the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay was born.
Clay, son of Kentucky slave-owners, was inspired by abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to launch a lifelong crusade to end slavery. After graduating from Yale University, Clay returned to central Kentucky—a slave state—and took up life as a politician, soldier and newspaper editor. His anti-slavery views were so controversial that, when he campaigned, he carried two pistols and a Bowie knife strapped to his chest—and used them on more than one occasion to defend himself. Clay considered the Emancipation Proclamation “the culminating act of my life’s aspirations.”
After serving in the Kentucky legislature, Clay opened an anti-slavery newspaper, The True American, in 1845. In the election of 1860, he supported Abraham Lincoln, who later appointed him minister to Russia. Lincoln also entrusted Clay with the defense of the White House against Confederate soldiers until federal troops arrived. Clay was one of the Southerners Lincoln consulted before signing the Emancipation Proclamation. The boxer Muhammad Ali (who was born Cassius Clay and later changed his name) and his father were both named after this Cassius Clay.