January 21st 1977: Carter pardons draft dodgers
On this day in 1977, one day after his inauguration as the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter fulfilled a campaign promise and issued a pardon to the draft dodgers of the Vietnam War. This reprieved the thousands who failed to register or moved to Canada and elsewhere to avoid fighting in the war. The decision was controversial, as many Vietnam veterans opposed the measure as disrespectful to them and felt it would encourage future draft dodging.
May 25th 1977: Star Wars released
On this day in 1977, the iconic film ‘Star Wars’ (later retitled ‘Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope’) was released. It was the first in a six film saga, and was written and directed by George Lucas. It was not expected to be a huge success, but when it was released it earned $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, thus defeating ‘Jaws’ as the highest-grossing film (surpassed by ‘E.T. the Extra Terrestrial’ in 1983). Star Wars was a groundbreaking piece of cinema and its popularity endures.
September 12th 1977: Steve Biko dies
On this day in 1977, South African anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko died whilst in police custody in Pretoria. Biko founded the Black Consciousness Movement and coined the famous phrase “black is beautiful”. Biko was arrested on August 18th and was tortured and beaten during interrogations. He died in hospital on September 12th. Whilst police claimed he died due to a hunger strike, it was clear he died from injuries sustained whilst in custody which pointed to police brutality. Biko became a martyr for his cause and a symbol of the anti-apartheid movement.