A Dale Shields Research Collaboration
The first Africans as slave labor are introduced in America. A Dutch trader exchanges his cargo of 20 Africans for food in Jamestown Virginia, in August of 1619. It is believed that these Africans were sold into conditions similar to indentured servitude – a common practice in England and colonial America. The American slavery system became more developed and codified in its inhumane treatment around 1680.
Although African slaves were denied the usage of certain cultural elements – such as their native language, the use of drums, and many other traditions, some practices were retained and became an important part of the American way of life.
Inoculation – During the smallpox epidemic of 1721, Onesimus, a Boston slave, instructs Cotton Mather, a Puritan cleric, about the African techniques of inoculation – this is the earliest recorded use of the technique in America, but a common practice in Africa. Rice – Africans introduced the rice plant to North America and taught the English settlers how to cultivate and irrigate the crop. Rice became so important to South Carolina’s economy that it continued to be the colony’s major crop long after the rest of the South had turned to cotton farming in the 19th century.
Phillis Wheatley‘s (1753? – 1784) poetry is published in “Poems on Various Subjects Religion and Moral” in London and various magazines. It was the first book to be published that was authored by an African-American. Wheatley was subjected to an oral examination to test her knowledge and literacy because it was not believed that a Negro could write poetry. Among the group of examiners was John Hancock, a future signer of The Declaration of Independence.
Phillis Wheatley wrote a poem for George Washington‘s birthday, to which he wrote a letter of acknowledgement, “I thank you most sincerely for the … elegant line you enclosed…the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your poetic talents.”
Jupiter Hammon (1711- 1806?), a slave who was allowed to attend school, was a devout christian and a poet. His poem “An Evening Thought. Salvation by Christ with Penitential Cries” was the first piece of literature published in the United States by an African-American in 1761. The US bans the import of slaves, but not the sale and practice of slavery. Ohio’s original constitution outlawed slavery in 1802. Ohio also aggressively barred black immigration. The Three-Fifths Compromise At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, the Southern states wanted Blacks to be counted as equal to Whites, but it was the Northern states that argued that slaves were considered as property and therefore should not be counted at all – a tactic likely used to deny the Southern states the political representation that their large population of blacks would bring them. A Compromise was made whereas each slave would count as three-fifths of a person.
Nat Turner (1800-1831), a slave and a preacher, leads a short and bloody slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner is later hanged and Virginia consequently institutes stricter slave laws. Also This Year:
William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) begins publishing the Liberator, a weekly paper that advocates the abolition of slavery.
William Lloyd Garrison 1805 – 1879
In the very first issue of his anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison stated, “I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. . . . I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.” And Garrison was heard. For more than three decades, from the first issue of his weekly paper in 1831, until after the end of the Civil War in 1865 when the last issue was published, Garrison spoke out eloquently and passionately against slavery and for the rights of America’s black inhabitants.
The son of a merchant sailing master, William Lloyd Garrison was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, in 1805. Due in large measure to the Embargo Act, which Congress had passed in 1807, the Garrison family fell on hard times while William was still young. In 1808 William’s father deserted the family, forcing them to scrounge for food from more prosperous families and forcing William to work, selling homemade molasses candy and delivering wood.
In 1818, after suffering through various apprenticeships, Garrison began work for the Newburyport Herald as a writer and editor. This job and subsequent newspaper jobs would give the young Garrison the skills he would utilize so expertly when he later published his own paper.
When he was 25, Garrison joined the Abolition movement. He became associated with the American Colonization Society, an organization that believed free blacks should emigrate to a territory on the west coast of Africa. At first glance the society seemed to promote the freedom and happiness of blacks. There certainly were members who encouraged the manumission (granting of freedom) to slaves. However, it turned out that the number of members advocating manumission constituted a minority. Most members had no wish to free slaves; their goal was only to reduce the numbers of free blacks in the country and thus help preserve the institution of slavery.
By 1830 Garrison had rejected the programs of the American Colonization Society. By this time he had worked as co-editor of an antislavery paper started by Benjamin Lundy in Maryland, The Genius of Universal Emancipation. And on January 1, 1831, he published the first issue of his own anti-slavery newspaper, the Liberator.
In speaking engagements and through the Liberator and other publications, Garrison advocated the immediate emancipation of all slaves. This was an unpopular view during the 1830s, even with northerners who were against slavery. What would become of all the freed slaves? Certainly they could not assimilate into American society, they thought. Garrison believed that they could assimilate. He believed that, in time, all blacks would be equal in every way to the country’s white citizens. They, too, were Americans and entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Though circulation of the Liberator was relatively limited — there were less than 400 subscriptions during the paper’s second year — Garrison soon gained a reputation for being the most radical of abolitionists. Still, his approach to emancipation stressed nonviolence and passive restistance, and he did attract a following. In 1832 he helped organize the New England Anti-Slavery Society, and, the following year, the American Anti-Slavery Society. These were the first organizations dedicated to promoting immediate emancipation.
