A Year In History: 1978

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This Year in History:


Discover what happened in this year with HISTORY’s summaries of major events, anniversaries, famous births and notable deaths.

January 9

Harvey Milk becomes the first openly gay person elected to public office in California

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in the history of California, takes his place on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on January 9, 1978. The first and, for years, most visible openly gay politician in America, Milk was a longtime activist and pioneering leader of San Francisco’s LGBT community. After serving in […]

January 11

“Song of Solomon” wins National Book Critics Circle Award

On January 11, 1978, Toni Morrison wins the National Book Critics Circle Award for Song of Solomon. The award brought the writer national attention for the first time, although she had already published two moderately successful books, The Bluest Eye (1969) and Sula (1973). Morrison went on to win the Pulitzer in 1988 and the […]

February 1

Harriet Tubman becomes the first African American woman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp

February 1, 1978: Antislavery crusader and Civil War veteran Harriet Tubman becomes the first African American woman to appear on a U.S. postage stamp, the first in the Post Office’s Black Heritage Series. Tubman’s appearance on stamps was emblematic both of the progress made in recognizing African Americans’ contributions to American history and of the ongoing […]

February 22

Navstar 1, the world’s first operational GPS satellite, launches

The U.S. Air Force launches Navstar 1, the world’s first operational GPS satellite, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. GPS begins as a military technology, but expands to transform industries from aviation to communications. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology is an indispensible part of 21st century life, powering everything from rideshare apps to fitness […]

February 23

It’s a tie for Song of the Year at the 20th annual Grammy Awards

On February 23, 1978, Grammy voters make history by failing to settle on a winner for the year’s Best Song. Instead, Barbra Streisand’s “Love Theme from A Star Is Born (Evergreen)” and Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life” were both awarded the Best Song Grammy—the first tie in that category in Grammy history. Other […]

March 2

Reports surface of grave robbers stealing Charlie Chaplin’s body

On March 2, 1978, news outlets report one of history’s most famous cases of body-snatching: Sometime in the middle of the previous night, two men had stolen the corpse of the revered film actor Sir Charles Chaplin from a cemetery in the Swiss village of Corsier-sur-Vevey, located in the hills above Lake Geneva, near Lausanne, […]

April 3

“Annie Hall” beats out “Star Wars” for Best Picture

The rise of the action-adventure blockbuster was on the horizon, but on April 3, 1978, the small-scale romantic comedy triumphs over the big-budget space extravaganza. At the 50th annual Academy Awards, held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, Woody Allen’s Annie Hall won the Oscar for Best Picture, beating out George Lucas’ Star […]

April 22

The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on “Saturday Night Live”

On April 22, 1978, “Saturday Night Live” showcases the worldwide television debut of the Blues Brothers—the not-quite-real, not-quite-fake musical creation of SNL cast members Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi. The duo came complete with a made-up origin story. According to SNL’s Paul Shaffer, who introduced the new act, it was Marshall Checker, of the legendary […]

June 25

First rainbow Pride flag premieres at San Francisco parade

On June 25, 1978, activists hoist a vibrant rainbow flag in the midst of the festivities for San Francisco’s Gay and Lesbian Freedom Day parade. According to its creator, Gilbert Baker, the crowd immediately recognized the flag’s significance: “It completely astounded me that people just got it, in an instant like a bolt of lightning—that […]

July 5

“Gang of 19” activists occupy Denver intersection to protest inaccessibility on the city’s bus system

On July 5, 1978, a Regional Transportation District (RTD) bus stops at the intersection of Colfax Avenue and Broadway in Denver, Colorado. As passengers board, a group of people in wheelchairs position themselves in front of the bus, preventing it from leaving the stop. When a second bus arrives behind it, more people in wheelchairs […]