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Timeline of African American history

Please note that the words “coloured” and “negroes” were used by people in the past to describe African Americans. These terms are not in acceptable use today.


Slaves working on a tobacco farm in Virginia, 16701619 A Dutch ship brings 20 Africans, who were taken as prizes from a Spanish ship, ashore at the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia, where they become servants. At least one eventually becomes a landowner in the colony. 

1641 Massachusetts becomes the first English American colony to legalize slavery. Other colonies soon follow.

1662 Virginia law lays down that children in the colony are born into their mother's social status—so children born to enslaved mothers are to be classified as slaves, regardless of their father's race or status.

1672 The Royal African Company is founded in England, allowing slaves to be shipped from Africa to the colonies in North America and the Caribbean. 

18th century Slavery exists in all the English American colonies. Black people enslaved in the North typically work as house servants, labourers and craftsmen, mostly in the cities. Enslaved people in the South work mostly on farms and plantations growing indigo (a plant grown for its dark blue dye), rice and tobacco. A free black population also starts to emerge, especially in port cities along the Atlantic coast.

1753 African American Benjamin Banneker designs and builds the first clock in the British American colonies. (In 1791 he works with Pierre L'Enfant to survey and design a plan for Washington, D.C.).

A handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769. (The word “negroes” was used at this time to...Read More >>A handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769. (The word “negroes” was used at this time to describe black people, but is not acceptable today.)1765–67 Non-Importation Agreements passed by the First Continental Congress stop the import of slaves into the Thirteen Colonies.

1776–83 American Revolution: thousands of enslaved African Americans in the South escape to British lines, where they are promised freedom in exchange for agreeing to fight for the British (while many free black people in the North fight with the colonists against the British). After the war, many African Americans are evacuated to Britain and elsewhere as free people.

1780–1804 All the Northern states, beginning with Pennsylvania, pass emancipation acts freeing African Americans from slavery. In 1787 Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance, barring slavery from Northwest Territory.

1793 Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act, which makes it a crime to assist a slave trying to escape. 

Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, a simple machine that efficiently removes the seeds from the cotton plant. This makes the cultivation of cotton profitable, and within a few years the South switches from growing tobacco to cultivating cotton (known as “King Cotton”), leading to a massive demand for black slaves in the Southern States and embedding slavery as a part of Southern culture.  


Protest, revolt and escape

1800 African American Gabriel Prosser organizes a slave revolt intending to march on Richmond, Virginia. The conspiracy is uncovered and Prosser and a number of the rebels are hanged. 

A painting depicting the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses...Read More >>A painting depicting the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early-to-mid 19th century. It was used by African American slaves to escape into free northern states and Canada, often with the help of abolitionists.1808 Congress bans the importation of slaves from Africa.

1820 Missouri Compromise: in order to maintain the balance between free states (all Northern states, where slavery has been abolished) and slave states (all Southern states, where it is permitted), Maine, formerly part of Massachusetts, is admitted to the Union as a free state so that Missouri can be admitted as a slave state. Slavery is prohibited in the Louisiana Purchase lands north of latitude 36°30' (except Missouri).

1822 Denmark Vesey, an enslaved African American carpenter who has purchased his freedom, plans a slave revolt in Charleston, South Carolina. The plot is discovered, and Vesey and his co-conspirators are hanged.

Frederick Douglass (1818–95) was a social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland,...Read More >>Frederick Douglass (1818–95) was a social reformer, abolitionist, writer and statesman. After escaping from slavery in Maryland, he became a leader of the abolitionist movement in Massachusetts and New York. He was noted for his oratory (effective public speaking) and anti-slavery writings.1830s A loose network of safe houses, known as the Underground Railroad, emerges to help thousands of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping to the North.

1831 Nat Turner, an enslaved African American preacher, leads a rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. After he and a band of around 75 followers murder 60 whites, the state militia crushes the rebellion, and Turner is later captured and hanged. As a consequence, Virginia passes much stricter slave laws. 

William Lloyd Garrison, a journalist from Massachusetts, begins publishing The Liberator, a weekly paper that advocates the complete abolition of slavery. 

