African American History, 1877-1919 National| Year| African American| James Garfield inaugurated as President, assassinated later in the year; Chester Arthur becomes President| 1881| Tennessee introduces racial segregation on the railways, opening a pattern of legalised discrimination in public facilities that will spread through the Southern states. | | | July The black activist Booker T. Washington (18561915) opens the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to provide agricultural and industrial education for black Americans to equip them for economic independence. | | Dec. Five thousand black Americans move to Arkansas from South Carolina in response to persistent discrimination and violence. | Brookly Bridge opened; Pendleton Act passed, first civil service legislation| 1883| Oct. The Supreme Court prepares the ground for systematic racial segregation by declaring the 1875 Civil Rights Act unconstitutional on the grounds that the Reconstruction Acts do not extend to public facilities and are concerned with discrimination by states rather than individuals. | | | Nov.
A racially integrated local government in Danville, Mississippi is ousted by whites and four black people are killed; Whites kill four black people in a coup which ousts the racially integrated local government in Danville, Virginia. | Grover Cleveland elected President| 1884| May Black activist Ida Wells-Barnett (18621931) wins $500 damages after refusing to sit in an all-black railway coach; the result is overturned by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1887; Timothy Thomas Fortune (18561928) establishes the influential black newspaper the New York Age. | Haymarket Square bombing and riots| 1886| Mar.
The leading American union organisation, the Knights of Labor, allows a black delegate to address its national convention; he declares that one of the organisation’s objects should be `the abolition of those distinctions which are maintained by creed or color’. His appearance is criticised by segregationist delegates but the Knights go on to organise thousands of black workers, despite pressure to exclude them. However, many individual unions continue to hold out against black membership; Twenty black people are killed in racial violence in Mississippi| | | The Colored Farmers’ Alliance is established; by 1890 it has a million members. Sears Roebuck begins business in Chicago| 1887| Florida introduces legislation to enforce racial segregation in public facilities; Mississippi follows in 1888 and Texas in 1889; National Colored Farmers Alliance formed;Black players barred from baseball| Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives, an expose on immigrants and tenant housing; Battle of Wounded Knee brings “Indian Wars” to a close| 1890| Mar. An attempt to secure Federal funds to combat illiteracy among freed slaves (at a time when literacy tests are being adopted as a condition of securing the right to vote) is defeated in the Senate by 37 votes to 31. Sherman Anti-Trust Act passed, making monopolies illegal; First full year that Jane Addams’ Hull House is open| | Nov. A constitutional convention in Mississippi adopts literacy tests and the poll tax to disenfranchise what are described as `unworthy’ voters; a black appeal to President Benjamin Harrison to intervene on the grounds that this disproportionately affects black citizens is ignored. | | 1891| Jan. The Lodge Bill, an attempt to prevent infringements on black voting rights, is rejected by the Senate. | | | Sept.
Black cotton pickers in Texas establish a union and strike for increased pay. | Boston opens first subway in America; Coney Island opens| 1895| black workers are killed when they are attacked by white rioters Mar. in New Orleans. | | | Sept. Booker T. Washington delivers the `Atlanta Compromise’ speech at the Cotton States International Exposition in Atlanta, calling on black Americans to concentrate on education, economic progress and the development of a `high character’ to advance in society rather than turning to political agitation. | | Dec. South Carolina attempts to exclude black citizens from voting by adopting an `understanding’ clause in its state constitution. | Following Plessy v Ferguson, “Jim Crow” laws passes throughout the South; lynchings increase| 1896| May The Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v Ferguson upholds the constitutionality of providing `separate but equal’ facilities for blacks, providing the legal basis for segregation into the 20th century. The court upholds Plessy’s conviction for refusing to travel in a black railway coach.
In a dissenting statement, Justice John Harlan declares, `The destinies of the two races in this country are indissolubly linked together, and the interests of both require that the common government of all shall not permit the seeds of race hate to be placed under the sanction of law. ‘| Nov. – William McKinley elected President; Populists stage last national campaign| | July The National Association of Colored Women is established in Washington DC by Mary Church Terrell (18631954) and Ida Wells-Barnett (1862-1931). | 1897| The American Federation of Labor issues a statement requiring all affiliated trade unions `never to discriminate against a fellow worker on account of color, creed or nationalist’, but discrimination in union organisation continues. | US battleship Maine explodes in Havana harbor| 1898| May Louisiana introduces a `grandfather clause’ into the state constitution, excluding blacks from voting by restricting the ballot to descendants of people who had the vote in 1867, before Reconstruction began to have an impact on black civil rights.
South Carolina introduces legislation instituting segregation in public facilities. | | | July The war against Spain begins; 20 segregated black regiments serve in the conflict. | Philippines begin revolt against American rule| | Nov. Following a press campaign to disenfranchise black voters in Wilmington, North Carolina, a white mob attacks the black section of the town, killing at least 30 people; A white mob attacks the black section of Wilmington, North Carolina, killing at least 30 people and driving many from the town; the attack follows a press campaign to disenfranchise black voters. | 1899| North Carolina introduces legislation to institute segregation of the races in public facilities. The Supreme Court rules in Cumming v Richmond County Board of Education that separate schools for whites are constitutional, even where no comparable education is offered to blacks. The National Afro-American Council (formed in 1898) designates 4 June as a national day of fasting in protest against lynchings of black people. | Hawaii becomes a territory; McKinley wins reelection to Presidency| 1900| July Black homes and schools are destroyed in four days of racial disturbances in New Orleans. | | Aug. The National Negro Business League is launched by 400 delegates from 34 states at a convention in New York City; Booker T. Washington becomes the League’s president. Within five years the organisation will have over 300 branches. Virginia begins systematic racial segregation in public facilities and, with North Carolina, introduces literacy tests to exclude black voters; White mobs attack the New York black ghetto of Harlem following the death of a police officer; the police refuse to move against the white rioters. | J. P. Morgan creates U.
