Black History in America

Timeline created by Austin Birely
  • Jamestown

    A Dutch ship brought 20 African indentured servants to the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia.
  • George Washington changes policy

    George Washington changes policy
    George Washington changed a previous policy and allows free blacks to enlist in the Continental Army. Approximately 5,000 do so. The British governor of Virginia promises freedom to slaves who enlist with the British.
  • U.S. Constitution is Ratified

    U.S. Constitution is Ratified
    The U.S. Constitution is ratified. It provides for the continuation of the slave trade for another 20 years and required states to aid slaveholders in the recovery of fugitive slaves. It also stipulates that a slave counts as three-fifths of a man for purposes of determining representation in the House of Representatives.
  • Cotton Gin

    Cotton Gin
    Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, which makes cotton cultivation on a huge scale possible in the South and thus greatly increases the need for slaves, whose numbers skyrocket.
  • Fugitive Slave Act

    Fugitive Slave Act
    Congress passes the first Fugitive Slave Act, which makes it a crime to harbor an escaped slave.
  • U.S. Bans Impotation

     U.S. Bans Impotation
    The U.S. Congress passes a law that bans the importation of slaves into the U.S., a law to be largely ignored in southern states.
  • African American Newspaper

    African American Newspaper
    The first African American newspaper in the U.S., Freedom's Journal, is published in New York by John Brown Russwurm and Samuel Cornish.
  • Another Fugitive Slave Act

    Another Fugitive Slave Act
    Congress passes another Fugitive Slave Act, which mandates government support for the capture of escaped slaves, and spurs widespread protest in the North.
  • Dred Scott

    Dred Scott
    In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court decides that African Americans are not citizens of the U.S., and that Congress has no power to restrict slavery in any federal territory. This meant that a slave who made it to a free state would still be considered a slave.
  • Civil War Begins

    Civil War Begins
    The Civil War begins when the Confederates attack Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina. The war, fought over the issue of slavery, will rage for another four years. The Union's victory will mean the end of slavery in the U.S.
  • Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment

    Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment
    Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery, and establishes the Freedmen's Bureau to assist former slaves. This is the beginning of the Reconstruction
  • Civil Rights Act

    Civil Rights Act
    Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, which confers citizenship on African Americans and grants them equal rights with whites.
  • Jim Crow

    Jim Crow
    Tennessee passes the first of the "Jim Crow" segregation laws, segregating state railroads. Other Southern states pass similar laws over the next 15 years.
  • Poll Tax

    Poll Tax
    Mississippi enacts a poll tax, which most African Americans cannot afford to pay, to try to keep blacks from voting.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson

    Plessy v. Ferguson
    In Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that segregated, or "separate but equal," public facilities for whites and black African-American African Americans are legal. The ruling stands until 1954.

    The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded by a group of African American and white activists, including W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois is the only one of the seven African American activists to serve on the NAACP board.
  • World War II

    World War II
    The role of African Americans in the military expands as the U.S. enters World War II. This was big because int he other countries African Americans were viewed the same as the white soldiers. But when the Afican Americans came back to the U.S. they were treated them same as they did before they left for war.
  • Brown v. Board of Education

    Brown v. Board of Education
    In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court rules unanimously against school segregation, overturning its 1896 decision in Plessy v. Ferguson.
  • Emmett Till

    Emmett Till
    was an African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman. When he spoke to 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, the married proprietor of a small grocery store. Several nights later, Bryant's husband Roy and his half-brother J. W. Milam, arrived at Till's great-uncle's house where they took Till, transported him to a barn, beat him and gouged out one of his eyes then shot him in the head.
  • Rosa Parks

    Rosa Parks
    Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, bus to a white person, triggering a successful, year-long African American boycott of the bus system.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Martin Luther King, Jr.
    The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., helps found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to work for full equality for African Americans.
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    Underground Railroad

    Approximately 75,000 slaves escape to the North and freedom using the Underground Railroad, a system in which free African American and white "conductors," abolitionists, and sympathizers guide, help, and shelter the escapees.
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    54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

    The Union's 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first African American regular army regiment, assaults Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina, losing half its men. The event is memorialized in the 1989 movie Glory. By the war's end, nearly 180,000 African American men will have served in the Union army. Some also served in the Confederate army - both freedmen and conscripted slaves.
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    Harlem Renaissance

    Almost 750,000 African Americans left the South, and many of them migrated to urban areas in the North to take advantage of the prosperity—and the more racially tolerant environment. The Harlem section of Manhattan, which covers just 3 sq mi, drew nearly 175,000 African Americans, turning the neighborhood into the largest concentration of black people in the world.