The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) debuted on television.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect, eliminating most tariffs and other trade barriers on products and services passing between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Dictator Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba after his regime was toppled by rebel forces led by Fidel Castro.
American country-and-western musician Hank Williams, Sr., died.
American author J.D. Salinger—whose only novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951), won wide critical acclaim—was born.
Barry M. Goldwater, U.S. senator from Arizona (1953–64, 1969–87) who was the Republican presidential candidate in 1964, was born.
U.S. government official J. Edgar Hoover—who, as director of the FBI (1924–72), built the agency into a highly effective, if occasionally controversial, arm of federal law enforcement—was born.
The Emancipation Proclamation, which freed enslaved people in the Confederacy (the states in rebellion against the Union during the American Civil War), was issued by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.
Haiti declared its independence from France.
Paul Revere, the horseback-riding folk hero of the American Revolution, was born.
Florentine statesman, ruler, and patron of arts and letters Lorenzo de’ Medici was born.