CHRONOLOGY OF SLAVERY AND FREEDOM IN AMERICA
One of the saddest things I have learned about the institution of slavery has to do with something I discovered in the 1994 World Almanac. On the list of famous African Americans in that book there are 138 names. Only 15 of those 138 individuals achieved fame or made major contributions to American society before the period of the American Civil War. This discovery tells me that, when we, the white people of America, robbed the kidnapped Africans of their identity and their heritage, we also foolishly squandered their achievement potential as human beings. Now think about this: how much do you suppose we lost because we refused to treat them like human beings instead of animals? And how much more was lost after they were freed because we segregated them from society and denied their civil rights for more than a century after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation? And how much of that potential is still lost because we allow racist attitudes to eat away at our hearts? I hope that these pages will help people overcome these attitudes as we enter the early years of a new millennium.
Part I: Exploration and Colonization:
1492 Columbus, acting for Spain, discovers land in the western Atlantic Ocean. He believes that he is near Japan and Asia.
1494 Columbus sends over 500 Native Americans captured in war to Spain. He suggests that they should be sold at auction. Queen Isabella sends them back to America.
1511 The first African slaves arrive in the New World at Hispaniola (later to be called Santo Domingo and Haiti).
1517 Slave trading between Africa and America is formalized at the suggestion of Bishop Bartolome de las Cases. Reasoning that Native Americans are unsuited to slavery and that African blacks are more hardy, the bishop gets the approval of King Charles of Spain for the importation of 4000 Africans.
1607 On May 24, the British set up the first permanent English colony in the New World at Jamestown, Virginia.
1619 On May 24, a Dutch Man of War arrives at Jamestown carrying African slaves. 20 slaves are sold. They are given the same terms as English indentured servants.
1620 On December 26, Puritans fleeing the repressive King James I of England land in what will become Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the New World.
1627 1500 kidnapped children from Europe are brought to Virginia and sold.
1630 In Virginia, Hugh Davis is whipped for "lying with a negro."
1640 In Virginia, Robert Sweet is punished "for getting a negroe woman with child." The woman is whipped.
1645 In Salem, Massachusetts, Emanuel Downing writes to his brother-in-law about a scheme to trade captured Native Americans for Africans, claiming that the Puritans can maintain "20 Moors cheaper than one English servant."
On June 14 at Naseby, England, Oliver Cromwell, leader of the puritanical Roundheads, defeats the Cavaliers of King Charles I. Many Cavaliers flee to Virginia.
1648 In England, Sir Robert Filmer publishes the Freeholder's Grand Inquest touching our Sovereign Lord the King and his Parliament in which he argues that a king should have ultimate power and that the lords in Parliament are merely the king's advisers. This doctrine is later called the "Divine Right of Kings."
1649 On January 30, in London, King Charles I is beheaded.
1662 Because of sexual relations between Africans and Englishmen resulting in the birth of children of mixed ancestry, Virginia passes an ordinance making children slaves only if their mothers are slaves.
1664 Maryland passes a law making slavery for blacks permanent regardless of baptism into Christianity. Up to this point, blacks could become free by getting baptized and joining a Christian church.
1667 Virginia, following Maryland's lead, also passes an ordinance proclaiming blacks to be slaves for life regardless of baptism.
1671 George Fox, founder of the Society of Friends (or Quakers) denounces the slave trade. Within a century, Quakers in Great Britain and America are openly denouncing and defying the "peculiar institution."
1692 In Salem, Massachusetts, a slave, Tituba, and her white followers claim that many of the prominent men and women of the area are witches. Her accusations start a hysteria which will end only after 19 people have been hanged, one person is pressed to death, and many others who are innocent are forced to languish and die in jail because they cannot pay their jailers' fees.
1732 On June 9, the trustees founding the Colony of Georgia in America allow for the importation of indentured servants but prohibit slavery. James Oglethorpe, one of the principal trustees, states that slavery is "against the Gospel as well as the fundamental law of England."
