January 1st 1959. "I don't ambition power, money, nothing, only to serve my country." In Cuba, Fidel Castro and his guerillas topple Fulgencio Batista from power, clearing the way for decades of communist rule.

1863. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring slaves in the Confederate States to be free.

1892. Ellis Island opens for business in New York, serving as the gateway for millions of immigrants entering the U.S. through the early 20th century.

And 1953. Country singer Hank William Senior dies of a drug and alcohol overdose on his way to a concert in Canton, Ohio. He was 29 years old.

Today in history, January 1st. Camille Bohannon. The Associated Press.