Today in History: Feb. 29, Hattie McDaniel becomes first Black actor to win an Oscar


In 1504, Christopher Columbus, stranded in Jamaica during his fourth voyage to the West, used a correctly predicted lunar eclipse to frighten hostile natives into providing food for his crew.

In 1796, President George Washington proclaimed Jay’s Treaty, which settled some outstanding differences with Britain, in effect.

In 1892, the United States and Britain agreed to submit to arbitration their dispute over seal-hunting rights in the Bering Sea. (A commission later ruled in favor of Britain.)

In 1904, bandleader Jimmy Dorsey was born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

In 1916, singer, actor and TV personality Dinah Shore was born Frances Rose Shore in Winchester, Tennessee. (Shore, who claimed March 1, 1917 as her birthdate, died in 1994 just days before she would have turned 78.)

In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a second Neutrality Act as he appealed to American businesses not to increase exports to belligerents.

In 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black actor to win an Academy Award when she took best supporting actress for “Gone With the Wind,” which won eight Oscars overall including best picture.

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower announced he would seek a second term of office. Serial killer Aileen Wuornos was born in Rochester, Michigan (she was executed by the state of Florida in 2002).

In 1960, the first Playboy Club, featuring waitresses clad in “bunny” outfits, opened in Chicago. Serial killer Richard Ramirez was born in El Paso, Texas (he died in 2013 while awaiting execution in California).

In 1968, at the Grammy Awards, the 5th Dimension’s “Up, Up and Away” won record of the year for 1967, while album of the year honors went to The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”

In 1980, former Israeli foreign minister Yigal Allon, who had played an important role in the Jewish state’s fight for independence, died at age 61.

In 1984, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau announced he was stepping down after more than 15 combined years in power.

In 1996, Daniel Green was convicted in Lumberton, North Carolina, of murdering James R. Jordan, the father of basketball star Michael Jordan, during a 1993 roadside holdup. (Green and an accomplice, Larry Martin Demery, were sentenced to life in prison.)

In 2012, Davy Jones the heartthrob singer who helped propel the made-for-TV rock band The Monkees to the top of the pop charts, died in Stuart, Florida at age 66.

In 2016, Justice Clarence Thomas broke 10 years of courtroom silence and posed questions during a Supreme Court oral argument dealing with gun rights, provoking gasps from the audience.


Former astronaut Jack Lousma is 85.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople is 81.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins is 61.

Legal affairs blogger Eugene Volokh is 53.

Actor Antonio Sabato Jr. is 49.

Poet, musician and hip-hop artist Saul Williams is 49.

Rapper Ja Rule is 45.

Singer-musician Mark Foster (Foster the People) is 37.

Former NHL goaltender Cam Ward is 37.