Two blood-splattered Freedom Riders, John Lewis (1940 – 2020, left) and James Zwerg stand together after being attacked and beaten by pro-segregationists in Montgomery, Alabama, May 20, 1961.

On this day, May 20 …
 
1961: A White mob attacks a busload of Freedom Riders in Montgomery, Ala., prompting the federal government to send in U.S. marshals to restore order. The group had left Washington in two buses heading for Louisiana. Later, one bus was burned in Anniston, Ala. 
 
 Also on this day:

  • 1873: Levi Strauss and tailor Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for men’s work pants made with copper rivets.
  • 1927: Charles Lindbergh takes off from Roosevelt Field on Long Island, N.Y., aboard the Spirit of St. Louis on his historic solo flight to France.
  • 1932: Amelia Earhart takes off from Newfoundland to become the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
  • 1993: An estimated 93 million people tune in for the final first-run episode of “Cheers” on NBC.
  • 2008: Doctors at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston say Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., has been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
  • 2014: Hundreds of retired professional football players sue the NFL, accusing the league of cynically supplying them with powerful painkillers and other drugs that kept them in the game but led to serious complications later in life.

  • 2015: David Letterman hosts his last “Late Show,” ending a 22-year, 6,028-episode run in late night. 

  • 2018: Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro wins a new six-year term, but the election is disputed and rivals disavow the result due to massive irregularities in the process.

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