Garrison was unyeilding and steadfast in his beliefs. He believed that the the Anti-Slavery Society should not align itself with any political party. He believed that women should be allowed to participate in the Anti-Slavery Society. He believed that the U.S. Constitution was a pro-slavery document. Many within the Society differed with these positions, however, and in 1840 there was a major rift in the Society which resulted in the founding of two additional organizations: the Liberty Party, a political organization, and the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society, which did not admit women. Later, in 1851, the once devoted and admiring Frederick Douglass stated his belief that the Constitution could be used as a weapon against slavery. Garrison, feeling betrayed, attacked Douglass through his paper. Douglass responded, and the attacks intensified. Garrison and Douglass would never reconcile their differences.
Although Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was a government decree, Garrison supported it wholeheartedly. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, Garrison published his last issue of the Liberator. After thirty five years and 1,820 issues, Garrison did not fail to publish a single issue.
Nat Turner was known among fellow slaves as the “Prophet”. He was deeply religious and believed that he received “visions” from God. Originally planning his rebellion for July 4th, he changed plans after a few solar eclipses which he interpreted as “a sign”. Abolitionist is the term used for those persons opposed to the institute of slavery – both white and black people were abolitionists.
The Quakers were also against slavery and often preached against it.
Quakers in the Abolition Movement
Quaker colonists began wondering things in [Barbados]] in the 1670s, but first openly denounced slavery in 1688, when four German Quakers, including Francis Daniel Pastorius, issued a protest from their recently established colony of Germantown, close to Philadelphia in the newly founded American colony of Pennsylvania. This action, although seemingly overlooked at the time, ushered in almost a century of active debate among Pennsylvanian Quakers about the morality of slavery which saw energetic antislavery writing and direct action from several Quakers, including William Southeby, John Hepburn, Ralph Sandiford, and Benjamin Lay.
During the 1740s and 50s, antislavery sentiment took a firmer hold. A new generation of Quakers, including John Woolman and Anthony Benezet, protested against slavery, and demanded that Quaker society cut ties with the slave trade. They were able to carry popular Quaker sentiment with them and, in the 1750s, Pennsylvanian Quakers tightened their rules, by 1758 making it effectively an act of misconduct to engage in slave trading. The London Yearly Meeting soon followed, issuing a ‘strong minute’ against slave trading in 1761. On paper at least, spirm global politics would intervene. The American Revolution would divide Quakers across the Atlantic. In the United Kingdom, Quakers would be foremost i the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1787 which, with some setbacks, would be responsible for forcing the end of the British slave trade in 1807 and the end of slavery throughout the British Empire by 1838. In the United States, Quakers would be less successful. In many cases, it was easier for Quakers to oppose the slave trade and slave ownership in the abstract than to directly oppose the institution of slavery itself, as it manifested itself in their local communities. While many individual Quakers spoke out against slavery after United States independence, local Quaker meetings were often divided on how to respond to slavery; outspoken Quaker abolitionists were sometimes sharply criticized by other Quakers.
Nevertheless, there were local successes for Quaker antislavery in the United States during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. For example, the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, first founded in 1775, consisted primarily of Quakers; seven of the ten original white members were Quakers and 17 of the 24 who attended the four meetings held by the Society were Quakers. Throughout the nineteenth century, Quakers increasingly became associated with antislavery activism and antislavery literature: not least through the work of abolitionist Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier.
Quakers were also prominently involved with the Underground Railroad. For example, Levi Coffin started helping runaway slaves as a child in North Carolina. Later in his life, Coffin moved to the Ohio–Indiana area, where he became known as the President of the Underground Railroad. Elias Hicks penned the ‘Observations on the Slavery of the Africans‘ in 1811 (2nd ed. 1814), urging the boycott of the products of slave labor. Many families assisted slaves in their travels through the Underground Railroad. Henry Stubbs and his sons helped runaway slaves get across Indiana. The Bundy family operated a station that transported groups of slaves from Belmont to Salem, Ohio.
Quaker antislavery activism could come at some social cost. In the nineteenth-century United States, some Quakers were persecuted by slave owners and were forced to move to the west of the country in an attempt to avoid persecution. Nevertheless, in the main, Quakers have been noted and, very often, praised for their early and continued antislavery activity.”
Joseph Cinque (born Sengbe Pieh) (1815? -?) leads 37 African slaves in a revolt aboard the Amistad slave ship, killing the captain and taking control of the ship. The ship is later recaptured by the U.S. The matter is tried in the Supreme Court, where it is ordered that the slaves be returned to Africa and freed.
Former President of the U.S. and a Massachusetts senator, John Quincy Adams was Joseph Cinque‘s defense attorney. In 1730 ninety-six Africans aboard the Little George slave ship gained control of the vessel and successfully piloted their way back to Africa. In 1841 Africans aboard the Creole slave ship revolt and sail to the Bahamas, where they are declared free by the British.
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) launches an abolitionist newspaper The North Star. Douglass escaped from slavery in 1838 by posing as a free black seaman on a train ride to the north and became an infamous speaker on the abolitionist lecture circuit and an important political figure. He served as president of the Freedman’s Savings Bank during Reconstruction and penned his autobiography “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass” in 1845.