1747 Bowing to outside economic forces, the trustees of Georgia allow the importation of Africans as slaves. The leaders claim that the original ban on slavery applied only because Georgia bordered on Spanish territory and, therefore, needed a large population of Englishmen to defend the land.
Part II: The American Revolution
April 19 The American Revolution begins in Massachusetts at Lexington and Concord when British troops invade those cities and try to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Hancock and Adams escape, and the Americans repulse the British.
November 7 The Governor General of Virginia, John, Earl of Dunmore, issues a proclamation offering freedom to indentured servants and Africans willing to fight in the ministerial army against the American rebels. This is the first such use of an emancipation proclamation in the history of the United States. Colonists in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and North Carolina offer their slaves freedom if they will fight for the Americans.
July 4 The Continental Congress approves and signs the Declaration of Independence. Although the document declares that "all men are created equal," the Congress has failed to approve those passages dealing with slavery due to objections raised by representatives from South Carolina and Georgia.
July 2-8 At Windsor, the State of Vermont adopts a constitution which bans slavery, gives every man regardless of color or national origin the vote, and promotes free public education.
November 15 The Continental Congress adopts the Articles of Confederation. No mention of slavery is made in this document.
November 28 Captain Ebenezer Allen and his Vermont troops raid Ticonderoga, New York, and capture two slaves, Dinah Mattis and her child Nancy. Captain Allen declares them to be prizes captured from the enemy, and, with the permission of his men, frees them both. This may be the first time in America slaves are treated as contraband of war and freed for this reason.
1780 On March 1, the Pennsylvania Legislature passes a law calling for the gradual emancipation of all slaves in the state. All slaves above the age of 28 are now free in that state.
1781 Massachusetts declares slavery illegal in its Commonwealth because of a line in its state constitution which says all men are "born free and equal."
1782 Virginia provides for manumission of slaves by last will and testament.
1783 In New Hampshire, that state passes a bill of rights which, although it does not specifically mention slavery, makes human bondage unlawful by its wording. The bill declares that "All men are born equally free and independent" and that all citizens should be protected "in the enjoyment of life, liberty, and property."
September 3 The Treaty of Paris is signed by the United States, France, England, Spain, and the Netherlands. The American Revolution is over.
Part III: Post Revolutionary Period
1784 Slave trading abolished in Connecticut and Rhode Island.
1785 Gradual emancipation of slaves provided for in New York.
1786 Gradual emancipation of slaves provided for in New Jersey.
May 10 Britain founds a colony at Sierra Leone. Included in the colony are former black slaves who were freed after fighting for Great Britain during the American Revolution.
July 13 The Continental Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance which provides for the settlement of territory in the Northwest. Slavery is banned in that area. All states formed from this territory become free states.
September 17 Delegates from 12 U.S. states represented at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia approve the U.S. Constitution. Thanks to Roger Sherman and other men of New England who wish to see the African slave trade continued, slavery is protected under this document. However, the trade is to be ended in 1808.
1788 On July 2, the Constitution is officially ratified by vote of the American people. At this point, the country is divided into seven free states and six slave states (Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia).
March 4 Vermont officially becomes a state. The balance of free states to slave states is now 8 to 6.
August 12 A slave rebellion starts in the French colony of Santo Domingo (present day Haiti). In the next few days, African slaves gain control of parts of the island. This rebellion inspires fear in American southern slaveholders, as well as Northerners.
1792 On June 1, Kentucky becomes a state. The balance of free to slave states is now 8 to 7.
1793 On February 12, Congress passes the Federal Fugitive Law, calling for the extradition of criminals and the return of fugitive slaves.
August 29 Slavery is abolished in Santo Domingo.
October Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, a device which will remove seeds easily from cotton fibers. This makes the cotton industry in states like Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi profitable.
1794 On February 4, the French Assembly in Paris abolishes slavery in all French territories and confers full French citizenship on all former slaves.
1796 On June 1, Tennessee becomes a state. The balance between free and slave states is now 8 to 8.
1800 On October 30, Gabriel Prosser, the leader of an aborted slave rebellion, and 25 of his men are executed in Virginia. The rebellion failed when two slaves alerted Virginia Governor James Monroe of Prosser's plans to take Richmond.
