African American History Timeline: 1619 – 2008 African-American history is a part of American history that looks at the history of African Americans or Black Americans in the country.
Of the 10.7 million Africans who were brought to the Americas by white Europeans until the 1880s, 450 thousand were shipped to what is now the United States
The majority of African Americans are the descendants of Africans who were forced into slavery after being captured during African wars or raids. They were purchased and brought to America as part of the Atlantic slave trade. African Americans are descended from various ethnic groups, mostly from ethnic groups that lived in Western and Central Africa, including the Sahel. A smaller number of African Americans are descended from ethnic groups that lived in Eastern and Southeastern Africa. The major ethnic groups that the enslaved Africans belonged to included the Hausa, Bakongo, Igbo, Mandé, Wolof, Akan, Fon, Yoruba, and Makua, among many others. Although these different groups varied in customs, religious theology and language, what they had in common was a way of life which was different from that of the Europeans. Originally, a majority of the future slaves came from these villages and societies, however, once they were sent to the Americas and enslaved, these different peoples had European standards and beliefs forced upon them, causing them to do away with tribal differences and forge a new history and culture that was a creolization of their common past, present, and European culture . Slaves who belonged to specific African ethnic groups were more sought after and became more dominant in numbers than slaves who belonged to other African ethnic groups in certain regions of what later became the United States.
Regions of Africa
Studies of contemporary documents reveal seven regions from which Africans were sold or taken during the Atlantic slave trade. These regions were:
West Central Africa, the largest region, included the Congo and Angola; and
East and Southeast Africa, the region of Mozambique-Madagascar included the modern countries of Mozambique, parts of Tanzania and Madagascar.
The largest source of slaves transported across the Atlantic Ocean for the New World was West Africa. Some West Africans were skilled iron workers and were therefore able to make tools that aided in their agricultural labor. While there were many unique tribes with their own customs and religions, by the 10th century many of the tribes had embraced Islam. Those villages in West Africa that were lucky enough to be in good conditions for growth and success, prospered. They also contributed their success to the slave trade.
1619 The first African American indentured servants arrive in the American colonies. Less
than a decade later, the first slaves are brought into New Amsterdam (later, New York
City). By 1690, every colony has slaves. 1739 The Stono Rebellion, one of the earliest slave revolts, occurs in Stono, South Carolina. 1793 Eli Whitney’s (1765 – 1825) cotton gin increases the need for slaves.
1808 Congress bans further importation of slaves. 1831 In Boston, William Lloyd Garrison (1805 – 1879) begins publication of the anti-slavery
newspaper the Liberator and becomes a leading voice in the Abolitionist movement. 1831 – 1861 Approximately 75,000 slaves escape to the North using the Underground Railroad. 1846 Ex-slave Frederick Douglass (1818 – 1895) publishes the anti-slavery North Star
newspaper. 1848 Augustus Saint Gaudens (1848 – 1907) is born in Ireland. His family soon emigrates to the
United States. 1849 Harriet Tubman (c. 1820 – 1913) escapes from slavery and becomes an instrumental leader
of the Underground Railroad. 1850 Congress passes another Fugitive Slave Act, which mandates government participation in
the capture of escaped slaves.
Boston citizens, including some of the wealthiest, storm a federal courthouse in an attempt
to free escaped Virginia slave Anthony Burns (1834 – 1862). 1857 The Dred Scot v. Sanford case: congress does not have the right to ban slavery in the states;
slaves are not citizens. 1860 Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865) is elected president, angering the southern states. 1861 The Civil War begins. 1863 Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation proclaims that all slaves in rebellious
territories are forever free. 1863 Massachusetts 54th regiment of African American troops led by Colonel Robert Gould Shaw (1837 – 1863) marches out of Boston on May 28th, heading into combat. 1865 The Civil War ends.
Lincoln is assassinated. Seventeen-year-old Augustus Saint Gaudens is so moved by the
sight of Lincoln’s body lying in state that he views it twice.
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution, prohibiting slavery, is ratified.
The era of Reconstruction begins. 1866 The “Black Codes” are passed by all white legislators of the former Confederate States.
Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, conferring citizenship on African Americans and
granting them equal rights to whites.
The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee. 1868 The 14th Amendment is ratified, defining citizenship. This overturns the Dred Scot decision. 1870 The 15th Amendment is ratified, giving African Americans the right to vote. 1877 The era of Reconstruction ends.
A deal is made with southern democratic leaders which makes Rutherford B. Hayes (1822 – 1893) president in exchange for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, and puts
an end to efforts to protect the civil rights of African Americans. 1879 Thousands of African Americans migrate out of the South to escape oppression. 1881 Tennessee passes the first of the “Jim Crow” segregation laws, segregating state railroads.
Similar laws are passed over the next 15 years throughout the Southern states.