Frederick Douglass was invited to Abraham Lincoln‘s second inauguration at the White House in 1865. Douglass was the only black guest in attendance. Douglass was the first African-American to receive a nomination for Vice-President of the United States in 1872.
Black history Month originated in 1926 by Carter Godwin Woodson as Negro History Week. The month of February was chosen in honor of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, who were both born in that month.
Gabriel (1776 – October 10, 1800), today commonly – if incorrectly – known as Gabriel Prosser, was a literate enslaved blacksmith who planned a large slave rebellion in the Richmond area in the summer of 1800. Information regarding the revolt was leaked prior to its execution, and he and twenty-five followers were taken captive and hanged in punishment. In reaction, Virginia and other state legislatures passed restrictions on free blacks, as well as prohibiting the education, assembly and hiring out of slaves, to restrict their chances to learn and to plan similar rebellions.
In 2002 the City of Richmond passed a resolution in honor of Gabriel on the 202nd anniversary of the rebellion. In 2007 Governor Tim Kainegave Gabriel and his followers an informal pardon, in recognition that his cause, “the end of slavery and the furtherance of equality for all people – has prevailed in the light of history.”
Life and background
Born into slavery at Brookfield, a tobacco plantation in Henrico County, Virginia, Gabriel had two brothers, Solomon and Martin. They were all held by Thomas Prosser, the owner. As Gabriel and Solomon were trained as blacksmiths, their father may have had that skill. Gabriel was also taught to read and write. By the mid-1790s, as Gabriel neared the age of twenty, he stood “six feet two or three inches high”. His long and “bony face, well made”, was marred by the loss of his two front teeth and “two or three scars on his head”. White people as well as blacks regarded the literate young man as “a fellow of great courage and intellect above his rank in life.”
Gabriel planned the revolt during the spring and summer of 1800. On August 30, 1800, Gabriel intended to lead slaves into Richmond, but the rebellion was postponed because of rain. The slaves’ owners had suspicion of the uprising, and two slaves told their owner, Mosby Sheppard, about the plans. He warned Virginia’s Governor, James Monroe, who called out the state militia. Gabriel escaped downriver to Norfolk, but he was spotted and betrayed there by another slave for the reward offered by the state. That slave did not receive the full reward. Gabriel was returned to Richmond for questioning, but he did not submit. Gabriel, his two brothers, and 23 other slaves were hanged.
Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913), born Araminta Ross escapes from slavery and becomes one of the most celebrated and effective leaders of the Underground Railroad.
Harriet Tubman will guide hundreds of slaves to freedom before and during the war. She was never captured while rescuing slaves and as she was quoted she “never lost a passenger”.
Harriet Tubman was born Araminta Ross, taking the name Harriet when she was young, probably in honor of her mother – Harriet Greene Ross, and married John Tubman, a free black man in 1844. Tubman suffered from epileptic seizures after an overseer threw a 2 lb. weight at her head when she tried to prevent the capture of a run-away slave. A U.S. Liberty Ship was named after Harriet Tubman in World War II – the SS Harriet Tubman.
The Underground Railroad is started by William Still. It is a network of secret routes, way-stations, safe havens and meeting points in which thousands of African-Americans will escape from slavery in the south. Some routes on the Underground Railroad traveled as far north as Canada and as far south as Mexico. William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) a white abolitionist and editor of the abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, privately publishes the memoirs of Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), a former slave, abolitionist, conductor on the Underground Railroad, and a preacher and advocate of women’s rights. It is entitled The “Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave”. Sojourner Truth’s birth name was Isabella Baumfree (some references list it as Isabella Van Wagener). —When Sojourner’s son, who had been emancipated under New York law, was sold into slavery in Alabama, she sued to have him returned and won. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 was strengthened in 1850 as a law that enforced the capture of run-away slaves in both free and slave states by fining and holding anyone, including federal officials, responsible for aiding run-away slaves.
“Uncle Tom’s Cabin “is published by Harriet Beecher Stowe, a white abolitionist. It is the first major American novel to feature an African-American hero and becomes one of the most influential works to stir anti-slavery sentiments by shedding light on the horrors of slavery. Uncle Tom’s Cabin is the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling novel of the century, with the bible holding steady at number one. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was originally published in serial form in the abolitionist periodical, The National Era. Harriet Beecher Stowe had never traveled to the deep South and relied on interviews of slaves, slave masters and books.
Josiah Henson’s autobiography “The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself” (1849) is believed to have been Harriet Beecher Stowe’s inspiration for the character Uncle Tom.
Dred Scott (1795-1858) appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court for his freedom, arguing that during his travels with his master he had been living in free states in the Dred Scott vs. Sanford case. Scott was unsuccessful and as a result the Court ordered that slaves could not be citizens and therefore did not have the right to bring a case to court. The case is also known as the “Dred Scott Decision.”
Dred Scott actually filed his case in 1847 and went through many appeals before a decision was reached in 1856, but carried out in 1857 resulting in the return of Dred Scott to his master. Scott was finally awarded his freedom from his master, 8 months before his death from tuberculosis in 1858. The Dred Scott Decision helped to further polarize the North and South and quicken the arrival of the Civil War.
