In 2004, a group of distinguished historians met with The History Channel® to discuss days that unexpectedly changed the history of America. The goal, which everyone agreed on, was to select ten days that weren't obvious and were seemingly undervalued in their influence in shaping America's national and cultural identity.
The History Channel® then selected a group of highly creative, independent award-winning filmmakers to join the project (see list overleaf) and asked Steven M. Gillon, a professor of history at the University of Oklahoma and resident historian and host of The History Channel program HistoryCENTER, to write a companion book. The result is 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America (Three Rivers Press, Trade Paperback Original, on sale 4/4/06), a remarkable look at ten days, some familiar and some lesser known, that together illustrate the path this country has taken.
Here are the days that will be featured in both the book, 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America, and in the 10 hour documentary special event that will have its premiere on The History Channel® April 9 through April 13:
- Elvis Presley's appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show (September 9, 1956)-hotly anticipated since the medium of TV was new, Presley's performance that evening reached a new youth that transformed culture and politics in postwar America;
- Einstein's influence in the creation of the nuclear bomb (July 16, 1939)-the story behind Einstein's letter to Franklin Roosevelt;
- The post-Revolutionary War rebellion led by Daniel Shays (January 25, 1878)-how this helped inspire the drafting of the Constitution and Bill of Rights;
- The day gold was discovered in California (January 24, 1848)-the Gold Rush and how this impacted America's westward expansion and the development of California;
- The murder of three civil rights workers by white racists (June 21, 1964)-how this murder in Mississippi helped spur Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965;
- Massacre at Mystic River (May 26, 1637)-a gripping retelling of the Pequot War and the significance of this being the first clash between the English and Native Americans;
- End of the John Scopes Trial (July 21, 1925)-this trial revealed the enduring power of religious faith in America and the beginning of an ongoing culture war between evolutionists and Christian fundamentalists that would shape American politics and culture up to today;
- The Battle of Antietam in the American Civil War (September 17, 1862)-the bloodiest day in American history (partly caused by the innovation of new bullets) led to a Union victory, swaying President Lincoln to announce his Emancipation Proclamation, ultimately ending slavery in the South;
- The Homestead strike at Andrew Carnegie's steel mill (July 6, 1892)-how this deadly showdown between striking workers and armed guards catalyzed a devastating effect on the U.S. labor movement;
- President McKinley's assassination (September 6, 1901)-how the shooting by a young anarchist ushered the way for the rise or Theodore Roosevelt and paved the way for a new age of American politics;
Gillon recreates each event vividly. From the days leading up to it to analyses of the aftermath of each event, he offers an engrossing series of adventure and character-driven suspense stories, fascinating and historically accurate little-known facts from each day.
10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America brings the excitement of our history to life in a way you've never read before and explores the events that have been necessary building blocks in how this country came to be what it is today.