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On This Day: Rhythm Club fire kills 209 Black patrons

On April 23, 1940, a fire at the Rhythm Club in Natchez, Miss., claimed the lives of 209 people, all Black patrons, in what is now ranked as the fourth-deadliest building fire in U.S. history.

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UPI Staff
A plaque bears the names of those who died in the Rhythm Club fire on April 23, 1940, in Natchez, Miss. File Photo by Billy Hathorn/Wikimedia
A plaque bears the names of those who died in the Rhythm Club fire on April 23, 1940, in Natchez, Miss. File Photo by Billy Hathorn/Wikimedia

April 23 (UPI) -- On this date in history:

In 1635, the first public school in America, the Boston Latin School, was opened.

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In 1898, the first movie theater opened at the Koster and Bials Music Hall in New York City.

In 1914, Chicago's Wrigley Field, then known as Weeghman Park, hosts its first baseball game when the Chicago Chi-Feds beat the Kansas City Packers 9-1.

Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski

In 1940, a fire at the Rhythm Club in Natchez, Miss., claimed the lives of 209 people, all Black patrons, in what is now ranked as the fourth-deadliest building fire in U.S. history.

In 1965, more than 200 U.S. planes struck North Vietnam in one of the heaviest raids of the Vietnam War.

In 1985, former U.S. Sen. Sam Ervin died at age 88. The North Carolina Democrat directed the Senate Watergate investigation that led to President Richard Nixon's resignation.

In 1993, United Farm Workers founder Cesar Chavez died at age 66.

In 2007, former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who faced down army tanks during the fall of the Soviet Union, died of cardiac arrest at the age of 76.

In 2008, the U.S. Defense Department announced that Army Gen. David Petraeus, top American military official in Iraq, was chosen to head the Central Command, overseeing military affairs in the Middle East and Central Asia, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

In 2015, the Senate confirmed Loretta Lynch as attorney general more than five months after President Barack Obama nominated her. She was the first African-American woman to hold the title.

In 2020, the NFL held its first-ever virtual draft amid social distancing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cincinnati Bengals chose quarterback Joe Burrow as the No. 1 overall pick.

File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

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