The Civil War begins when South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as their president. Later in the year Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia join them. Virginia was divided up – with the eastern portion seceding to the Confederacy and West Virginia remaining with the Union. It is the bloodiest war in American history, being fought entirely on American soil and resulting in the death of about 600,000.
Abraham Lincoln took office in 1860 and had always made it clear his main concern was preserving the Union, not ending slavery. *King Cotton is the term coined by southern politicians when referring to cotton. By the time the Civil War began, cotton made up about 60 percent of American exports, about $200 million a year. The Confederates tried to use Europe’s reliance on American cotton in their favor by refusing to export cotton to Europe in an effort to force them to intervene and end the war. As a result Europe turned to India and Egypt to meet their cotton demands. Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, a presidential order declaring the freedom of the slaves and makes the end of slavery a major goal of the Civil War. It was issued in two parts -the preliminary document on September 22, 1862 and the second on January 1st 1863. In 1865 the Civil War ends andthe 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishes slavery.
Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate spy, during a play at Ford’s Theatre. Other Notable Events: The Reconstruction Era begins, a 12 year span where important laws and gains were made to improve the lives of newly freed slaves. The Juneteenth celebrations commemorate the emancipation of African-Americans -marking the time when slavery officially ends on June 19th 1865 – when word finally reaches Texas. Some Southern states add “Grandfather clauses” to the 15th Amendment, stating that the right to vote extends only to citizens or their descendants who had the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867.
40 Acres and a Mule refers to the military orders, “Special Field Orders, No.15”, issued by Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman on January 16, 1865 which decreed 400,000 acres of land to thousands of former slaves. It was later revoked by Abraham Lincoln’s successor, President Andrew Johnson. In 1866 the Civil Rights Act sought to protect freedmen and grant full citizenship to those born on U.S. soil, except Indians. Other Notable Events:
In 1867 Howard University is founded by Union General, Oliver O. Howard as an institute for preachers and teachers. In 1868 the 14th Amendment to the Constitution grants citizenship to former slaves. In 1870 the 15th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits states from denying the right to vote because of race.
In 1870 Hiram Rhodes Revels (1822 – 1901) of Mississippi is elected the country’s first African-American Senator In 1875 The “Mississippi Plan”, the use of fraud, violence, intimidation, and literacy tests to keep African-Americans in Mississippi from voting was put into effect. Hiram Rhodes Revels was elected to the seat in the Senate vacated by Jefferson Davis, the former president of the Confederate States of America.
The Tuskegee institute is founded by former slaves Lewis Adams and George W. Campbell under the leadership of Booker T. Washington (1856 -1915) as a teachers training school.
Booker T. Washington was an advocator of education and self-reliance as a means for African-Americans to achieve equality. He gave a speech to a predominantly white audience at an exposition in Atlanta, Georgia in 1895 in which he encouraged black people to have patience in attaining civil rights and to seek opportunities in the South instead of migrating to the north. This speech became known as the Atlanta Compromise. *The Supreme Court decides in the Plessy Vs. Ferguson case that “separate but equal” satisfies the 14th amendment which gives legal sanction to “Jim Crow” segregation laws. Also This Year:
*George Washington Carver is appointed director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute. His innovations with peanuts, soybeans and sweet potatoes, helped to revolutionize agriculture in the South. He received the NAACP Spingarn Medal in 1923.
Homer Plessy, of mixed race, and fair complexion tested the Louisiana segregation law, which differentiated between, white, black and colored in their segregation – with colored meaning those of mixed heritage, by sitting in the white section on a train. He was arrested and the case was taken all the way up to the Supreme Court resulting in the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision that would define American segregation for almost 58 years. Most states had implemented their own segregation laws already: Tennessee in 1881; Florida in 1887; Mississippi in 1888; Texas in 1889; Louisiana in 1890; etc.
The term Jim Crow refers to a white performer named Thomas “Daddy” Rice who performed caricatures of black styles and dance in the 1830s. In one of his popular songs he says “every time I weel about, I jump Jim Crow.”
“Many have questioned or may believe that the NAACP was founded solely by African Americans; however, both whites and blacks came together at this time. Its founders consisted of a diverse group of individuals created put together by W.E.B. Du Bois , Ida B. Wells, Archibald Grimké, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, William English Walling (the last son of a former slave-holding family), and Florence Kelley (a social reformer and friend of Du Bois.)”
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP, is founded by W.E.B Dubois, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Henry Moscowitz , Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villard, and William English Walling as an interracial organization “to promote equality of rights and to eradicate caste or race prejudice among the citizens of the United States; to advance the interest of colored citizens; to secure for them impartial suffrage; and to increase their opportunities for securing justice in the courts, education for the children, employment according to their ability and complete equality before law.” The Niagara Movement, a group of 32 prominent African-Americans led by W.E.B. Dubois, was the predecessor to the NAACP. The group would meet on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (due to U.S. segregation laws in hotels) to discuss the challenges facing “people of color”. In 1909 the conference took place in New York, and a new group emerged calling themselves the National Negro Committee. This new group adopted the name of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and incorporated in 1911. Harlem Renaissance
A period of almost fifteen years when some of the most important and prolific writers, artists and musicians such as Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Eugene O’Neill, to name a few, emerged in the African-American community and took up residence in New York’s Harlem district. Other Notable Events:
Marcus Garvey (1887 – 1940) an entrepreneur, journalist and proponent of Black nationalism, encourages Black Americans to return to their African homeland and establishes the Black Star Line, a fleet of Black owned steamships that serviced the Caribbean Islands, America, and Africa. W.E.B. DuBois organizes the first Pan-African Congress in Paris, France. He is elected executive secretary of the organization, and upon his return writes about the treatment of African-American soldiers for The Crisis.