S. Steel; McKinley is assassinated, Theodore Roosevelt becomes President| 1901| Mar. The House of Representatives loses its last black member when George H. White fails to be re-elected in North Carolina; White, who was first elected in 1896, attacks ‘Jim Crow’ laws in his final speech and declares that black Americans will return to Congress. | | | Oct. Booker T. Washington dines with President Theodore Roosevelt in the White House; although there is much criticism of the invitation, it marks Washington’s acceptability to the American establishment.
However, black journalist and activist William Monroe Trotter (18721934) begins publication of the militant Boston Guardian in which he condemns Washington’s policy of compromising black interests and publishes what he calls `propaganda against discrimination based on color’. | | | Nov. Alabama adopts a `grandfather clause’ to exclude black voters. | | 1904| Maryland legislates to enforce racial segregation in public facilities. Theodore Roosevelt begins second term as President| 1905| July Black activists from 14 states form the Niagara Movement to conduct a militant campaign for black civil rights with William Monroe Trotter (18721934) and W. E. B. Du Bois (18681963) as leading figures; the Movement opposes the accommodationist policies of Booker T. Washington. Robert S. Abbott (18701940) begins publishing the Chicago Defender which will become one of the most influential of black newspapers. | Upton Sinclair publishes The Jungle, leading to the Food and Drug Act; Henry Ford makes his first automobiles| 1906| Apr.
Black soldiers who clash with white civilians in Brownsville, Texas, following racial insults, and in which three whites are killed, are dishonourably discharged from the armed forces by President Roosevelt before they have an opportunity to state their case. | | | Sept. Eighteen blacks and three whites are killed in three days of race rioting in Atlanta, Georgia; the disturbances followed a press campaign to disenfranchise black citizens which included allegations of rape; a multi-racial Atlanta Civic League is formed after the disturbances to improve race relations. | 1907| Oklahoma introduces legislation to institutionalise racial segregation in public facilities. By the end of the year, every Southern state enforces racial segregation in transport and all public places. | William Howard Taft elected President| 1908| Aug. Serious racial clashes close to Lincoln’s birthplace in Illinois prompt liberal whites to call a conference to establish what will become the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Georgia introduces literacy tests to exclude black voters; Jack Johnson wins heavyweight boxing championship| NAACP founded| 1909| Feb.
The NAACP is established in New York City at a meeting of 47 whites and six black intellectuals to work for black civil rights and integration through the courts rather than agitation. Although a number of black activists criticise the NAACP’s initial white dominance, W. E. B. Du Bois becomes a leading figure in the organisation, editing its organ, The Crisis. | | 1910| Apr. The National Urban League is established in New York City toprovide assistance to the increasing numbers of blacks migrating from the Southern states in search of work and freedom from overt segregation. | | | Dec.
Baltimore, Maryland, introduces the first legislation in the United States enforcing residential segregation on racial grounds; towns in Texas, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia and Missouri follow suit; the Baltimore ordinance is ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1917. | Woodrow Wilson inaugurated as President; Sixteenth Amendment (income tax) ratified; Seventeenth Amendment ratified allowing direct election of Senators| 1913| Apr. Following a discussion by the Cabinet on race relations, President Woodrow Wilson introduces racial segregation in government workplaces. Lusitania topedoed| 1915| June The Supreme Court decision in Guinn v The United States outlaws the `grandfather clauses’ used in the Southern states to disenfranchise black citizens. However, because of the increasing age of those affected, the practice is already losing its impact; Great Migration begins as African Americans seek jobs in the war industry| D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation opens, President Wilson gets a private screening; Ku Klux Klan refounded| | Nov.
The NAACP leads protests against the film Birth of a Nation for its racism and obvious sympathies for white extremist organisations; the film encourages a resurgence of Ku Klux Klan activities. | US enters World War I| 1917| Apr. The United States enters World War One; 300,000 black Americans will serve in the segregated armed forces. | | | July Whites attack black workers in East St Louis, Illinois, in protests against their employment in a factory, killing 40; the NAACP responds with 10,000-strong silent march along Fifth Avenue in New York City to protest against racism. | | | Aug. Seventeen whites are killed in lashes with black soldiers in Houston, Texas; 18 black soldiers are executed. | | | Nov. Black administrator Emmett J. Scott is appointed special assistant to the Secretary of War to advise on the part black Americans can play in the country’s war effort. The Supreme Court rules in Buchanan v Warley that a Kentucky law banning blacks and whites from living in the same block is unconstitutional.. | | 1918| July The National Liberty Congress of Colored Americans appeals to Congress to make lynching a Federal rather than a state crime to increase the chances of successful prosecutions but the appeal is rejected.
A `Red Summer’ of race riots erupts in over 25 American cities, including Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington DC; the disturbances last into October and over 100 black people are killed and another 1,000 injured. | Eighteenth Amendment (prohibition) ratified; Treaty of Versailles ends WWI| 1919| The Commission on Inter-racial Co-operation (later the Southern Regional Council) is formed by black and white civil leaders to work for improved race relations in the Southern states. | | July A `Red Summer’ of race riots throughout the United States begins; between July and October over 100 people are killed and over 1,000 seriously injured in disturbances in 25 cities, including Washington DC, Chicago and Philadelphia; Federal troops are deployed to restore order. The National Liberty Congress of Colored Americans unsuccessfully asks Congress to make lynching a Federal rather than a state crime to increase the possibility of punishing perpetrators; 83 lynchings take place in 1918. |