February 20, 1469: Thomasso de Vio Cajetan, the most learned of the Roman Catholic dignitaries sent to silence Martin Luther in the early years of the Protestant Reformation, is born. He was also one of the cardinals who convinced Pope Clement VII to reject Henry VIII's request to divorce Catherine of Aragon (see issue 34: Luther's Early Years).
February 20, 1895: Abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the first African-American to hold high political office, dies. After escaping to freedom in 1838, he became the most prominent black abolitionist. Critical of the "Christianity of this land," which accepted (or at least tolerated) slavery, he considered himself a devotee of "the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ" (see issue 62: Bound for Canaan).
August 21, 1741: George Frideric Handel shuts himself up in his home to begin writing "Messiah." He finished the composition 23 days later. "Whether I was in the body or out of the body when I wrote it, I know not," he later said.
August 21, 1874: Henry Ward Beecher, a popular Congregational clergyman from Connecticut, is accused of adultery. Sued for $100,000 by the alleged adulteress's husband, the brother of Harriet Beecher Stowe (and son of evangelical leader Lyman Beecher) would eventually be ...