Oscar Micheaux, becomes the the first African-American to make a film when he writes, directs and produces the feature film, The Homesteader. The Harlem Renaissance was originally called the “New Negro Movement”. Marcus Garvery formed the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League (UNIA-ACL)in 1914 with the goal of uniting “all people of African ancestry of the world to one great body to establish a country and absolute government of their own.” In 1847 Liberia was founded as an independent nation for freed and free-born African-Americans. Marcus Garvey believed in developing Liberia stating, “Our success educationally, industrially and politically is based upon the protection of a nation founded by ourselves. And the nation can be nowhere else but in Africa.”
The Tuskegee Experiment, a forty year-long experiment in which 399 African-American men infected with Syphilis, near Tuskegee, Alabama are denied treatment in order to study the effects of the disease begins. The experiment is leaked to the press by Peter Buxton, a Public Health Service investigator and is subsequently ended in 1972.
In 1997 President Bill Clinton formally apologizes to five of the eight remaining survivors saying, “What was done cannot be undone, but we can end the silence”
The Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka case in which thirteen parents in Topeka, Kansas file a class action law suit against the Board of Education results in the Supreme Court decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.
First African-American Supreme Court appointee Thurgood Marshall was one of the lawyers who successfully argued the case in Brown vs. Board of Education.
Rosa Parks, a seamstress and NAACP secretary, refuses to give up her seat to a white patron on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She is arrested and tried sparking a much publicized and highly organized year-long boycott of the Montgomery buses. Other Notable Events:
14 yr. old Emmett Till is kidnapped, brutally beaten shot and dumped in the Tallahatchie river in Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white woman.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a 26 year old Baptist minister, leads the boycott and gains national attention. A U.S. Supreme court ruling prompts Montgomery to desegregate its buses in 1956. The Supreme Court orders schools to desegregate with “deliberate speed”.
Rosa Parks received her high school diploma after she was married and during a time when only 7% of African-Americans held a H.S. diploma. Despite measures to prevent African-Americans from registering to vote, she managed to register after the 3rd attempt.
Emmett’s mother, Mamie Till, demanded an open casket funeral so everyone could see what had been done to her son. The picture of Emmett Till’s battered and disfigured face was published by Jet magazine.
The Little Rock Nine – In 1957 nine African-American students were prevented from attending Little Rock Central High School. Under protection of the U.S. Army they were admitted to the school but suffered physical and verbal abuse.
The SNCC The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is founded at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. with a grant of $800 from the SLCC, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with a purpose of organizing non-violent actions to combat racism and segregation.
CORE – The Congress of Racial Equality, begins sending student volunteers on bus trips to test the implementation of new laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel facilities. They are known as “Freedom Riders.”
Over 200,000 people March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, convening at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes a famous speech about racial harmony that begins with “I have a dream√â”
Other Notable Events: The 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax, which was originally instituted in 11 southern states to make it difficult for poor African-Americans to vote.
Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Addie Mae Collins, ranging in age from 11 to 15 years old, are all killed in a terrorist bomb explosion at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama (a popular civil rights meeting place), sparking riots.
Sidney Poitier becomes the first African-American male to receive an Academy Award when he is wins for best actor in “Lilies of the Field”.
One of the girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist church bombing, is the childhood friend of Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American female Secretary of State (2001).
In 1997 Spike Lee releases a documentary film about the 16th Street Baptist church bombing, entitled 4 Little Girls.
Malcolm X is assassinated on Feb. 21st 1965 at the Audobon ballroom in Harlem, New York.