Part IV: Ante-bellum Period
1802 In Vermont, State Supreme Court Judge Stephen Jacob is tried by his fellow judges for owning a slave, Dinah White. When this slave became too old to work, Jacob turned her out of his house to be cared for by the town of Windsor. The town is now suing Jacob for her support. Jacob's fellow judges, Jonathan Robinson and Royall Tyler, rule that a bill of sale for a slave cannot be used as evidence of ownership, since slavery is banned in Vermont. Jacob is freed of any obligation for providing for his former slave, but the judges have also set a precedent for all fugitive slave cases tried in the North.
1803 On March 1, Ohio becomes a state. The balance between free and slave states is now at 9 to 8.
1807 On March 7, Congress, under the guidance of President Thomas Jefferson, passes a law making it illegal to import Africans into the United States after January 1, 1808.
1812 On April 30, Louisiana becomes a state. The balance of free to slave states is now 9 to 9.
1816 On December 11, Indiana becomes a state. The balance of free to slave states is now 10 to 9.
1817 On December 10, Mississippi becomes a state. The balance of free to slave states is now 10 to 10.
1818 On December 3, Illinois becomes a state. The balance of free to slave states is now 11 to 10.
1819 On December 14, Alabama becomes a state. The balance of free to slave states is now 11 to 11.
March 15 Congress passes the Missouri Compromise, allowing Maine to enter the Union as a free state while Missouri enters the following year as a slave state, thus maintaining the balance of power in the U. S. Senate. The bill further provides that slavery will be prohibited in all states formed north of 36°, 30’ latitude in the West. On this day, Maine becomes a state and the balance between free and slave states stands at 12 to 11.
May 15 Congress passes a law making participation in the African slave trade an act of piracy punishable by death.
1821 On August 10, Missouri becomes a state and the balance between free and slave states stands at 12 to 12.
1822 The American Colonization Society sends the first boatload of freed blacks to Liberia, West Africa. The members of the society promote the idea of colonization as a permanent solution to slavery in America.
July 2 In Charleston, South Carolina, Denmark Vesey is hanged for conspiracy to incite rebellion among South Carolina's slaves. Vesey, a free black who worked as a carpenter, had planned his rebellion for some time, but was betrayed by house servants.
1823 In May, William Wilberforce and others establish the British Anti-Slavery Society.
1831 On November 11, Nat Turner, the leader of a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, is hanged. Virginia lawmakers respond to the Turner Rebellion by tightening the slave codes which prevent blacks from freely meeting in churches and learning how to read. Men from western Virginia attempt to outlaw slavery in the state, but this effort fails.
1833 In December, the American Anti-Slavery Society is founded in the North, ten years after its British counterpart. Within five years, they will have a quarter of a million members.
1834 On August 1, slavery is officially banned in the British Empire. This act leads to the emancipation of three-quarters of a million slaves.
1836 The U. S. House of Representatives adopts a gag rule calling for no discussion on the issue of slavery. This rule will be in effect until 1844.
June 15 Arkansas becomes a state and the balance between free and slave states shift to 12 to 13.
January 26 Michigan becomes a state. The balance between free and slave states is now 13 to 13.
November 7 Elijah Lovejoy, a prominent abolitionist, is killed by a mob in Alton, Illinois, and his press, with which he printed his abolitionist newspaper, is destroyed.
1841 On March 9,the Supreme Court rules on a case involving the captured Spanish slave ship Amistad. Africans aboard the ship had killed the crew and attempted to return to Africa. They were captured off the coast of Long Island in August, 1838. The Judges rule that the Africans were taken illegally from their homes. They are released and eventually return to Africa in the company of three Christian missionaries.
1842 At the Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia, Joseph R. Anderson, the commercial agent, proposes to use slaves to replace free workers in order to cut labor costs. His plan is approved, and slaves are slowly introduced to the factory.