The American Anti-Slavery Society is founded by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan. Frederick Douglass becomes a key member.

1839 Fifty-three African slaves on board the illegal Spanish slave ship La Amistad revolt against their captors. They kill all but the ship's navigator, but he sails the ship to Long Island, New York, instead of taking them to Africa. The slaves are eventually released and secure their passage home to Africa in 1842. 
1840 illustration depicting the Amistad revolt

1846 The Wilmot Proviso, introduced by Democrat David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, attempts to ban slavery in territory gained in the Mexican War. The proviso is blocked by Southerners. 

1847 Frederick Douglass begins publication of the abolitionist newspaper, the North Star.

Harriet Tubman photographed in about 1870. A worker on the Underground Railroad, Tubman helped to free over 70 people, leading...Read More >>Harriet Tubman photographed in about 1870. A worker on the Underground Railroad, Tubman helped to free over 70 people, leading them to the northern free states and Canada. She was known as "Moses of Her People".1849 Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery to Philadelphia. She later helps some 300 slaves to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

1850 Compromise of 1850: California is admitted to the Union as a free state and the slave trade in Washington, D.C., is prohibited. But a much stricter fugitive slave law than the original (see 1793) is introduced: all federal officials are now required to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave, with no additional evidence needed beyond the slaveholder's testimony of ownership.

1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin is published. Inspired by the story of Josiah Henson, a slave who flees to Canada, it becomes one of the most influential anti-slavery works in literature.


Civil War

A family of African American slaves in a field in Georgia, photographed in around 1850
1854 Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act. It repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and allows residents of the new territories of Kansas and Nebraska to decide the slavery question for themselves, a process known as “popular sovereignty”. The result is an outbreak of violence between anti- and pro-slavery factions in Kansas, a period known as “Bleeding Kansas" (1855–58). 

Anti-slavery advocates, those who wish to stop the expansion of slavery, set up the Republican Party.

Dred Scott v. Sanford case: the Supreme Court rules that Congress has no power to deprive persons of their rights when dealing with slaves in the territories (areas of the United States that have not yet been admitted to the Union as states). All territories are therefore open to slavery and may exclude it only when they became states. 

1859 Abolitionist John Brown leads a band of 50 men in a raid against the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) aiming to capture enough ammunition to fight Virginia’s slaveholders. Federal troops overpower the rebels, and Brown is tried and hanged.

1860 Republican party candidate Abraham Lincoln is elected president, causing South Carolina to secede (break away) from the Union.
African American troops fighting in the Civil War, photographed in 1864 

1861 Ten further pro-slavery Southern states secede from the Union. The Confederate States of America is established and Jefferson Davis is elected president. Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated as the 16th president of the United States. Confederates attack Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, marking the start of the Civil War.

A copy of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of 1863
1863 Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation: slaves within the rebellious states “shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” Some 186,000 black soldiers join the Union Army the Civil War. By the time the war ends in 1865, 38,000 of them lose their lives. 

1865 Congress establishes the Freedmen's Bureau to protect the rights of newly emancipated (freed) black people. The Civil War ends and President Lincoln is assassinated. The Union victory in the Civil War gives some 4 million slaves their freedom. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting slavery in the United States.

Slaves of General Thomas F. Drayton, photographed in 1862. Drayton, from Charleston, South Carolina, was a plantation owner and a...Read More >>Slaves of General Thomas F. Drayton, photographed in 1862. Drayton, from Charleston, South Carolina, was a plantation owner and a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War.


US Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels (1827–1901) of Mississippi became the first African American to serve in Congress when he was...Read More >>US Senator Hiram Rhodes Revels (1827–1901) of Mississippi became the first African American to serve in Congress when he was elected in 1870. 1865–66 Black codes, a series of laws, are passed by Southern states, drastically restricting the rights of newly freed slaves.

1866 The Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist organization, is formed in Tennessee by ex-Confederates. It becomes a paramilitary group to enforce white supremacy. 

