History is a critical component of learning, not only about yourself but also about the world around you. Here, we will trace Black people’s history in the United States beginning in 1619 to the present. I hope that this timeline will help to give you a foundation in which to start your quest for learning Black history.
Since Black history is vast, this timeline highlights only a snippet of events that have happened throughout time.
Black History Timeline
The Death of Emmitt Till
In Greenwood, Mississippi, 15-year-old Emmitt Till is brutally killed for allegedly whistling/insulting a white woman.
Brown vs. Board of Education
Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka was a pivotal Supreme Court case. The Court ruled that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. This ruling led to the desegregation of public schools in the US.
Jackie Robinson Joins Major League Baseball
Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American to play major league baseball in the modern era. He played with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
The First African American Blood Bank
Charles Drew, an African American physician, creates the first blood bank for African American people.
Negro History Week
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s (ASALH) founder, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, introduces Negro History Week. Negro History Week later evolves into an entire month of celebration called Black History Month and is celebrated during February.
World War I
When World War I began, there were over 20,000 African Americans that enlisted in the war. After the Selective Service Act, over 700,000 additional African Americans registered for the draft. Many of the enlistees wanted to show their patriotism and get recognized as full citizens.
ASALH is Founded
Dr. Carter G. Woodson found the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in 1915. It is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
NAACP is Founded
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded in New York City as a civil rights organization.
Plessy vs. Ferguson
In the landmark Plessy vs. Ferguson case, the US Supreme Court upholds racial segregation under the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine.
Large numbers of African Americans migrated from the deep South to the West and North in search of better opportunities after being freed from enslavement.
Throughout the South, after the Civil War, ‘Black Codes’ are passed which imposed harsh punishments to Black people who stepped out of line.
Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
To maintain white supremacy in the South, following the end of slavery, and to keep Black people in a subservient role the Ku Klux Klan was formed.
The Freedmen’s Bureau
Congress establishes the Freedmen’s Bureau to assist newly freed men and women immediately following the Civil War.
Civil War Ends
The Confederate army surrenders to the Union Army in Appomattox, Virginia, ending the Civil War. Over 180,000 African Americans served in the Union Army representing 9% – 10% of the Union army.
The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, freeing all enslaved men, women, and children living Confederate states.
Black Soldiers Join the Fight
Congress authorizes the enlistment of African Americans for military service in the Union Army to help fight in the Civil War.
The Civil War Begins
The Confederate army attacks Union soldiers at Fort Sumter in South Carolina marked the beginning of the Civil War.
John Brown’s Raid
In Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, John Brown, and a group of men seized the U.S. Armory with plans to ignite a slave revolt.
The Dred Scott Decision
The Dred Scott vs. Sanford decision by the Supreme Court (a 6 – 3 vote) denies citizenship rights to enslaved African Americans. Also, it states that Congress doesn’t have the power to ban slavery in the U.S. territories and decrees that slaves were not free when taken into free territory.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Harriett Beecher Stowe publishes the first edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
At the National Women’s Suffrage Convention, in Akron, Ohio, Sojourner Truth gives her famous Ain’t I A Woman speech.
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
Congress passes the second Fugitive Slave Act making it a criminal offense to harbor a runaway enslaved person or prevent her/him from being apprehended.
Bio.com. Accessed August 18, 2016. http://www.biography.com/people/shirley-chisholm-9247015.
Bracks, Lean’tin L., and Jessie Carney Smith. African American Almanac: 400 Years of Triumph, Courage and Excellence. Visible Ink Press, 2011.
Brooks, Christopher Antonio, and Benjamin Todd Jealous. The African American Almanac. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Cengage Learning, 2011.
History.com Staff. “Hurricane Katrina.” History.com. 2009. Accessed August 18, 2016. http://www.history.com/topics/hurricane-katrina.
“Meet the Attorney General.” U.S. Department of Justice. Accessed August 10, 2016. https://www.justice.gov/ag/meet-attorney-general.
“President Barack Obama.” The White House. 2014. Accessed August 18, 2016. https://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/president-obama.