Other Notable Events:
On March 7, 1965 Martin Luther King Jr. along with the SCLC leads protestors in support of voting rights, across a bridge in Selma Al. and are attacked -police use tear gas, whips and clubs – it is remembered as Bloody Sunday. Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – making literacy tests, poll taxes and other requirements used to restrict blacks from voting, illegal. Rioting breaks out in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in L.A. due to unfair police treatment. Thirty-five people are killed and 883 injured in the Watts Riot. President Johnson -issues Executive Order 11246 in 1965 , which enforces Affirmative Action for the first time, asserting that civil rights laws alone are not enough to remedy discrimination. In 1967 Thurgood Marshall, formerly an NAACP attorney, is appointed to the Supreme Court becoming the first black justice. Other Notable Events: In 1966 the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland Ca. based upon a socialist doctrine . Kwanzaa, a week-long holiday honoring African heritage, started by Dr. Maulana Karengais is first celebrated by a small number of African-American families in Los Angeles, CA. Stokely Carmichael of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) coins the phrase “black power” in a speech in Seattle on April 19th. The Black Panther Party was based on a socialist ten-point program that sought Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace for African-Americans. Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili phrase that means “first fruits”. There are 7 principles to Kwanzaa: Umoja (Unity): Kujichagulia (Self-Determination); Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility); Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics); Nia (Purpose); Kuumba (Creativity); and Imani (Faith). COINTELPRO – Counter Intelligence Program – a covert FBI program that sought to “expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize” political groups like the SCLC, the Black Panthers, and the KKK. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis TN. marking the end of the Civil Rights era. President Johnson signs the Civil rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
Also This Year:
Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American woman elected to Congress. A national day of mourning is observed for Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, resulting in the postponing of the baseball season. Over 30,000 people form a funeral procession behind his coffin which is pulled by two Georgia Mules. Shirley Chisholm is also the first African-American to be nominated for U.S. presidency (1972). Moneta Sleet Jr.(1926 – 1996) become the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for his photograph of the grieving Mrs. Coretta Scott King and her daughter at Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral. Robert L. Johnson launches Black Entertainment Television on cable which airs in Washington DC – he later sells the cable station to Viacom and becomes the first African-American billionaire. WHMM-TV in Washington D.C. becomes the first African-American owned public broadcasting station in the U.S. Robert L. Johnson established BET with a $15,000 personal loan. In 1991 BET became the first black-owned company to be listed on the NY stock exchange. John H. Johnson founded Johnson Publishing company in 1942 -the largest African-American owned publishing company and began publishing Ebony in 1945, and Jet magazine in 1951.
Oprah Winfrey becomes the first African-American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show when “The Oprah Winfrey Show” debuts.
Also This Year:
Martin Luther King Jr. day is celebrated as a national federal holiday in the U.S. The bill in favor of honoring King’s birthday was originally introduced four days after his assassination in 1968 and was signed by Ronald Reagan in 1983. General Colin Powell (1937 – ) is appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, becoming the first African-American to achieve the highest military ranking in the U.S. Armed Forces. Other Notable Events: Ronald H. Brown (1941 – 1996) is elected as the first African-American chair-person of the Democratic National Committee. Douglas Wilder becomes the first elected African-American Governor. (Virginia) The first African-American to serve as governor of a state is actually P.B.S. Pinchback.
However he was not elected, but rather promoted to governor after the death of Oscar J. Dunn. He served for 46 days from Dec. 9 1872 to Jan. 13, 1873. Colin Powell was awarded the medal of bravery for his second tour in Vietnam. On December 15, 1993, Colin Powell was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. Clarence Thomas (1948 – ) is appointed Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Other Notable Events:
Whoopi Goldberg, an actress and comedian, wins an Academy Award for her supporting role in the film “Ghost”.
Julie Dash releases “Daughters of The Dust” about the Gullah people on the South Carolina Islands. It is the first feature film by and African-American woman.
Rodney King, is beaten by four Los Angeles police officers, after being stopped for a speeding violation. The incident is captured on videotape by a bystander and is shown on national television sparking outrage. Raised as a Roman Catholic, Clarence Thomas had aspirations of becoming a priest and attended a Catholic seminary in Missouri. Whoopi Goldberg is the second African-American female to win an Academy Award and the only African-American to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. The Gullahs (or Geechee) are African-Americans who live on the coast and islands of the Carolinas and Georgia . They were the first to receive their freedom in the U.S. when white planters fled their plantations for the mainland. The Gullahs have preserved much of the African culture and speak a language that is a mixture of English and African dialects. Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois becomes the first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate.
Other Notable Events:
Mae Jemison is an astronaut on the Space Shuttle Endeavor and becomes the first African-American woman to orbit space. A 23 year old John Singleton becomes the first African-American director and the youngest person to be nominated for an Academy Award for best direction for his film, “Boyz N the Hood”. Race riots erupt in South Central L.A. after a jury acquits four white police officers for the videotaped beating of Rodney King Jr. John Singleton attended the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. In 1983 Guion S. Bluford, Jr., became the first African-American in space. Toni Morrison is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature becoming the first African-American to win the highest literary honor in the world.
Other Notable Events:
Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders becomes the first African-American and the first woman to be named United States Surgeon General. Rita Dove is named Poet Laureate of the United States, becoming the youngest to hold that position. Toni Morrison’s first play, “Dreaming Emmett” is based on the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. The title of Poet Laureate of the United States was originally called “Consultant in Poetry”, a position in which the award-winning African-American poet Gwendolyn Brooks was appointed in 1985. The Million Man March, organized by Louis Farrakhan, brings together thousands of African-Americans to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. for a day of unity and a show of strength of character. Despite the name, women are present both in the crowd and on the podium, including civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks. NASA astronaut Bernard Harris becomes the first African-American to walk in space. One and a half million African-American men registered to vote during the months following the Million Man March. Mississippi finally ratifies the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which abolishes slavery, 130 years after the rest of the country. Colin Powell is appointed Secretary of State, the becoming the first African-American to ever hold that position. Condoleezza Rice takes the position of National Security Advisor for the Bush administration. This is the first time either of these posts is held by an African-American. Earlier in his career as a military leader, Powell became, in 1989, the first black officer to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the highest military post in the country. Halle Berry and Denzel Washington win Academy Awards for best actress in “Monster’s Ball” and best actor in “Training Day” respectively. Also This Year: The Slavery Reparations Coordinating Committee, led by prominent African-American lawyers and activists, announce plans to sue companies that profited from slavery. Denzel Washington won an Academy Award in 1989 for his supporting role in the civil war film “Glory” about the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment, the first official African-American unit. Hattie McDaniels was the first African-American to win an Academy Award in 1940. She was awarded for her role in Gone With The Wind. She is often criticized for her portrayal of maids, to which she says, “it’s much better to play a maid than to be one. The only choice permitted me is either to be a servant for $7.00 a week or portray one for $700.00 a week.” Illinois State Senator Barack Obama is elected to the United States Senate, becoming only the fifth African-American to serve in the U.S. Senate.