Southern Homestead Act opens 46 million acres of land in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi; African Americans have priority access until 1st January 1877.

1867 Radical Republicans in Congress override President Johnson’s veto and pass a series of Reconstruction acts, placing the South under martial law (rule by the military) and guaranteeing the civil rights of freed slaves. 

Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which defines citizenship, is ratified. Individuals born or naturalized in the United States, including those born as slaves, are American citizens. This overturns the Dred Scott Case of 1857, which ruled that black people were not citizens. The Southern states are required to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment and enact universal male suffrage (right to vote) before they are allowed to rejoin the Union.

1870 Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving African Americans the right to vote. Hiram Rhodes Revels of Mississippi is elected the country's first African American senator. During Reconstruction, sixteen black people serve in Congress and about 600 serve in state legislatures. The Ku Klux Klan begins its campaign of intimidating black people with extreme violence.

Exodusters waiting for a steamboat to carry them westwards in the late 1870s
1872 Elijah McCoy, the son of slaves who escaped from Kentucky to Canada via the Underground Railroad, patents his first invention, an automatic lubricator for oiling the steam engines of locomotives and ships. 

1873 Colfax Massacre: more than 100 African Americans in the Red River area of Louisiana are killed when they are attacked by white militia during an election campaign.

1874 Battle of Liberty Place: thousands of the White League armed militia, a paramilitary organization of the Democratic Party, occupy the capitol building in New Orleans and forcibly remove the newly elected Republican governor. They withdraw before federal troops arrive to reinforce the Republican state government.

 Following the election of Rutherford B. Hayes, federal troops are withdrawn from the South, ending the Reconstruction Era. Civil rights for African Americans are quickly removed through laws passed by Southern states.  

1879 Black Exodus: tens of thousands of African Americans, known as “Exodusters”, migrate from the Southern states to set up farms in Kansas.

1880s Southern states introduce laws requiring separate schools for black and white children.

African American children in South Carolina picking cotton, photographed in around 1870. Sharecropping became widespread in the...Read More >>African American children in South Carolina picking cotton, photographed in around 1870. Sharecropping became widespread in the South during the Reconstruction Era. It was a way for very poor black farmers to earn a living from land owned by someone else. The landowner rented land, housing, tools and seed to the tenants. At harvest time, the tenant received a share of the crop (up to half) with the landowner taking the rest. This often resulted in the tenant being in debt to the landowner. In this way, African Americans continued to be repressed, even after slavery was abolished.1881 Spelman College, the first college for black women in the US, is founded by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles. Booker T. Washington founds the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. The school becomes one of the leading schools of higher learning for African Americans.

1882 Lewis Latimer, the son of escaped slaves George and Rebecca Latimer, invents the first long-lasting filament for light bulbs. His lighting system is installed in New York City and Philadelphia.

The American Colonization Society, founded by Presbyterian minister Robert Finley, establishes the colony of Monrovia (which will become the country of Liberia) in western Africa. Over the next 40 years, about 12,000 African Americans are voluntarily relocated there.


Booker T. Washington giving a speech in New Orleans, 19151890 Mississippi passes a new constitution that effectively disenfranchises (takes away the right to vote from) most African Americans through voter registration requirements, including poll taxes, residency tests and literacy tests. Both they and poor whites who also fail these tests are prohibited from voting or serving on juries. 

1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case: the Supreme Court upholds a Louisiana law that requires the segregation of passengers on railway cars. Ruling that the equal protection clause is not violated as long as reasonably equal conditions are provided to both white and black people, the Court establishes the “separate but equal” doctrine.

Southern state governments enact segregation laws known as the “Jim Crow” laws (Jim Crow is an abusive term for an African American in the post-Reconstruction South). Black people are required to be separated from whites in trains, hotels, theatres, restaurants and other public establishments.

1898 Williams v. Mississippi case: the Supreme Court upholds the voter registration and election provisions of Mississippi's constitution because they apply to all citizens, black and white. Over the next decade, other Southern states copy these provisions, disenfranchising most African Americans, along with tens of thousands of poor whites, in the South until the 1960s.

