May 21, 1502 – The island of Saint Helena was discovered by the Portuguese explorer João da Nova.
May 21, 1542 – While searching for gold, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto died of fever at the age of 45 on the bank of the Mississippi River. Some say he died near present-day McArthur, Ark. while other sources say he died near Ferriday, La.
May 21, 1602 - Martha's Vineyard was first sighted by Captain Bartholomew Gosnold.
May 21, 1688 – Poet Alexander Pope was born in London.
May 21, 1766 - A Liberty Pole was erected in New York City commons in celebration of the repeal of the Stamp Act.
May 21, 1825 – During his tour of the United States, the Marquis de Lafayette arrived in Maysville, Ky.
May 21, 1832 - The Democratic Party held its first national convention in Baltimore.
May 21, 1839 - Alabama editor and author Thomas Cooper De Leon was born in Columbia, S.C.
May 21, 1851 – Slavery was abolished in Colombia, South America.
May 21, 1856 - Proslavery men raided, captured and burned the abolitionist town of Lawrence, Kansas. John Brown personally sought revenge for the act. On May 25, Brown and his sons attacked three cabins along Pottawatomie Creek. They killed five men and triggered a summer of guerilla warfare in the territory.
May 21, 1861 - The Confederate Congress met for the last time in Montgomery, Ala. Montgomery served as capital for just three months, from February to May 1861. After Virginia joined the Confederacy in April 1861, leaders urged the move to the larger city of Richmond, which was closer to the military action.
May 21, 1863 - The Siege of Port Hudson, La. began when Nathaniel Banks surrounded a Confederate stronghold and attacked. Franklin Gardner refused to surrender after being ordered to abandon fort by Joseph Johnston.
May 21, 1864 – During the Civil War, the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House ended.
May 21, 1865 - Author Jeremiah Clemens died in Huntsville, Ala.
May 21, 1881 – Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross.
May 21, 1889 - Alabama author Frances Gaither was born in Somerville, Tenn.
May 21, 1895 – J.H. Moore Jr. of Perdue Hill was in Monroeville, Ala. and informed The Monroe Journal newspaper that he had already begun the construction of a new and larger warehouse on the site of the Lower Claiborne Warehouse that burned on May 9. Also that day, George Agee, who had been arrested for “complicity” in the building’s burning had a preliminary hearing before Judge Stallworth and was discharged because there was no evidence to implicate him in the crime.
May 21, 1895 – Richard H. Rumbly, who was believed to be the oldest man in Monroe County, passed away at his home six miles east of Monroeville, Ala. He was 95 years, seven months and 28 days old.
May 21, 1895 – Virginia Shomo, sister of Dr. J.W. Shomo of Mount Pleasant, passed away at 11 p.m. at the Providence Infirmary in Mobile, Ala. Her remains were returned to Mount Pleasant, where she was buried in the family cemetery.
May 21, 1901 - The Constitutional Convention of 1901 assembled in Montgomery to write Alabama's sixth constitution. Convention president John B. Knox of Anniston, pointing to ongoing "race conflict" in state politics, explained that the foremost objective of the convention was "to establish white supremacy in this State." The delegates accomplished that by producing a document that effectively disfranchised blacks, along with poor whites. Voters ratified the Constitution of 1901 in November of that year.
May 21, 1902 – National Baseball Hall of Fame center fielder Earl Averill was born in Snohomish, Washington. He went on to play for the Cleveland Indians, the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Braves. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.
May 21, 1908 – Miss Jessie Bertah Staples, the daughter of steamboat owner Capt. Norman A. Staples of Mobile, christened the “James T. Staples,” which was named after Norman’s father. John Davis Gerald Sr. of Bell’s Landing eventually became co-owner of the boat.
May 21, 1912 – W.A. Floyd, “one of Evergreen’s most prominent and valued citizens,” was found dead by his wife, seated in a chair on the front porch of his home. He was about 61 years old.
May 21, 1926 - Earl Sheely of the Chicago White Sox hit his sixth consecutive double.
May 21, 1927 – Charles Lindbergh touched down at Le Bourget Field in Paris, completing the world's first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The trip began May 20.
May 21, 1930 – Baseball player Max Bishop was walked eight times during a doubleheader.
May 21, 1930 - Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hit three consecutive home runs.
May 21, 1932 – Bad weather forced Amelia Earhart to land in a pasture in Derry, Northern Ireland, and she thereby became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
May 21, 1941 – National Baseball Hall of Fame third baseman and manager Bobby Cox was born in Tulsa, Okla. He went on to play for the New York Yankes and also manage the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
May 21, 1943 - The White Sox and the Senators played the fastest nine inning night game in American League history. The game was finished in 89 minutes.
May 21, 1947 - Joe DiMaggio and five of his New York Yankee teammates were fined $100 because they had not fulfilled contract requirements to do promotional duties for the team.
May 21, 1948 - Joe DiMaggio of the New York Yankees hit a single, double, triple and home run in the same game.
May 21, 1952 - The Brooklyn Dodgers scored 15 runs in the first inning against the Cincinnati Reds. The final score was, 19-1.
May 21, 1956 - The United States exploded the first airborne hydrogen bomb. It was dropped from a B-52 bomber over the tiny island of Namu in the Bikini Atoll in the Pacific Ocean.
May 21, 1961 – Alabama Governor John Malcolm Patterson declared martial law in an attempt to restore order after race riots broke out.
May 21, 1968 - The nuclear-powered U.S. submarine Scorpion, with 99 men aboard, was last heard from. The remains of the sub were later found on the ocean floor 400 miles southwest of the Azores.
May 21, 1971 – Army Spc. J.C. Summerlin of Brewton, Ala. was killed in action in Vietnam.
May 21, 1972 - Michelangelo's statue Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome was vandalized by a mentally deranged Hungarian geologist named Laszlo Toth.
May 21, 1980 - The movie "The Empire Strikes Back" was released.
May 21, 1987 - Alabama author Archie Carr died in Gainesville, Fla.
May 21, 1993 – The William King Beck House (also known as River Bluff Plantation) on the Alabama River near Camden, Ala. was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
May 21, 1996 - Ken Griffey Jr. became the eighth youngest player to hit 200 home runs.
May 21, 1997 - Roger Clemens of the Boston Red Sox got his 200th win.
May 21, 1997 – The “New” Repton Post Office in Repton, Ala. on U.S. Highway 84 first opened for business with Napoleon Lee as postmaster.
May 21, 2003 - The NFL decided to not vote on expanding the playoffs in 2004.
May 21, 2006 – Harper Lee of Monroeville, Ala. accepted an honorary degree from the University of Notre Dame.
May 21, 2008 – Asa Johnston Farmhouse at Johnsonville, Ala. was added to National Register of Historic Places.
May 21, 2011 – Radio broadcaster Harold Camping predicted that the world would end on this date.
May 21, 2014 – The National September 11 Museum opened to the public.