January The Supreme Court rules in Prigg v. the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that the Pennsylvania state law forbidding the seizure of fugitive slaves by violent means is unconstitutional. The Judges also make it clear that the Federal Government is responsible for enforcement of this law. Many northern states respond to this law by passing legislation making it illegal to enforce the Federal Fugitive Law of February 12, 1793.
March 3 Florida becomes a state. The balance between free and slave states is now at 13 to 14.
December 29 Texas becomes a state and the balance shifts in favor of the slave states. Balance is now at 13 free states to 15 slave states.
August 10 Congress defeats the Wilmot Proviso, the brainchild of David Wilmot, Democrat of Pennsylvania. The Proviso is designed to eliminate slavery from territories recently purchased from Mexico. South Carolina Senator John Calhoun argues that the Government cannot limit slavery in new territories. Michigan Democrat Lewis Cass proposes that the settlers of the territories be allowed to decide the slavery issue for themselves. This doctrine, ultimately called "popular sovereignty," placates Southerners for the moment, and the Wilmot Proviso dies.
December 28 Iowa becomes a free state. Balance is now at 14 free states to 15 slave states.
1847 At the Tredegar Iron Works, the remaining free laborers go on strike because of the introduction of slaves into the facility. Joseph R. Anderson uses the strike as an opportunity to fire the striking workers and replace them with more slaves. Anderson says of his action, "This enables me, of course, to compete with other manufacturers."
1848 Congress passes a bill for the organization of the Oregon territory without slavery. President Polk signs the bill.
May 29 Wisconsin becomes a free state. Balance between the free and slave states is even again at 15 states each.
1849 In October, California applies for admission to the Union as a free state. Southerners object and threaten to secede from the Union, but President Zachary Taylor says he will lead the U. S. Army against any secessionists.
1850 On September 20, Congress passes the Compromise of 1850 allowing California into the Union as a free state and tightening the Fugitive Slave Law. California, which officially became a state on September 9, shifts the balance between free and slave states at 16 to 15.
1852 In March, the book Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. The work, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, is really a tract against the Compromise of 1850 and its provisions for the return of fugitive slaves.
1854 On May 26, Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act calling for the repeal of the Missouri Compromise and the use of "popular sovereignty" in the settlement of western territories. The immediate consequences of this law is a blood-bath in Kansas as pro-slavery "ruffians" and northern abolitionists battle for control of the state.
1857 George Fitzhugh, an eccentric journalist living in a bat infested mansion in Port Royal, Virginia, publishes Cannibals All! or Slaves Without Masters. In this book, Fitzhugh, a devoted follower of Sir Robert Filmer who proposed the idea of the "divine right of kings," argues for the continuation of slavery on economic and moral grounds and implies that some white people who are inferior should also be enslaved.
March 6 The Supreme Court hands down a decision in the case of Dred Scott v. Sanborn. Dred Scott is a slave suing for his freedom on the basis that his master once brought him to live in a free state. Chief Justice Roger Taney states in the majority opinion that black people are "so far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect." Taney also points out that the words in the Declaration of Independence--"all men are created equal"--were not intended to include blacks. He also declares the Missouri Compromise to be unconstitutional.
July Hinton Rowan Helper of North Carolina publishes The Impending Crisis of the South in which he proposes to end slavery forever by the use of colonization.
May 11 Minnesota becomes a free state shifting the balance in favor of the free states at 17 free to 15 slave.
August 27 During the Lincoln-Douglas debates at Freeport, Illinois, Abraham Lincoln asks Stephen Douglas if the people of a territory have any way to exclude slavery from their land before attaining statehood. Douglas responds that slavery could be excluded through the use of "unfriendly legislation" designed to make it difficult, if not impossible, to support slavery in a territory. Douglas's proposal is known henceforth as the Freeport Doctrine.
February 14 Oregon enters the Union as a free state. The balance, which now stands at 18 free states to 15 slave states, makes the admission of Kansas as a slave state crucial to southern supporters of slavery.