Delegates to the Niagara Movement meeting in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1907
1905 A group led by W.E.B. Du Bois founds the Niagara Movement to demand civil rights for black people. 

1908 Riots in Springfield, Illinois in protest against lynchings (public executions by a mob in order to punish someone they claim to have committed an offence).

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded in Chicago, with the aim of abolishing all forced segregation, enforcing the 14th and 15th amendments, establishing equal education for black and white people, and gaining the complete enfranchisement of all black men. The organization plays a crucial role in drastically reducing the number of lynchings. 

1910 The NAACP begins publishing The Crisis, the organization’s official magazine. Edited by Du Bois until 1934, The Crisis publishes many of the leading voices in African American literature and politics, including James Weldon Johnson, Ella Baker, Moorfield Storey, Walter White, Roy Wilkins, Benjamin Hooks, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Julian Bond and Kwesi Mfume.

Soldiers of the 369th (15th NY) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action during World War I, 1919
1914 Marcus Garvey establishes the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). He later founds the “Back to Africa” movement (1921), calling on black Americans to return to Africa and build a country of their own. 

1916 Beginning of the Great Migration. Between this date and 1940, around one and a half million African Americans move from the rural South to the urban North and Midwest.

1920s The Harlem Renaissance, a movement in African American literature, music, art and politics. Leading figures in entertainment include bandleader Louis Armstrong, composer Duke Ellington, dancer Josephine Baker and actor Paul Robeson. Its influence stretches around the world, opening the doors of mainstream culture to black artists and writers.

Gladys Bentley (1907–60) was an American blues singer, pianist and entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance. She was noted for...Read More >>Gladys Bentley (1907–60) was an American blues singer, pianist and entertainer during the Harlem Renaissance. She was noted for dressing in a tuxedo and top hat and singing in a deep, growling voice.1923 African American inventor Garrett A. Morgan patents the first automatic three-position traffic light.

1927 The Harlem Globetrotters, an exhibition basketball team of African American players, are founded as the Savoy Big Five.

1931 Nine black youths are held in Scottsboro, Alabama, on charges of having raped two white women. Although the evidence is slim, the jury sentences them to death. The Supreme Court overturns their convictions, but Alabama retries them and finds them guilty. In a third trial, four of the Scottsboro boys are freed, but five are convicted and given long prison terms.

Jesse Owens at the start of the record-breaking 200 metres race during the Olympic Games 1936 in Berlin.1936 African American sprinter Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

1940 Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African American to win an Academy Award (Oscar). She wins Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. 

1941–45 More than 3 million black people register for service during World War II, with some 500,000 seeing action overseas. But, according to War Department policy, black and white people are organized into separate units. The all-black Tuskegee Airmen, under their commander Captain Benjamin O. Davis, fly more than 3000 missions against German and Italian troops in North Africa.

1943 African American surgeon Dr Charles R. Drew develops techniques for separating and storing blood. 

An example of segregation in the Southern states: "colored" drinking fountain from mid-20th century (1939), with an African...Read More >>An example of segregation in the Southern states: "colored" drinking fountain from mid-20th century (1939), with an African American man drinking

Civil rights 

1940s–70s Second Great Migration: more than 5 million African Americans leave the South for jobs and education in northern, midwestern and Californian cities.

1948 President Harry S. Truman integrates the US Armed Forces under an executive order declaring that “there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, colour, religion or national origin.”

Cover of a Jackie Robinson comic book (1951). Jackie Robinson (1919–72) was an American professional baseball player who became...Read More >>Cover of a Jackie Robinson comic book (1951). Jackie Robinson (1919–72) was an American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era.1947 “Journey of Reconciliation” is organized by Congress of Racial Equality (CORE, founded by James Farmer in 1942): a group of black and white people ride together on a bus through the upper South, a year after the Supreme Court banned segregation in interstate bus travel.

Jackie Robinson becomes the first African American baseball player to join a major league team, when he plays his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. However, he faces hostility from both fans and other players. 

