The Thing About Today – May 19

May 19, 2020
Day 140 of 366


May 19th is the 140th day of the year. It is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the United States.

In the United States, today is “celebrated” as National May Ray Day and National Devil’s Food Cake Day.


Historical items of note:

  • In 1848, Mexico ratifies the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This ended the Mexican-American War and ceded California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of four other modern-day U.S. states to the United States for $15 million.
  • In 1911, Parks Canada, the world’s first national park service, was established as the Dominion Parks Branch under the Department of the Interior.
  • In 1934, journalist and author Jim Lehrer was born.
  • In 1939, astronaut Dick Scobee was born.
  • In 1941, director, producer, and screenwriter Nora Ephron was born.
  • In 1944, actor Peter Mayhew was born.
  • In 1946, wrestler and actor André the Giant was born.
  • In 1948, singer-songwriter, producer, and actress Grace Jones was born.
  • In 1962, a birthday salute to United States President John F. Kennedy took place at Madison Square Garden, New York City. The highlight was Marilyn Monroe’s rendition of “Happy Birthday”.
  • In 1963, the New York Post Sunday Magazine published Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.
  • In 1966, actress Polly Walker was born.
  • In 1999, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace premiered.


In 1925, American Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcolm X was born.

A popular figure during the civil rights movement, he is best known for his staunch and controversial black racial advocacy and for his time spent as the vocal spokesperson of the Nation of Islam. He joined the Nation of Islam while in prison for crimes he committed in his teenage years. He adopted the name Malcolm X and quickly became one of the organization’s most influential leaders after being paroled in 1952. He served as the public face of the organization for a dozen years, advocating for black supremacy, black empowerment, and the separation of black and white Americans. He publicly criticized the mainstream civil rights movement for its emphasis on nonviolence and racial integration.

He also found himself under federal surveillance due to the Nation of Islam’s supposed connections to communism.

In the 1960s, Malcolm X grew disillusioned with the Nation of Islam and its leadership. He subsequently embraced Sunni Islam and the civil rights movement after completing the Hajj to Mecca, adopting the name el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz. He traveled across Africa and publicly renounced the Nation of Islam, afterward founding the Islamic Muslim Mosque, Inc. and the Pan-African Organization of Afro-American Unity.

As his conflict with the Nation of Islam intensified, he started receiving death threats before being assassinated on February 21, 1965. Three Nation members were charged with the murder and given indeterminate life sentences.

Despite being a controversial figure, Malcolm X is a widely celebrated figure within African-American and Muslim American communities for his pursuit of racial justice. He was posthumously honored with Malcolm X Day, which is celebrated on either his birthday or the third Friday in May. The event commemorates him in various countries worldwide.


The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.




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