May 9-19 At a meeting of the Southern Commercial Convention in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Southerners call for the reopening of the African slave trade.
October 16-18 John Brown and a handful of men raid Harpers Ferry, Virginia, in an attempt to free Virginia slaves. The raid is put down by Brevet Colonel Robert E. Lee.
December 2 John Brown is hanged in Charlestown, Virginia.
Part V: The American Civil War
November 6 Abraham Lincoln is elected the sixteenth President of the United States. He says that he has no intention of interfering with slavery where it already exists but opposes the extension of slavery into the Western Territories.
December 20 In response to Lincoln's election, South Carolina secedes from the Union. It is the first of eleven states to do so.
January 9 Mississippi is the second state to secede.
January 10 Florida secedes.
January 11 Alabama secedes.
January 19 Georgia secedes.
January 26 Louisiana secedes.
January 29 Kansas enters the Union as the 34th state. The Kansas constitution bans slavery.
February The Corwin Amendment passes Congress and now must be approved by the states if it is to be the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It declares that Congress has no right to pass any law concerning the institution of slavery. The amendment is an attempt to keep southern states in the Union, but it is already too late. Six states have seceded and Texas will secede on March 2.
February 18 Jefferson Davis is inaugurated as President of the Confederate States of America in Montgomery, Alabama. His Vice President, Alexander Stephens of Georgia, states that the cornerstone of the Confederacy "rests upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man."
March 4 Abraham Lincoln is sworn in as President of the United States. In his inaugural address, he tells the southern people that they cannot have war unless they choose to start it. He appeals to "the better angels of our nature."
April 12 At 4:30 A.M., in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina, Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter commencing the Civil War.
May 30 General Benjamin Butler stationed at Fortress Munroe in Union-loyal Virginia has written to Secretary of War Simon Cameron concerning fugitive slaves who had come inside the Union lines at his position. On this day, Cameron tells Butler not to return the slaves to their masters but to treat them as contraband of war until Congress decides what to do with them.
July 22 The Senate passes the Crittenden Resolution which states that the main aim of the war is preservation of the Union and not the freeing of slaves. This Resolution is later defeated in the House.
August 6 Congress passes a Confiscation Act which allows for the seizure of all property used by the rebels in the war effort. This includes slaves. General John Charles Fremont, in Missouri, freely interprets the Act and issues a proclamation making all slaves belonging to rebels in Missouri free.
September 2 President Lincoln rescinds Fremont's emancipation proclamation and transfers him to another department.
February 21 Captain Nathaniel Gordon of the U.S. merchant ship Erie is executed at noon for kidnapping Africans with the intent of selling them in Cuba. Gordon had been arrested on the morning of August 7, 1860, by Commodore Sylvanus W. Godon of the U.S.S. Mohican off the mouth of the Congo River. At the time of his arrest, there were 897 Africans in the hold of his ship. He was taken to New York City and tried beginning on June 18, 1861. After one hung jury and a new trial, Captain Gordon was found guilty on November 8, 1861. He bears the dubious distinction of being the only American ever hanged for the crime of participation in the African slave trade.
March 6 Lincoln writes to Congress asking that they adopt a Joint Resolution for the "gradual abolishment of slavery."
April 4 At Lincoln's suggestion, slavery is abolished in Washington, D. C. The slaves are given $300 and encouraged to go either to Haiti or Liberia.
June 19 Lincoln signs a bill outlawing slavery in the Western Territories, but not the states where it already exists.
July 7 General McClellan gives Lincoln a letter which suggests that the President should avoid "confiscation of property, political execution of persons, territorial organization of States, or forcible abolition of slavery," in conducting the war effort. But Lincoln has already decided that he needs to do all these things to win the war.
July 12 At a meeting with the Border State Representatives, Lincoln asks them to consider compensated emancipation of the slaves. But the Representatives are reluctant to condone such an act. Lincoln decides that, instead of asking slave owners to give up their property, he must ask the Congress as a whole to end slavery.
July 17 Congress passes a second Confiscation Act stating that anyone convicted of treason against the United States will lose his property, and his slaves will be freed. Lincoln signs the act.
