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HY121: The United States Since 1877: Home

Presidents and their Crises

President Carter and the Iran Hostage Crisis

"On November 4, 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 American hostages. The immediate cause of this action was President Jimmy Carter’s decision to allow Iran’s deposed Shah, a pro-Western autocrat who had been expelled from his country some months before, to come to the United States for cancer treatment. However, the hostage-taking was about more than the Shah’s medical care: it was a dramatic way for the student revolutionaries to declare a break with Iran’s past and an end to American interference in its affairs. It was also a way to raise the intra- and international profile of the revolution’s leader, the anti-American cleric Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The students set their hostages free on January 21, 1981, 444 days after the crisis began and just hours after President Ronald Reagan delivered his inaugural address. Many historians believe that hostage crisis cost Jimmy Carter a second term as president."

-- History.com editors, https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/iran-hostage-crisis

President Reagan and the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

"Though HIV arrived in the United States around 1970, it didn't come to the public's attention until the early 1980s. In 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a report about five previously healthy homosexual men becoming infected with Pneumocystis pneumonia, which is caused by the normally harmless fungus Pneumocystis jirovecii. This type of pneumonia, the CDC noted, almost never affects people with uncompromised immune systems.The following year, The New York Times published an alarming article about the new immune system disorder, which, by that time, had affected 335 people, killing 136 of them. Because the disease appeared to affect mostly homosexual men, officials initially called it gay-related immune deficiency, or GRID.

Though the CDC discovered all major routes of the disease’s transmission—as well as that female partners of AIDS-positive men could be infected—in 1983, the public considered AIDS a gay disease. It was even called the “gay plague” for many years after.

In September of 1982, the CDC used the term AIDS to describe the disease for the first time. By the end of the year, AIDS cases were also reported in a number of European countries."

-- History.com editors, https://www.history.com/topics/1980s/history-of-aids

President George W. Bush and 9/11 (September 11, 2001) Attacks

On September 11, 2001, 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Almost 3,000 people were killed during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which triggered major U.S. initiatives to combat terrorism and defined the presidency of George W. Bush.

-- History.com editors, https://www.history.com/topics/21st-century/9-11-attacks

President George W. Bush and Hurricane Katrina

"Early in the morning on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast of the United States. When the storm made landfall, it had a Category 3 rating on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale–it brought sustained winds of 100–140 miles per hour–and stretched some 400 miles across. 

While the storm itself did a great deal of damage, its aftermath was catastrophic. Levee breaches led to massive flooding, and many people charged that the federal government was slow to meet the needs of the people affected by the storm. Hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were displaced from their homes, and experts estimate that Katrina caused more than $100 billion in damage."

-- History.com editors, https://www.history.com/topics/natural-disasters-and-environment/hurricane-katrina

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