Also This Year:
Phylicia Rashad wins a Tony Award for her role in A Raisin in the Sun – the first time an African American woman wins for a dramatic leading role on Broadway. Barack Obama was the first African-American President of the Harvard Law Review. Condoleezza Rice is appointed Secretary of State. She is the first African-American woman, second African-American (after Powell), and second woman (after Madeleine Albright) to serve as Secretary of State.
Also This Year:
Rosa Parks, a key figure in the civil rights movement, dies at the age of 92 on October 24th. The U.S. postal Service issues a stamp in honor of contralto singer, Marian Anderson. Forbes magazine ranks Condoleezza Rice as the most powerful woman in the world in 2004 and 2005. Rosa Parks’s body lay in state at the U.S. Capital Rotunda in Washington D.C.—the first woman and second African-American ever to receive this honor. Condoleezza Rice was one of the speakers at Rosa Parks memorial service and said ‘I think I can quite honestly say that without Mrs. Parks, I would probably not be standing here today as Secretary of State.’ Marian Anderson was the first African-American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera. Coretta Scott King, civil rights activist and widow of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dies at the age of 78, on January 30th, 2006.
Also This Year:
James Brown, the singer, songwriter and entertainer commonly referred to as ‘The Godfather of Soul’ dies at the age of 67 on December 25th. Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Academy Award, becomes the 29th honoree in the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage Commemorative Stamp series. Ed Bradley, 60 Minutes correspondent and one of first black journalists prominently featured on network television, dies at age 65. Shani Davis, who captured the men’s 1,000-meter speed skating race in Turin, Italy, becomes the first African-American to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics.
300 Tuskegee Airmen (or their widows) are bestowed the Congressional Gold Medal at the US Capitol. The Tuskegee Airmen were the first all-black aerial units; they served during World War II. Together, they earned hundreds of Air Medals and other accolades for their service.
Also This Year:
Oprah Winfrey opens the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. It is a state of the art 28-building, independent school that focuses on developing girls to become future leaders of South Africa. Junior U.S. Senator from Illinois Barack Obama announces his candidacy for the 2008 U.S. Presidential election in February.
Tony Dungy becomes the first African-American football coach to win the Super Bowl when his team, the Indianapolis Colts, defeats the Chicago Bears.
Musician John Coltrane is posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation for his “masterful improvisation, supreme musicianship and iconic centrality to the history of jazz.”
Barrington A. Irving, Jr. becomes the first black pilot to fly solo around the world, as well as the youngest.
Major League baseball’s Barry Bonds breaks Hank Aaron’s home run record of 755 during a game against the Washington Nationals. The Tuskegee pilots were trained at Tuskegee Airfield in Alabama between 1941 and 1946. The Tuskegee Airmen were also called “red tails” for the distinct red painting on their planes. They are featured in a 2012 film “Red Tails” produced by George Lucas. At the time he started his presidential campaign, Barack Obama was the only African-American serving in the U.S. Senate. Tony Dungy is one of only three men to win the Super Bowl as both a player and a head coach. The other two are Mike Ditka and Tom Flores. John Coltrane’s parents were both musical: His father was a tailor who played violin and ukulele, and his mother played piano and sang in the church choir. Pilot Barrington Irving turned down several football scholarships in order to pursue his dream of becoming a pilot. To perfect his batting skills, Barry Bonds numbered tennis balls and, as they were pitched to him, would only swing at the odd-numbered ones. In June, Senator Barack Obama becomes the first African-American to win the Democratic nomination for U.S. presidential candidate. Obama wins the presidential election on November 4th, becoming the first African-American president-elect. Also This Year:
Lieutenant Governor David Paterson becomes the first African-American governor of New York, and the first legally blind governor of any U.S. state. Cullen Jones becomes the second African-American to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming as part of the U.S. swim team. Actor, director and screenwriter, Tyler Perry becomes the first African-American to own a major film and television studio. The more than 200,000 square-foot production complex is located in Atlanta, Georgia. California Democrat Karen Bass becomes the first African-American woman elected as Speaker of a state House of Representatives. At the time of his election, David Paterson was the only African-American governor in the country. The sixth-richest man in Hollywood, Tyler Perry, dropped out of high school. He later earned his GED.