July 22 Lincoln announces to the Cabinet his plans for an Emancipation Proclamation. Seward urges the President not to issue the Proclamation until the Union has a clear victory.
August 14 Lincoln meets at the White House with a deputation of black people. He asks them to support his plans for colonization of former slaves in Chirique in Central America. Although the members of the deputation support the plan, Lincoln fails to get broad-based support for this plan in the black community. Central American countries also object to the plan because it would bring the United States Government too close to their land.
September 17 The Union wins an indecisive victory against General Robert E. Lee at Antietam in Maryland.
September 22 Lincoln and his Cabinet agree that the Union victory at Antietam has cleared the way for emancipation. The President announces publicly that in 100 days he will sign the Emancipation Proclamation, a document that will free all slaves belonging to those in rebellion against the Government. The 100 days will give any rebels wishing to retain their property in slaves a chance to rejoin the Union.
October 11 In Richmond, Virginia, the Confederate Congress, with the approval of President Davis, amends the conscription act to include exemptions for those owning or overseeing twenty or more slaves. The common soldiers in the rebel army complain about this measure, calling the Confederate rebellion a "rich man's war, poor man's fight."
December 2 Lincoln proposes an amendment to the Constitution calling for the gradual, compensated emancipation of all slaves. He states that gradual emancipation could be completed by January 1, 1900. He further supports the idea of compensation because of the culpability of Northerners in the institution of slavery.
January 1 In Washington, Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in Confederate held territory and calling for the formation of "Colored Regiments."
January 12 In Richmond, Jefferson Davis responds to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, stating in part, "Our own detestation of those who have attempted the most execrable measure recorded in the history of guilty man is tempered by profound contempt for the impotent rage which it discloses."
March 16 The U. S. Government officially forms the American Freedmen's Inquiry Commission to study the problem of the freeing of slaves. The Commission is the precursor of the Freedmen's Bureau.
June 20 West Virginia enters the Union with a provision in its constitution for the elimination of slavery.
Early January In northern Georgia, Confederate General Patrick Cleburne proposes that the Confederate Government abolish slavery. He says that such an action would "appall our enemies... and fill our hearts with a pride and singleness of purpose which would clothe us with new strength in battle." His proposal is ignored.
March 13 Lincoln writes to Governor Michael Hahn of the newly reconstructed government of Louisiana urging him to allow some black people to vote, especially "the very intelligent" and "those who have fought gallantly in our ranks."
July 2 Lincoln signs a law repealing the Fugitive Slave Act.
November 8 Lincoln is elected to a second term as President of the United States.
January 31 The U. S. House of Representatives passes a proposal for a 13th Amendment to the Constitution freeing all the slaves. The Amendment is submitted for approval by the states.
February 9 In Richmond, Confederate Senator Robert M. T. Hunter calls for the arming of slaves. He proposes that 20,000 slaves be recruited in the next twenty days.
March 4 Lincoln is inaugurated a second time as President of the U.S. In his inaugural address he suggests that God wants the war to continue "until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword."
March 13 In Richmond, the Confederate Congress passes a bill allowing for the enlistment of slaves into the army. Slaves so enlisted are not promised freedom or anything else. Davis signs the bill. Nothing comes of this action.
April 9 Confederate General Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant at Appomattox Court House. All major fighting in the war is now over.
April 11 In Washington, Lincoln speaks about the re-admittance of Louisiana to the Union and openly suggests that certain black people now be allowed to vote, particularly those who have fought for the Union. An actor named John Wilkes Booth hears this speech.
April 14 Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
April 15 At 7:22 A. M., Lincoln dies.
April 26 At the Garrett Farm, Virginia, the 16th New York Cavalry corners John Wilkes Booth. Sergeant Boston Corbett shoots Booth before he can be captured. Booth dies later of his wounds.
Part VI: Reconstruction
December 18 The 13th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified ending slavery forever in the United States.
