How Well Do You Remember the Most Important Dates in American History?


By: Bambi Turner

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

The United States became an independent nation less than 300 years ago, but the country has managed to pack a lot of history into that time. See if you remember which date will live in infamy and other important dates with this quiz!

What year did Columbus set sail for America?

Americans celebrate Columbus Day every October to commemorate the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the New World in 1492. While the explorer is remembered as the first European to set foot in America, he never actually made it to the land that now makes up the United States.


What date did Congress adopt the Declaration of Independence?

The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson, was a bold statement by the American colonies that they would no longer recognize British rule. Congress adopted the iconic document on July 4, 1776, and it was signed the next month.


What year was the Treaty of Paris signed, ending the American Revolution?

Fighting in the American Revolution had largely ended when the Treaty of Paris was signed on September 3, 1783. By signing the treaty, England officially recognized the United States as an independent, self-governing nation no longer subject to British rule.


What year did George Washington become the first president?

George Washington served as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, so it was only natural that he was later picked to be the first president. He held the position for two terms from 1789 to 1797, and died two years later at his Mount Vernon plantation.


When is Flag Day?

On June 14, 1777 Congress passed the Flag Resolution, which established the stars and stripes as the official U.S. flag. Today, Flag Day is celebrated every June 14 to commemorate the red, white and blue.


What year was the Louisiana Purchase completed?

In December 1803, France transferred the Louisiana Territory to the control of the United States. This 828 million square miles of land doubled the size of the U.S., and included land from 15 different modern states.


When did Congress abolish the Atlantic slave trade?

Between the Jamestown settlement in 1619 and 1807, more than 12 million Africans were shipped to the Americas to serve as slaves. Congress abolished this Atlantic slave trade on March 2, 1807, and the law took effect on January 1, 1808. While many Americans still owned slaves at that point, the end of the slave trade was a first step in ending the practice.


What year was the Treaty of Ghent signed, ending the War of 1812?

The War of 1812 between Great Britain and the U.S. came only a few decades after the American Revolution. After three years of battle, the war ended with the Treaty of Ghent, which was signed on February 17, 1815.


What year did Samuel Morse send the first telegraph message?

Communication across the miles was changed forever in 1844 when Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message from Washington D.C. to Baltimore in 1844. The message read simply, "What hath God wrought?"


What year did an unforgettable battle take place at the Alamo?

The famous battle at the Alamo took place on February 23, 1886 during the Texas War for Independence from Mexico. Around 200 Americans were able to fend off thousands of Mexican troops for a staggering 13 days before losing control of the fort.


What year did a gold rush cause the population of California to soar?

In 1848, a miner discovered gold in Coloma, California. As word spread, thousands of hopeful gold seekers rushed to the state. By 1849, more than 100,000 non-natives had settled in the area -- more than five times the number who had lived there previously.


What year were the first shots of the Civil War fired at Fort Sumter?

On April 12, 1861 the first shots of the Civil War were fired between the Union and the Confederacy at South Carolina's Fort Sumter. By the time the war ended in 1865, 620,000 people -- 2 percent of the U.S. population at the time -- had died due to the conflict.


What year did the Emancipation Proclamation take effect?

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation took effect. The act freed all slaves in the Confederate states, and paved the way for the end of slavery in the U.S.


What year was Abraham Lincoln assassinated?

On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth as he watched a play at Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. Though he served for just four short years, Lincoln is consistently ranked among the greatest presidents in U.S. history.


When was the USS Maine sunk in Havana Harbor?

On February 15, 1898, the USS Maine was sunk in Havana Harbor. Rallying cries of "Remember the Maine!" propelled the U.S. to victory in the Spanish-American War. When the war ended with the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898, the U.S. had taken control of Cuba, Puerto Rico and Guam from Spain.


When did the U.S. enter WWI?

Though the U.S. planned to remain neutral as WWI raged across the globe, the country eventually entered the war on April 6, 1917. The declaration of war by the U.S. followed the sinking of the Lusitania and other passenger ships by German U-boats.


What year did the Panama Canal open, linking Atlantic and Pacific for the first time?

The 50-mile-long Panama Canal took 10 years to build, and opened on August 15, 1914. The U.S. managed operations until 1999, when control was transferred to Panama.


What year did the Treaty of Versailles bring an end to WWI?

The Treaty of Versailles ended WWI and arranged for German reparations when it was signed on June 28, 1919. Four millions U.S. soldiers fought in the war, 116,000 died and twice that number were injured.


What year did U.S. women win the right to vote?

The 19th Amendment, which was ratified on August 18, 1920, gave women the right to vote. The fight for women's suffrage had taken nearly a century, and was led by icons like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Susan B. Anthony.


What date was Pearl Harbor attacked?

On December 7, 1941, Japanese fighters bombed a U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. More than 2,400 Americans died, and the country entered WWII the next day. FDR called it "a date which will live in infamy."


What year did D-Day take place?

On June 6, 1944 -- a day known as D-Day -- more than 150,000 U.S. and allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy in France. The horrific battle was the beginning of the end of WWII.


What year did the U.S. become involved in the Korean War?

On June 24, 1950, North Korea invaded the South. A few days later, U.S. troops were sent to help repel the North Korean forces. By the time the war ended in July 1953, more than 33,000 Americans had lost their lives.


On May 4 of this year, the Kent State shootings took place.

Vietnam War protests raged throughout the '60s and early '70s. At one such protest on May 4, 1970, four unarmed students were killed by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University. Another nine were injured, including one who was permanently paralyzed.


What year did the Supreme Court decide the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case?

In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was constitutional as long as facilities for each race were equal. In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, the Court reversed this decision, declaring that separate could never be equal. This decision paved the way for school desegregation.


What year was John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas?

The country mourned on November 22, 1963, when the young President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The 46-year-old president left behind a wife and two young children.


What year did Neil Armstrong walk on the moon?

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong gave his "One Giant Leap" declaration as he stepped out onto the surface of the moon from the Apollo 11 module. The moment was huge for the U.S., who had spent years in a "space race" with the Soviets.


President Nixon resigned on August 9 of this year.

A break-in at the DNC headquarters at the Watergate Complex in DC on June 17, 1972 put heat on President Nixon. The 37th president resigned August 9, 1974, making him the first U.S. president in history to do so.


What year did Hawaii become the 50th state?

In less than 200 years, the number of stars on the flag went from 13 to 50. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959, while Hawaii became number 50 on August 21, 1959.


What year did the September 11th terrorist attacks take place?

On September 11, 2001, terrorists from al-Qaeda hijacked four American planes and crashed them in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. Thousands of Americans died, and it served as a turning point in the war on terror.


What year did the country elect its first African-American president?

Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the U.S. in 2008. The former Illinois senator served two terms, and was the first African-American president in the history of the United States.


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