1949 Jackie Robinson testifies before the House Un-American Activities Committee, condemning racial discrimination in the South. 

1950 Professional basketball and tennis introduce integration. 

1952 Malcolm X becomes a minister of the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist and separatist movement.

1954 Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in public schools violates the 14th Amendment, which gives equal protection of the laws of the US Constitution to any person. Declaring that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”, the decision reverses the “separate but equal” doctrine the Court established with Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. 

1955 A 14-year-old black boy from Chicago, Emmett Till, while visiting relatives in Money, Mississippi, is beaten and shot to death by two white men for allegedly whistling at a white woman. The men were acquitted of murder charges by an all-white, all-male jury. They later boast about committing the murder. International outrage over the crime and the verdict helps fuel the civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks sits in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 after the US Supreme Court ruled segregation on the city's...Read More >>Rosa Parks sits in the front of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 after the US Supreme Court ruled segregation on the city's bus system illegal.
Rosa Parks, an African American woman, refuses to give up her seat on a bus to a white man in Montgomery, Alabama, and is arrested for violating the city’s racial segregation laws. Four days later, an activist organization called the Montgomery Improvement Association, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., leads a boycott of the city’s municipal bus company, threatening it with bankruptcy. In 1956, the Supreme Court declares the bus company’s segregation seating policy unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment, and the boycott is called off.  

The Little Rock Nine black students are escorted up the steps of the desegregated Little Rock Central High School by the Army...Read More >>The Little Rock Nine black students are escorted up the steps of the desegregated Little Rock Central High School by the Army after the Arkansas National Guard had prevented them from entering.
1957 After a federal court orders the desegregation of Central High School, in Little Rock, Arkansas, Governor Orval Faubus orders the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African American students from entering the school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends federal troops to enforce the integration of the school, and the nine black students enter under heavily armed guard.

1960 Four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter, until, six months later, they are served lunch at the counter. The event leads to many similar non-violent protests across the country and the founding, in Raleigh, North Carolina, of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). 

1961 Organized by CORE, student volunteers test out new laws that prohibit segregation in bus and railway stations in a “freedom ride”. They are attacked by segregationists near Anniston, Alabama.

1962 James Meredith becomes the first black student to enrol at the University of Mississippi (known as “Ole Miss”). After rioting breaks out amongst a mob formed to protest against his enrolment, President John F. Kennedy sends thousands of federal troops.

Dr Martin Luther King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28th August 19631963 Baptist minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Alabama. While in jail, he writes "Letter from Birmingham Jail" which calls for non-violent civil disobedience.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is attended by about 250,000 people, the largest demonstration ever seen in the capital. King delivers his famous "I Have a Dream" speech outside the Lincoln Memorial.

Four young black girls attending Sunday school are killed when white supremacists bomb the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, known for civil rights meetings. Riots erupt in Birmingham, leading to the deaths of two more black youths. 

1964 President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, the most far-reaching civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. It prohibits all discrimination based on race, colour, religion or national origin.

Sidney Poitier wins the Best Actor Oscar for Lilies of the Field. He is the first African American to win the award. 

Martin Luther King receives the Nobel Peace Prize.

Three volunteers disappear on their way back from investigating the burning of an African American church by the Ku Klux Klan. After a massive FBI investigation (code-named “Mississippi Burning”), the men’s bodies are discovered and the white supremacist culprits identified, but the state of Mississippi makes no arrests. 

1965 Malcolm X is assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam, which he had once led, but whose policy of separatism he rejected in favour of defence against white aggression “by any means necessary.” 

Selma-Montgomery march, March 1965. The Marchers leave St Jude's and set off for the Alabama State Capitol.
Members of the state militia use tear gas, whips and clubs against peaceful demonstrators led by Martin Luther King as they cross the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on their way to Montgomery. The brutal events are captured on television. Fifty marchers are taken to hospital on what has come to be known as "Bloody Sunday”. The Selma-Montgomery march is eventually completed under the protection of US federal troops. 

Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for black people in the South to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes and other requirements that were used to restrict black voting in the past are made illegal. 