1887 Augustus Saint Gaudens unveils the “Standing Lincoln” statue in Lincoln Park, Chicago. 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case: racial segregation is ruled constitutional by the Supreme Court.
The “Jim Crow” (“separate but equal”) laws begin, barring African Americans from
equal access to public facilities. 1897 Augustus Saint Gaudens unveils the Shaw Memorial in Boston Common. 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case: strikes down segregation as unconstitutional. 1955 In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks (1913 – 2005) is arrested for breaking a city
ordinance by refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man. This defiant act
gives initial momentum to the Civil Rights Movement. 1957 Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) and others set up the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, a leading engine of the Civil Rights Movement. 1964 The Civil Rights Act is signed, prohibiting discrimination of all kinds. 1965 The Voting Rights Act is passed, outlawing the practices used in the South to disenfranchise
African American voters. 1967 Edward W. Brooke (1919 – ) becomes the first African American U.S. Senator since
Reconstruction. He serves two terms as a Senator from Massachusetts. 1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. 2008 Barack Obama (1961 – ) becomes the first African American to win the U.S. presidential
On February 1:
Feb. 1, 1865 – The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery, was adopted by the 38th Congress.. Feb. 1, 1902 – Langston Hughes, a famous poet, was born this day in Joplin, Mo. Feb. 1, 1926 – What is now known as Black History Month was first celebrated on this date as Negro History Week by Carter G. Woodson. It became a month long celebration in 1976.
On February 2:
Feb. 2, 1862 – District of Columbia abolishes slavery. Feb. 2, 1914 – Ernest Just, genetic biologist, wins the Spingarn Medal. He received this
same medal on this day in 1915 for his pioneering in cell division and fertilization. Feb. 2, 1948 – President Truman sent Congress a special message urging the adoption of a Civil Rights program,
including the creation of a fair employment practices commission.
On February 3:
Feb. 3, 1903 – Jack Johnson wins the Negro Heavyweight title. Feb. 3, 1920 – The Negro Baseball League is founded. Feb. 3, 1965 – Geraldine McCullough, sculptor, wins the Widener Gold Medal Award.
Feb. 4, 1913 – Rosa Parks (born Rosa Louise McCauley) was born on this day. Feb. 4, 1971 – National Guard mobilized to quell rioting in Wilmington, N.C. Two persons killed. Feb. 4, 1996 – J. C. Watts becomes the first Black selected to respond to a State of the Union Address.
On February 5:
Feb. 5, 1866 – Congressman Thaddeus Stevens offered an amendment to Freedmen’s Bureau Bill authorizing the
distribution of public land and confiscatedland to freedmen and loyal refugees in 40- acre lots. Feb. 5, 1958 – Clifton R. Wharton Sr. confirmed as minister to Rumania. This career diplomat was the first Black to head a U.S. embassy in Europe. Feb. 5, 1962 – Suit seeking to bar Englewood, N.J., from maintaining “racial segregated” elementary schools filed in U.S. District Court.
On February 6:
Feb. 6, 1820 – “Mayflower of Liberia” sailed from New York City with eighty six Blacks. Black population: 1,771,656 (18.4%) Feb. 6, 1993 – Arthur Ashe dies. First African American tennis player to win at Wimbledon. Feb. 6, 1867 – Robert Tanner Jackson becomes first African American to receive a degree in dentistry.
On February 7:
Feb. 7, 1926 – Negro History Week originated by Carter G. Woodson is observed for the first time.
On February 8:
Feb. 8, 1944 – Harry S. McAlphin, first African American to be accredited to attend the White House press conference. Feb. 8, 1986 – Oprah Winfrey becomes the first African American woman to host a nationally syndicated talk show.
On February 9:
Feb. 9, 1944 – Novelist Alice Walker was born in Eatonton, Ga. Feb. 9, 1952 – Author Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man wins the National Book Award. Feb. 9, 1971 – Leroy “Satchel” Paige is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Feb. 9, 1995 – Bernard Harris, AfricanAmerican astronaut, takes space walk.
On February 10:
Feb 10, 1927 – Leontyne Price, who became an internationally acclaimed opera singer, was born in Laurel, Miss. Feb. 10, 1964 – After 12 days of debate and voting on 125 amendments, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by a vote of 290-130. Feb. 10, 1966 – Economist Andrew Brimer is appointed to the Federal Reserve Board
On February 11:
Feb. 11, 1961 – Robert Weaver sworn in as administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, highest federal post to date by a black American. Feb. 11, 1976 – Clifford Alexander Jr. confirmed as the first black secretary of the United States Army. Feb. 11, 1990 – Nelson Mandela is released from a South African prison after being detained for 27 years as political prisoner.