Cullen Jones is the first African-American to hold or share a world record in swimming and the third African-American to make the U.S. Olympic swimming team. Anthony Lee Ervin was the first in 2000, and Maritza Correia the second in 2004. Politician Karen Bass has also earned a brown belt in tae kwon do. Obama is the first U.S. President of African American descent (Michelle Obama is also the first African-American First Lady). Obama graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1991. He was the first African American editor of the Harvard Law Review.
In 2009, President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in international diplomacy. In June 2009, 50-year-old pop icon Michael Jackson dies of cardiac arrest. His memorial service is broadcast internationally, attracting an audience of nearly one billion viewers and causing a surge in album sales. As a result of his death, Jackson becomes the best-selling artist of 2009.
Also This Year:
Barack Obama is inaugurated on January 20, 2009, making him the 44th President of the United States, and the first African-American to hold the post. His wife, Michelle Obama, becomes the first African-American First Lady in U.S. history. The UN General Assembly declares 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day” in honor of the former South African leader’s commitment to peace and freedom. On January 22, 2009, foreign policy advisor Susan Rice becomes the first African-American woman to be the United States’ U.N. Ambassador. Attorney Eric Holder becomes the 82nd Attorney General of the United States on February 3, 2009, making him the first African-American to hold the position.
On November 11, 2009, musician Darius Rucker wins the Country Music Association’s New Artist of the Year Award – the first African-American to receive the honor.
Tennis players Venus and Serena Williams become the first African-American world doubles tennis champions.
In December, Disney unveils The Princess and the Frog, the studio’s first animated film featuring an African-American princess. Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 in Transkei, South Africa. He joined the African National Congress in 1944 and became active in anti-apartheid politics in the following years. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his political activities and was finally released from prison on February 11, 1990. He served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 and has been honored with many awards for his leadership, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. With her appointment, Susan Rice is the second youngest U.S. Representative to the U.N. In 2009, top-ranked female tennis player Serena Williams broke the record for single year earnings on the WTA Tour, making more than $6.5 million in winnings. Prior to his career as U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder worked as a private attorney, representing clients such as NFL quarterback Michael Vick. Disney considered Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson for the voice role of Tiana in The Princess and the Frog before settling on Broadway performer Anika Noni Rose. Before his foray into country music, Darius Rucker had a successful career as the frontman for 90s pop-rock group, Hootie & the Blowfish. Forbes magazine declares First Lady Michelle Obama the World’s Most Powerful Woman. Also This Year: Former U.S. Olympian Tommie Smith, known for his controversial “Black Power” salute at the Mexico City Olympic games, auctions off his 1968 gold medal. Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice perform a duet for charity. Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman takes over for Walter Cronkite as the famous voice of CBS News, six months after Cronkite’s death. Nobel Peace Prize-winning Archbishop Desmond Tutu annonunces his retirement from public life. Performer Lena Horne dies of heart failure on May 9, 2010. Tommie Smith gave 2008 Olympic champion Usain Bolt one of his shoes from the 1968 Olympics as a birthday gift. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is an accomplished pianist and has performed with famous performers including Yo-Yo Ma and Queen Elizabeth II. Musician Lena Horne became the youngest member of the NAACP when she joined in October 1919. In 1985, Archbishop Desmond Tutu became Johannesburg’s first black Anglican bishop. At the age of 65, actor Morgan Freeman earned a private pilot’s license. He has at least three private aircraft. Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for his anti-apartheid activities. He was released from prison in 1990 and in 1994 won the presidency in South Africa’s first democratic election. Throughout his life, Mandela worked tirelessly to reform, unite, and reconcile South Africa, and in doing so, he became a global symbol for peace and humanity. His funeral was attended by countless world leaders and South African citizens who both mourned his death and celebrated his life.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma released a statement in which he spoke to Mandela’s legacy: “Wherever we are in the country, wherever we are in the world, let us reaffirm his vision of society… in which no one is exploited, oppressed, or dispossessed by another…”
Nelson Mandela’s legacy will continue to inspire generations to come.
The U.S. Navy confirms Michelle Howard as its first African-American woman four-star rank admiral. The promotion will make her the highest ranking woman in the U.S. military and the first female four-star admiral in the Navy’s history.
Miami Heat superstar forward LeBron James wins AP Male Athlete of the Year.
Eighteen-year-old Gabrielle Douglas, the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to win the individual all-around gold medal (2012), adds NY Times bestselling author to her list of achievements.
America commemorates two major milestones in history: the 150th anniversary of The Emancipation Proclamation (January 1, 1863) and the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington (August 28, 1963). 2013 also marked 50 years since the deadly Birmingham church bombings in Alabama.
The film 12 Years A Slave is released and stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup. The movie follows the real-life story of Northup who was born a free black man but was kidnapped and spent 12 years in captivity before regaining his freedom.
A biracial family depicted in a Cheerios cereal commercial spurs a slew of racist comments on YouTube. Cheerios’ VP of Marketing responds to the backlash by saying: “…we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”
NBA player Jason Collins comes out as gay.
A Raisin in the Sun opens on Broadway with Denzel Washington
Six Black Actress nominated for Broadway’s Tony Awards
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