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A Timeline of Black History

African Americans are a people with a distinctive and compelling historical background. The history entangles both tragedies and triumphs of the past; painting a somber picture of endurance and perseverance. The history of the African Americans also covers the fight for justice, freedom and equality. Gross injustice, inhuman treatment, and subsequent civil rights movements of the past help to create today's black history. To understand the history, we must look at the story, for there is a beginning to this history; here is a timeline in black history in America that covers major events in the chronicles of African Americans.

A Timeline in Black History

1619: The Beginning of Slavery in America: American slavery began in the British Colony of Virginia. This occurred with 20 Africans captured or stolen from their homeland and taken to America on a Dutch ship by European settlers. For the European settlers, the capture of African men and women were to be a valuable labor resource and a commodity for slave owners and the New World. According to historians, since the first imported African slave in the 16th century, the popularity was on the rise, bringing the total of human bondage from 20 to 7 million African slaves into the 18th century.

1793: Several situations took place during this time period pertaining to slavery. Because of failing tobacco crops that didn’t bring in many profits, buying and selling slaves soon stopped bringing in top dollar to interested settlers; putting this commodity in jeopardy. However, after the invention of the cotton gin, slave ownership was once again on the increase. During this time, African slaves began to revolt, rebel and tried to escape their horrific situations by any means necessary. The United States Congress stepped in and passed the Fugitive Slave Act, making it a crime for those who tried to aid a slave in his attempt to escape his or her owner. Slavery became an American way of life for both the North and South.

1831: Today, there are many notable names associated with Black history. One of these names is that of Nat Turner, who led a revolt on August 21, 1831. Turner hated all aspects of slavery; when he marched into revolt with a handful of African men who believed as he believed, they killed Turner's owners. Before their revolt was over, they had taken the lives of 60 white men in retaliation of slavery. Nat Turner was on the run for 6 weeks, hiding from authorities. However, his momentary freedom did not last long; authorities promptly captured the fugitive. Nat Turner stood trial and met death by hanging. However, his courageous revolt brought even more changes in legislation. Slaves could no longer be educated. They could not hold secret meetings or set up organizations and movements. In the eyes of slave owners, Africans held in bondage were nothing more than barbarians and needed slavery to discipline and keep them in order.

 1831: The fight for freedom continued to grow in 1831 with the abolition movement and Underground Railroad, despite the legislation laws and slave codes. William Lloyd Garrison headed "The Liberator," which was an abolitionist newspaper against slavery. For the slaves, some were now free while others still remained under "papers" by their slave owners. One of these freed slaves was Harriet Tubman; she led over 300 escaped slaves to freedom by way of the Underground Railroad.

1857: The fight for freedom was still on the minds and in the hearts of many. Dred Scott, a slave who tried to sue his owner for freedom after travelling with his master to a free state where slavery was illegal, is one of the most important people in American history. However, though he was in a free state, the court decided against his plea, stating that Dred Scott was not a citizen, but rather merely a slave who had no rights to sue his owner; regardless of being in free territory where slavery was frowned upon.

1861: This is the year of emancipation and the Civil War, although the onset of war had nothing to do with the ending of slavery. After all, President Lincoln's strongest stances were for preserving the union and, though slavery was an important issue, it did not cause the war. However, after much deliberation and soul searching, President Lincoln put the Emancipation Proclamation into legislation and signed it on January 2, 1963. He stated that all slaves were now free, except for those bound by the Union states. This action from the president put a strain on the Confederacy, taking away many slave workers who eventually joined the Union Army. 38,000 former slaves lost their lives in the Civil War after becoming Union soldiers as opposed to being slaves.

1865: This is the period that shows the beginning of the aftermath of slavery. During this year, the 13th Amendment put an end to slavery. However, the amendment did not cover the "Black Codes" adopted by the Confederate states that put limitations on freed black women and men. Also during this period, white supremacy in the form of the Ku Klux Klan took their stand as the White Protective Society who was against the new voting right laws. They believed that they were losing power and control. They went after their lost power and control through intimidation and violence against Blacks. Though slavery became an unlawful act and the Reconstructive era came to an end. African American people still suffered with economic and social status; their lives showed slight improvement, for they still struggled for freedom and justice.

1896: This is the year that southern state legislatures adopted the Jim Crow laws, which were the first law on the books regarding segregation. Segregation brought about the ideas of separate but equal in everything. Separate schools, hotels, restaurants, and separate public drinking fountains. According to the law, both groups of people, the blacks and whites, though separate, had to have conditions that were equal. The case that went to court was Plessy vs. Ferguson. In this hearing, the Supreme Court added the "Equal Protection Clause," to bring clarity to the meaning of separate but equal.

1900: Prominent names like Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and W.E.B. DuBois arose in the 19th century. They became an essential part of African American history because of their strong views and philosophies on education, job training, agriculture and politics. It was during the 1900's that the first black protest movements began to take shape and continued into the 20th century.     

1909: The NAACP or the National Advancement for the Advancement of Colored People arose, becoming a new civil rights organization. This organization put roots down in Chicago. However, by 1921, 400 new offices opened across the country and were ready for operation. The first protest put into place was a fight against lynching. The NAACP organization became a part of the Harlem Renaissance.

