The history of the United States is vast and complex, but can be broken down into moments and time periods that divided, unified, and changed the United States into the country it is today:
- The American Revolution (sometimes referred to as the American War of Independence or the Revolutionary War) was a conflict that lasted from 1775-1783 and allowed the original 13 colonies to remain independent from Great Britain.
- American politician and soldier George Washington became the first president of the United States in 1789, serving two terms.
- Beginning in Great Britain in the late 1790s, the Industrial Revolution eventually made its way to the United States and changed the focus of the U.S. economy and the way it manufactured products.
- In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson agreed to the Louisiana Purchase, successfully adding 530 million acres of land to the United States. The area was purchased from France for $15 million. The following year, President Jefferson assigned Meriwether Lewis (who asked for help from William Clark) to head west and explore the newly purchased land. It took about a year and a half for the duo to reach the west coast.
- The War of 1812 resolved outstanding tensions between the United States and Great Britain. The two year war ended British military posts on U.S. soil and British interference with American trade.
- The American Civil War divided the United States in two—the Northern States versus the Southern States. The outcome of the four year battle (1861-1865) kept the United States together as one whole nation and ended slavery.
- On December 17, 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright became the first people to maintain a controlled flight in a powered, heavier-than-air machine. The Wright Flyer only flew for 12 seconds for a distance of 120 feet, but the technology would change the modern world forever.
- On April 6, 1917, the United States entered World War I by declaring war on Germany.
- After nearly 100 years of protests, demonstrations, and sit-ins, women of the United States were officially granted the right to vote after the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 26, 1920.
- The worst economic crisis to happen in the United States occurred when the stock market crashed in October 1929, resulting in the Great Depression.
- World War II officially begins in September 1939 after Germany invades Poland. The United States didn’t enter the war until after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
- On August 6 and August 9, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II.
- After World War II, an agreement was reached to divide Korea into two parts: a northern half to be controlled by the Soviet Union and a southern half to be controlled by the United States. The division was originally meant as a temporary solution, but the Soviet Union managed to block elections that were held to elect someone to unify to the country. Instead, the Soviet Union sent North Korean troops across the 38th parallel leading to the three-year-long (1950-1953) Korean War.
- From 1954-1968, the African-American Civil Rights movement took place, especially in the Southern states. Fighting to put an end to racial segregation and discrimination, the movement resulted in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 1968 Fair Housing Act.
- The Vietnam War was a nearly 20-year battle (November 1, 1955–April 30, 1975) between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. North Vietnam won the war and Vietnam became a unified country.
- The Apollo 11 mission (July 16-24, 1969) allowed United States astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin to become the first humans to walk on the moon’s surface.
- The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, changed the United States forever. Less than a month later (October 7, 2001) the United States began the War in Afghanistan, which is still happening today.
- On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded and occupied Iraq. The war lasted for more than eight years before it was officially declared over on December 18, 2011.
- In 2008, Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected president of the United States.
Library of Congress Resources
The Library of Congress has compiled a list of historic events for each day of the year, titled "This Day in History." The website is updated daily and visitors can view the previous day's history as well as whatever documents, pictures, or outside information is available for each historical event.
The American History section of the Library of Congress is separated by time period or subject and offers an in-depth look at the history of the United States.