrew from political action for a time during the 1920s but in 1930 returned with a new civil disobedience campaign. This landed Gandhi in prison again, but only briefly, as the British made concessions to his demands and invited him to represent the Indian National Congress Party at a round-table conference in London.
After his return to India in January 1932, Gandhi wasted no time beginning another civil disobedience campaign, for which he was jailed yet again. Eight months later, Gandhi announced he was beginning a "fast unto death" in order to protest British support of a new Indian constitution, which gave the country's lowest classes--known as "untouchables"--their own separate political representation for a period of 70 years. Gandhi believed this would permanently and unfairly divide India's social classes. A member of the more powerful Vaisya, or merchant caste, Gandhi nonetheless advocated the emancipation of the untouchables, whom he called Harijans, or "Children of God."
"This is a god-given opportunity that has come to me," Gandhi said from his prison cell at Yerovda, "to offer my life as a final sacrifice to the downtrodden." Though other public figures in India--including Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambdekar, the official political representative of the untouchables--had questioned Gandhi's true commitment to the lower classes, his six-day fast ended after the British government accepted the principal terms of a settlement between higher caste Indians and the untouchables that reversed the separation decision.
Sep 16, 1981:
Leonard knocks out Hearns to unify middleweight title
On September 16, 1981, welterweight boxer "Sugar" Ray Leonard knocks out Thomas Hearns in the 13th round to unify boxing's middleweight title. Leonard was behind on all three judges' scorecards and fighting with one eye closed when he delivered a right hand to his opponent's head that sent Hearns crashing to the canvas.
Leonard, 25, entered the fight as the World Boxing Council's (WBC) welterweight champion with a record of 31-1, while Hearns, 22, was 32-0 with 30 knockouts and held the World Boxing Association (WBA) belt. On the day of the fight, 25,000 spectators packed a hastily built outdoor arena at Caesar's Palace casino in Las Vegas to watch the two champions battle it out in 100-degree heat. As each man had talent and drive to spare, even odds-makers had difficulty picking a favorite.
By the 13th round, Hearns was dictating the fight to a nearly half-blind Leonard. Suddenly, Hearns fell to the floor, the victim of what Pearl ruled a push by Leonard. Soon after, Hearns went down again after a right hand from Leonard, but Pearl again ruled this meeting with the canvas the result of a shove instead of a knockdown. The next time Hearns went down, it was the result of a flurry of Leonard punches to his head, which sent "The Hitman," as Hearns was known, through the ropes. Leonard finished off Hearns in the 14th, hitting him in the head at will until Pearl stopped the fight.
Sep 16, 1977:
Opera star Maria Callas dies
"Diva" is a word used rather freely these days to describe those whose talents are matched or exceeded by their tendency to maximize the drama in every situation. But the term originated in the world of opera as shorthand for divina, or "goddess"-a label reserved for the greatest of female singers. It was in this original sense that the term was first applied to the great soprano Maria Callas, one of the most popular and important figures in opera in the postwar era. But if any performer in modern opera history embodied the label "diva" in all of its senses, it was Callas. One of the biggest opera celebrities of all time, Maria Callas-"La Divina" to her fans-died on this day in 1977 at the age of 53.
Born in New York City in 1923 and raised there until her she was 14, Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulou returned with her mother and siblings to her mother's native Athens in 1937, where she spent the war years studying music and performing professionally to support her family. Though she was a sensation in Europe by the time the war ended, Callas did not find immediate success after making her way back to America in the late 1940s. Significantly overweight since childhood, Callas effected a dramatic physical transformation in her early 30s that fundamentally altered the trajectory of her career. She dropped more than 70 pounds over the course of three years in the mid-1950s, becoming, in the words of Time magazine, "Svelte, successfulâ€¦a diva more widely hated by her colleagues and more wildly acclaimed by her public than any other living singer."
Sep 16, 1978:
Killer quake shakes Iran
An extremely deadly earthquake rocks Iran, killing more than 25,000 people on this day in 1978. The 7.7-magnitude quake struck the northeastern part of the country, an area that has traditionally seen much seismic activity.
Ten years earlier, a 6.5-magnitude quake centered in northern Iran near the Afghanistan border killed approximately 12,000 people. When a stronger tremor hit the area on this day in 1978, the results were even more deadly. A majority of houses in the region were constructed of dried mud and collapsed easily. Although the residents were well aware of this danger, most could not afford to build stronger homes.