Spring At Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of ex-Confederate soldiers dress up in bed sheets and ride around the country at night pretending to be the Confederate dead. They eventually formalize their activities and create a new organization of white supremacists called the Ku Klux Klan.
July 28 The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. It grants full U. S. citizenship to all former slaves and makes it nearly impossible for former Confederate officers to hold public office.
1869 The Ku Klux Klan is officially disbanded.
1870 On March 30, the 15th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. This Amendment protects the right to vote for all male U.S. citizens.
1877 Republicans agree to end Reconstruction of the South as part of a compromise allowing Rutherford B. Hayes to become the 19th President of the United States.
Part VII: Post-Reconstruction/ "Jim Crow" Segregation
1895 On September 18 in Atlanta, Georgia, Booker T. Washington delivers a speech at the Cotton States Exposition. He asks black people to accept an inferior political role in American society until such time as they achieve economic equality with whites through the acquisition of vocational skills. His position, called the "Atlanta Compromise," is denounced by other black leaders.
1896 In Washington, the Supreme Court hands down a decision in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, declaring that separate segregated facilities for whites and blacks are legal so long as they are also equal.
1910 On May 1, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded. Among other goals, the fledgling NAACP intends to challenge the legality of Plessy v. Ferguson in the Federal Courts.
1915 On February 8, Clune's Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, premieres the film The Birth of a Nation by film director David Wark Griffith. The film is based on Thomas Dixon's novel, The Clansman, which glorifies the Ku Klux Klan. Because of this film, there is a large Klan revival in America.
1920 The 19th Amendment to the Constitution allowing women the right to vote is ratified.
August 1 Marcus Garvey preaches black nationalism in Harlem's Liberty Hall at a meeting of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. Garvey, a native of Jamaica, is best known for his "back to Africa" campaign.
1942 In June in Chicago, an interracial group devoted to nonviolent protest to achieve equality of the races forms the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).
1948 On December 10, the United Nations General Assembly approves the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights." The first article states: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood." Article three guarantees the right to "life, liberty and the security of person." Article four prohibits slavery and the slave trade.
Part VIII: Era of Expanding Civil Rights
1954 In the case of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court, in a reversal of Plessy v. Ferguson, decides that there can be no such thing as "separate but equal" facilities for blacks and whites in the nation's schools. The ruling outlaws school segregation.
1955 On December 1, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks, a black woman, refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a bus. She is immediately arrested by the police.
1956 On November 13, the Supreme Court finds that segregation on the buses in the city of Montgomery, Alabama, is illegal.
1957 On August 7 and 8, Martin Luther King Jr. meets with 115 black leaders from around the country to discuss school desegregation and black voting rights. They form the Southern Christian Leadership Council and elect King president.
June 12 NAACP leader Medgar Evers is assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
August The "March on Washington" takes place. On August 28, King gives his "I Have a Dream" speech.
November 22 President John F. Kennedy is assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson is sworn in as President at 2:39 P.M. at Love Air Field in Dallas.
February 4 The 24th Amendment to the Constitution becomes law. This Amendment provides for the elimination of the payment of a poll tax as a requirement for voting privileges, a measure long used in the South to prevent blacks and poor whites from voting.
July 2 President Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law ends discrimination in American business but does not make strong provisions to guarantee the right to vote.
February 21 Malcolm X is assassinated in New York City by Black Muslims.
March 21-25 Martin Luther King Jr. leads a march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, the state capital.
August 6 President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law. The act prohibits the use of poll taxes, literacy tests, and other forms of discrimination long used in denying people the right to vote.
1966 In Oakland, California, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale organize the radical Black Panther Party.
1968 On April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee, James Earl Ray assassinates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1971 On June 30, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified. This Amendment gives young people who are old enough to go into the military the right to vote.
1991 On March 3, policemen in Los Angeles stop the driver of a car, Rodney Glenn King, force him to the pavement, and beat him. George Holliday records the beating on two minutes of videotape.
1993 On April 17 in a Federal Court, two of the four officers charged with the beating of Rodney King are found guilty of violating King's civil rights.
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