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US political history from the year you were born

  • 1971: The Pentagon Papers are released

    The Pentagon Papers was the name given to a U.S. Department of Defense study. It was first released by the New York Times and covered the United States’ participation in the Vietnam War. The study revealed misinformation given to the American public about U.S. involvement, as well as an extended campaign in Laos and Cambodia.

  • 1972: Chisholm becomes the first Black woman to run for president

    In 1968, Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected to the U.S. Congress, and for seven terms she represented New York’s 12th congressional district. She also became the first Black candidate to run for a major party’s presidential nomination in 1972, and was the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. At the Democratic National Convention, she received 151.25 delegate votes.

  • 1973: The Supreme Court rules on Roe vs. Wade

    The Supreme Court ultimately found that, under the 14th Amendment’s due process clause, states cannot fully block citizens’ decisions to terminate their pregnancies. However, states are still able to outlaw abortion in the third trimester in circumstances that are not life-threatening.

  • 1974: Nixon resigns

    President Richard Nixon resigned in the face of a probable impeachment, after he played a role in covering up the Watergate scandal. This incident involved a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972.

  • 1975: The Vietnam War ends

    Congress officially considers 1975 to be the end of the Vietnam War for the United States, because President Gerald R. Ford didn’t officially announce its end until May of that year. However, the United States actually withdrew its troops from Vietnam in 1973, after the Paris Peace Accords were signed.

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  • 1976: Carter is elected the 39th president

    Jimmy Carter triumphed over incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford, making him the only Democrat to win a presidential election from 1968 to 1992. The politician laid the groundwork for his presidency when he became chair of the Democratic Governor’s Campaign Committee in 1974, one of the first Democratic wins after Watergate.

  • 1977: Carter creates the Department of Energy

    President Carter created the Department of Energy to deal with policies surrounding the country’s domestic energy production, naval reactor production, the nuclear weapons program, and more. Before this, the United States didn’t have a solidified energy policy, which was called into question during the 1973 energy crisis.

  • 1978: Employment act amendment passes

    This amendment to the Employment Act of 1946 was passed in response to rising inflation and unemployment rates, which stoked public fears about the possibility of a recession. It contained numerous objectives, such as that under the president’s guidance, inflation should be less than 3% and unemployment should be under 3% for people 20 and older.

  • 1979: Americans held hostage

    At the end of 1979, 52 Americans were taken hostage after a group of Muslim Student Followers of the Imam’s Line took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, as a show of support for the Iranian Revolution. The hostages were held from November 1979 until January 1981, or 444 days.

  • 1980: Reagan elected the 40th president

    Reagan’s landslide election marked a turning point toward conservative American leadership. The president was elected in the midst of the Iranian hostage crisis, and moved to increase federal defense spending.

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