1916: Another name that goes on record in the history of Blacks in the United States is that of Marcus Garvey. Garvey created the Universal Negro Improvement Association in 1914 while living in Jamaica. He introduced the UNIA to the Black people in the United States in 1916. His idea was to show the people of color that their skin tone was beautiful, a sign of strength and power. He did this because there was so much prejudice and hatred among the White citizens of the United States against Blacks. Garvey felt that it was vital that the Black man should return to their roots, their roots being that of Africa. However, W.E.B. DuBois was against Garvey's movement of returning to Africa.

1920: The 1920s were a decade of lifestyle improvement; this came about because black Americans were leaving the south and taking up residence in the north in cities such as New York City. This movement bought about the Harlem Renaissance era, where African American artists in literature, music and art came into the main stream society. Some of the famous names that came out of this era were Duke Ellington, Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes and Zora Neal Hurston to name a few. For entertainment, the Cotton Club in Harlem featured black artists who performed mainly to a white audience.

1941: Under the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 3 million African Americans joined the Armed Forces to fight in World War II. They fought other nations in hopes of bringing about freedoms for other people in other countries. However, the freedoms that Roosevelt listed under his leadership for other nations were not available for the black servicemen in the United States. As a matter of fact, in 1941, enlisted black men served their country in separate units, the blacks with the blacks and the whites with the whites. This separation among registered soldiers of the United States bought about the Tuskegee Airmen. However, it was not until Harry S. Truman mandated that there be equality for all United States soldiers in the Armed Forces. This took place in 1948.

1947: Jackie Robinson is another name that represents a milestone in the history of African Americans. Although, in the 1900's, blacks could not cross the color line in professional sports, meaning that they could not play alongside white team players. However, in 1947, Robinson became the first African American to be integrated into a major league team. He played for the Dodgers. He was an outstanding ball player, even while enduring hostility from teammates and baseball fans. At one point, his presence on the Dodger's team caused the St. Louis Cardinals to consider striking if they had to play against Robinson. The baseball commissioner threatened suspension of any player who chose to strike.             

1954: This is the year of racial segregation turned integration in the public schools and other facilities that allowed for mixing of blacks and whites. The separate but equal and with protection doctrine was overturned, stating that segregation was unconstitutional. Although schools were beginning to become integrated because of the law; places such as Arkansas and Alabama needed enforcement from the federal government to make them comply with the integration laws.

1955: Murder, lynching and hatred ran rampart in the south against black citizens, simply because of their skin color and the Jim Crow racial codes. One of these murder happened to a 14 year old boy. This took place in August of 1955. His name was Emmett Till. They took his life because he had allegedly whistled at a white woman. In retaliation, two men kidnapped the boy; they beat him beyond recognition and then shot him; throwing his body into the Tallahatchie River. The men confessed to kidnapping and did not face murder charges. During the trial, they had an all-white jury. The men were even bold enough to give an interview with Look Magazine, explaining how they murdered Emmett Till. With this verdict of not guilty, black people in Montgomery, Alabama started a boycott.

Dec 1955: 1955 was a year of boycotts and the Civil Rights Movement coming to the aid of African Americans treated unjustly. One such person was Rosa Parks, who, on December 1, 1955, refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man. She was arrested for violating segregation ordinances. A boycott was put into place and led by Martin Luther King Jr. The boycott lasted for over a year, until the Supreme Court ruled that the segregation seating policy was unconstitutional.

1961: Segregation was still a big problem in the United States. However, there were some movers and shakers determined to put an end to discrimination and improve race relations. One of these groups that took action was CORE, founded by Civil Rights Leader, James Farmer. In May of 1961, CORE sent two busloads of people on a trip to New Orleans, departing from Washington DC. Both blacks and whites occupied these buses. CORE named these passengers "The Freedom Fighters," and set out to stop segregation and discrimination. Of course, they met opposition and violence from Segregationist along the way. The intended peaceful ride turned violent and dangerous. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sent the State Highway Patrol to give protection to the freedom riders.

1963: This is a memorable year of hatred and racial discrimination of blacks in the south, memorable but somber. 4 young girls lost their lives while attending a church service in Birmingham, Alabama. The KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in retaliation of the court order to integrate Alabama's schools. The KKK went on a rampage and bombed 3 other black churches. African Americans were protesting against the mistreatment and injustice. However, their peaceful march met police force when the police beat, hosed and set dogs on them. African American adults Men, Women and children who were protesting faced these attacks by the police in 1963.

1965: In 1965, two things occurred for African Americans living in the United States, regardless if they were from the North or the South. The first thing to occur was that the voting rights were approved. The second thing to happen was the rise of "Black Power" and the Black Panther Party. This organization was organized by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. The Panthers believed that every black American should be armed. They also wanted jobs; decent housing and they wanted control of black neighborhoods and communities.

1972: In 1972, the feminist movement was on the rise. Joining this movement was the National Black Feminist Organization. Shirley Chisholm became a national symbol for this party as well as the feminist movement. Chisholm was very outspoken and became the first black woman in Congress. She was also the very first black female candidate to run for the presidency of United States. While running for president, she felt the only thing that stood in her way of getting votes was her gender and not the color of her skin.             

1986 to Present Day: From 1986 to 2012, many things have changed slowly over the years for African Americans. They have set their place in entertainment with noted people such as Oprah Winfrey and Bill Cosby. The Million Man March took place in 1995, and was a milestone in black history. Another milestone is that of Colin Powell becoming Secretary of State in 2001. However, so far the greatest advancement of all in the history of African Americans was obtaining a black president. In 2008, Barack Obama became the first black president of the United States, showing that the impossible can occur, and struggles do not last forever.

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