United States

This Day in History: Nelson Mandela Captured; Nixon's ‘Smoking Gun' Tape

Union completes blockade of Confederate States (1864)
On August 5, 1864, Union forces commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut attacked the Confederate port of Mobile Bay - it was the last major port held by the Confederacy in the Gulf of Mexico.

The blockade cut the Confederates off from trade with Europe, essential to maintaining value in the South's cotton-dominated economy.

While the seizure of Mobile Bay by no means ended the war, many historians believe the inability to access the global economy doomed the Confederacy from early on. Brazil, Britain and Spain cut off trade-ties with the Confederate States in 1861; the blockade limited the South's ability to ship goods with other nations and itself.

Throughout the war, the Union captured or destroyed over 1,500 Confederate 'blockade runners' - small ships made for speed.

Nelson Mandela arrested for activism (1962)
A continent away and a century later, another major civil rights battle was just getting started - Nelson Mandela was captured by South African police on August 5, 1962.

Mandela, an activist and leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South africa, was sentenced to life in prison. He spent 27 years in prison before eventually being released from prison on February 11, 1990.

Apartheid in South Africa became law in the 1940s, after the 'National Party' gained power. It resembled Jim Crow segregation in America, denying political power and basic human rights to nonwhites. 

The United Kingdom and the United States imposed sanctions on South Africa in 1985. By 1994, a new constitution had been implemented, enfranchising nonwhites. 

Mandela served as the first President of South Africa. He died in 2013, at the age of 95. Mandela became a civil rights-icon for the world.

President Nixon's 'smoking gun' made public (1974)
After months of legal fighting over how - and which - tapes would be released to Congress, President Richard Nixon's 'smoking gun' tape was made public on Monday, August 5, 1974.

Nixon initially released partial tape-transcripts, before the Supreme Court ruled Nixon had to hand over the physical tapes requested. The physical tapes revealed what is now referred to as the 'smoking gun' - a recorded conversation where Nixon agreed the CIA should thwart the FBI's investigation of the Watergate break-in.

That conversation is considered direct evidence of obstruction of justice, though Nixon was never tried - he was pardoned by his Vice President Gerald Ford.

President Nixon resigned just four days later, recognizing he would face certain impeachment and conviction.

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