On February 12:
Feb. 12, 1865 – Henry Highland Garnet first black to speak in the Capitol, delivered memorial sermon on the abolition of slavery at services in the House of Representatives. Feb. 12, 1909 – The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded. The call for the organizational meeting was issued on 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth by 47 whites and six blacks. Feb. 12, 1948 – First Lt. Nancy C. Leftneant became the first black accepted in the regular Army Nursing Corps.
On February 13:
Feb. 13, 1923 – The first black professional basketball team, “The Renaissance,” was organized. Feb. 13, 1957 – Southern Christian Leadership Conference organized at New Orleans meeting with Martin Luther King Jr. as president. Feb 13, 1970 – The New York Stock Exchange admits its first black member, Joseph Searles.
On February 14:
Feb. 14, 1817 – Frederick Douglass, “The Great Emancipator,” is born. Feb. 14, 1867 – Morehouse College organized in Augusta, Ga. The institution was later moved to Atlanta. New registration law in Tennessee abolished racial distinctions in voting. Feb. 14, 1936 – National Negro Congress organized at Chicago meeting attended by 817 delegates representing more than 500 organizations.
On February 15:
Feb. 15, 1848 – Sarah Roberts barred from white school in Boston. Her father, Benjamin Roberts, filed the first school integration suit on her behalf. Feb. 15, 1851 – Black abolitionists invaded a Boston courtroom and rescued a fugitive slave. Feb. 15, 1968 – Henry Lewis becomes the first black to lead a symphony orchestra in the United States.
On February 16:
Feb. 16, 1857 – Frederick Douglass elected President of Freeman Bank and Trust. Feb. 16, 1923 – Bessie Smith makes her first recording, “Down Hearted Blues,” which sells 800,000 copies for Columbia Records. Feb. 16, 1951 – New York City Council passes a bill prohibiting racial discrimination in city-assisted housing developments.
On February 17:
Feb. 17, 1870 – Congress passed resolution readmitting Mississippi on condition that it would never change its constitution to disenfranchise blacks. African American History Feb. 17, 1963 – Michael Jeffrey Jordan, famed basketball player and former minor league baseball player, born in New York, N.Y.
Feb. 17, 1997 – Virginia House of Delegates votes unanimously to retire the state song, “Carry Me Back to Old Virginia,” a tune that glorifies slavery. African American History
On February 18:
Feb. 18, 1688 – First formal protest against slavery by organized white body in English America made by Germantown Quakers at monthly meeting. Feb. 18, 1865 – Rebels abandoned Charleston. First Union troops to enter the city included twenty-first U.S.C.T., followed by two companies of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteers. Feb. 18, 1931 – Toni Morrison (born Chloe Anthony Wofford), who will win the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved, was born on this day in Lorain, Ohio. African American History
On February 19:
Feb. 19, 1919 – Pan-African Congress, organized by W.E.B. DuBois, met at the Grand Hotel, Paris. There were 57 delegates-16 from the United States and 14 from Africa as well as others from 16 countries and colonies.
On February 20:
Feb. 20, 1895 – Death of Frederick Douglass. Douglass was the leading black spokesman for almost 50 years. He was a major abolitionist, lecturer, and editor.
On February 21:
Feb. 21, 1895 – North Carolina Legislature dominated by black Republicans and white Populists, adjourned for the day to mark the death of Frederick Douglass. African American History
On February 22:
Feb 22, 1979 – Frank E. Peterson Jr. named the first black general in the Marine Corps
On February 23:
Feb. 23, 1965 – Constance Baker Motley elected Manhattan Borough president, the highest elective office held by a black woman in a major American city.
On February 24:
Feb. 24, 1864 – Rebecca Lee became the first black woman to receive an M.D. degree.
On February 25:
Feb. 25, 1870 – Hirman R. Revels of Mississippi was sworn in as first black U.S. Senator and first black Representative in Congress. Feb. 25, 1948 – Martin Luther King was ordained as a Baptist minister. Feb. 25, 1971 – President Nixon met with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and appointed a White House panel to study a list of recommendations made by the group.
On February 26:
Feb. 26, 1869 – Fifteenth Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote sent to the states for ratification. Feb. 26, 1926 – Carter G. Woodson started Negro History Week. This week would later become Black History Month. African American History
On February 27:
Feb. 27, 1869 – John W. Menard spoke in Congress in defense of his claim to a contested seat in Louisiana’s Second Congressional District. Congress decided against both claimants. Congressman James A. Garfield of the examining committee said “it was too early to admit a Negro to the U.S. Congress.” Menard was the first black
to make a speech in Congress.
On February 28:
Feb. 28, 1859 – Arkansas legislature required free blacks to choose between exile and enslavement. Feb. 28, 1932 – Richard Spikes invented/patented the automatic gear shift. African American History
Feb. 27, 1988 – Figure skater Debi Thomas becomes the first African American to win a medal (bronze) at the winter Olympic Games.