In six days of rioting in Watts, a black area of Los Angeles, 35 people are killed and 883 injured.


The fight for equality

1966 Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the SNCC, coins the phrase "black power" during a speech in Greenwood, Mississippi. Black Power calls on African Americans to stop looking to the institutions of white America to help them but act for themselves to achieve better jobs, housing and education.

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, college students in Oakland, California, found the Black Panther Party. Its original purpose is to protect black people from white brutality, but it later urges African Americans to arm themselves.

Prisoners from the 1967 Detroit riots, temporarily housed in Washtenaw County Jail, Ann Arbor, Michigan1967 Major race riots take place in Newark and Detroit

Thurgood Marshall becomes the first black Supreme Court Justice. 

The Supreme Court rules that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional.

The alleged “Mississippi Burning” murderers (see 1964) are convicted of violating the volunteers’ civil rights—the only charge that would give the federal government jurisdiction over the case—and are found guilty, but given relatively light sentences.

1968 Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots, burning and looting in cities across the nation follow his death. The accused killer, a white man named James Earl Ray, is captured, confesses to the murder and is sentenced.

President Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing. 

Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two American medallists, give the black power salute during the playing of the American national anthem at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Shirley Chisholm, a Democrat from New York, becomes the first black female US Representative. 

1972 Shirley Chisholm enters the contest for Democratic nominee for the presidential election, but fails to be nominated.

1978 Allan Bakke, a white man, sues University of California at Davis (UC Davis), accusing it of “reverse discrimination”—favouring racial minorities. The Supreme Court rules that the use of racial quotas is unconstitutional and that Bakke should be admitted. But it also holds that universities can use race in admissions decisions in order to ensure diversity of students—that is, apply the principle of “affirmative action” to compensate for past discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion or national origin.

1983 Guion Bluford Jr. becomes the first African American in space when he travels in Space Shuttle Challenger.

Oprah Winfrey in Miami, October 20141986 Oprah Winfrey, an African American born in rural Mississippi to a poor teenage mother, launches her talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show. The show later receives the highest ratings (most viewers) in TV history.

1988 Jesse Jackson runs for the Democratic nomination for president (as he did in 1984), receiving 6.6 million votes, winning seven states and finishing second.  

1992 Race riots erupt in Los Angeles after a jury acquits four white police officers for the beating of African American Rodney King that had been caught on videotape and broadcast round the world. By the time the riots are over, 55 people have died, more than 2300 are injured and more than 1000 buildings have been burned down.

Colin Powell becomes the first African American US Secretary of State.

2002 Halle Berry becomes the first African American woman to win the Best Actress Oscar for her role in Monster's Ball. Denzel Washington earns the Best Actor award for Training Day, making it the first year that African Americans win both the best actor and actress Oscars.

Barack Obama, the first African American President of the United States2005 Condoleezza Rice becomes the first black female US Secretary of State.

2008 Senator Barack Obama becomes the first African American to be elected President of the United States, defeating Republican candidate Senator John McCain. During the campaign, Obama’s message of hope and change, captured by the slogan “Yes We Can”, inspires many thousands of new voters, many young and black, to cast their vote for the first time.

2014 Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American is shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer. The grand jury decision not to convict the officer sparks protests and rioting in Ferguson and other cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Boston.
Protests at Ferguson, Missouri, on 14th August 2014
Some members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the US national anthem before a football game against the Washington...Read More >>Some members of the San Francisco 49ers kneel during the US national anthem before a football game against the Washington Redskins on 15th October 2017.2016 San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneels during the US national anthem, instead of following the tradition to stand, in protest at police brutality and racial inequality. Throughout the 2016 season, members of other NFL teams, and other sports teams, engage in similar silent protests. On 24th September 2017 more than 200 players sit or kneel in response to President Donald Trump's call for owners to fire the protesting players. The demonstrations trigger mixed reactions across America.

Consultant: Steve Gallo

In a televised ceremony on 2nd July 1964, President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law using 75 pens. He presented one of the pens to Martin Luther King, who counted it among his most prized possessions.


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