Saturday, February 24, 2007

On Viewing “The Da Vinci Code”

On Viewing “The Da Vinci Code” by Bishop Spong

Separating fact from fantasy is not always easy. This is especially so when the two are skillfully woven together by a very competent novelist named Dan Brown and then projected onto the screen by one of Hollywood’s premier directors, Ron Howard. When this combination of fact and fantasy is then woven around Christianity’s origins and calls into question both its ultimate claim and the continued honesty of Christian leaders, you have the prescription for a cultural phenomenon. That is what “The Da Vinci Code” has become.

To get into the theater for its first showing in New Jersey, I had to walk past a small picket of three Roman Catholic women from Montville, New Jersey, saying their rosaries and carrying a sign that read, “The Da Vinci Code” insults our Lord and his Church. Stop blasphemy.” Presenting my press card, I asked for an interview. They told me they were part of a statewide Catholic effort to oppose the distortions of their faith in “The Da Vinci Code.” When I asked if they had read the book, they answered, “No,” and then said they would not think of reading blasphemy. “How do you then know that it insults your Lord and his Church?” I inquired. “Our church said so,” they responded. I next asked if they had seen Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.” “Oh yes,” they said, “that was wonderful.” Are you aware, I continued, that most biblical scholars think Mel Gibson’s film grossly distorted the New Testament portrait of the crucifixion by blending it with medieval Catholic piety? “Our church told us that it was true,” they intoned. That interview was going nowhere so I departed, recalling the words of an evangelical leader who said, “We live in a Jesus-haunted culture that is biblically illiterate.”

I am neither a fan of detective stories nor of the cinema. My chief experience in viewing this motion picture was boredom. The plot was beyond credibility, the claimed historical basis was badly flawed and the acting, other than that of two non-starring characters, was not spectacular. Despite its chases and violence, I found it slow moving. Had the story not been draped around the central icon of the religious tradition that has informed our civilization, I do not believe it would come close to having the appeal of the “007” series or “Murder She Wrote.”

Keeping the heirs of Jesus concealed for more than 2000 years in order to preserve a theologically correct interpretation of Jesus as the Incarnation of God and the second person of the Holy Trinity, is a bizarre theme, to say the least. The titillating idea that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that this union produced a daughter, who in turn kept the divine and royal blood lines of Jesus alive for 2000 years, despite a massive ecclesiastical plot to destroy this theological bombshell, makes for good theater but it doesn’t make for good history. First of all, the time between Jesus and today would represent a minimum of 60 generations. Even if the union of Jesus and Magdalene had produced an heir who would presumably be half divine, by the time one follows this line for 10 generations, the “divine blood” would be no more than1/2032nd present in the heir, by the 25th generation, it would only be 1/66,584,576th and by the 60th generation an infinitesimal percentage. The idea that after 60 generations, this blood line resided in a single 21st century woman and not in literally hundreds of thousands of heirs, is patently absurd unless each generation had only a single child. In the final scene of the movie, this lone bearer of the divine blood discovered that she could not walk on water but hoped to do better at turning water into wine. That was amusing but completely uninformed. It assumed that these two biblical images of Jesus were literally true. Most New Testament scholars regard the walking on water story as an application to Jesus of the Jewish praise for the God who can “make a pathway” for Godself “in the deep” and whose “footprints can be seen on the water.” Turning water into wine is a Johannine story that didn’t enter the Christian tradition until the 10th decade. Biblical scholarship no more supports the assumptions of “The DaVinci Code” than it did either “The Passion of the Christ” or Cecil B. DeMille’s, “The Ten Commandments.”

When I asked the picketers how this motion picture insulted Jesus, they responded that it said he was married and had a child. I found in those words the negative definition of women that is the legacy of the patriarchal sexism practiced by the Christian Church through the centuries. Is there something evil about marriage and childbirth? Is marriage a compromise with sin, as the Church fathers have proclaimed? St. Jerome went so far as to argue that the only redeeming feature of marriage was that it produced more virgins! I do not believe that women are the corrupters of “holy men.” Yet that idea lingers on in a church that installed mandatory celibacy and unnatural virginity as pathways to holiness. What those “ideals” produced, however, has been little more than distorted sexuality and massive amounts of debilitating guilt.

To examine the other issues briefly, nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus was married. Before one feels too relieved at this news, nowhere in the Bible does it say that he was not married. In fact the only hint we have that any of the disciples were married comes in a story in Mark’s Gospel in which Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law. Yet Mark, Matthew and Luke all assert that a band of women accompanied Jesus and the disciples all the way from Galilee to Jerusalem. Under the Jewish social and cultural norms of that time, these women could have been only one of two things: wives or prostitutes! When these women were listed in the biblical texts, Magdalene was always placed first as if she had a claim to status the other women did not possess. Of course, these hints constitute only circumstantial evidence, but they do raise questions and open the door to a way to read the gospels outside the box of literalism.

Other biblical data that might point to a significant relationship between Jesus and Magdalene are that she is portrayed in every gospel as one of the chief mourners at his tomb. In the fourth gospel she is the only mourner and is also depicted as demanding access to the body of Jesus that she believes has been removed from the tomb. For a first century Jewish woman to demand access to the deceased body of a Jewish male would have been off the charts in terms of propriety unless she was the nearest of kin. The name Magdalene also does not appear to be connected with a village called Magdala, since there is no evidence that such a place ever existed. People tell me they have been to the village of Magdala to which I respond, “Yes and it was built just to attract people like you!” Scholars now think Magdalene is related to the word ‘migdal’ and can be translated as large or great. Suppose Mary Magdalene means Mary the Great. Other places in the gospels might be read as suppressed hints of the possibility that Jesus and Magdalene were actually husband and wife. I outlined them in a 1991 book entitled, “Born of a Woman.” These hints do not prove that Jesus and Magdalene were married. They simply suggest that this possibility cannot be ruled out. Dan Brown, by making the marriage of Jesus and Magdalene the theme of his exciting page turner, has now placed that possibility into the public arena. It is not likely to disappear soon.

Brown is incorrect in his suggestion that Constantine and the Council of Nicea in 325 picked the books that would make up the New Testament and proclaimed Jesus to be the divine son of God. The New Testament was pretty much intact by 150 C.E. and the major debate at Nicea was between Arius and Athanasius over how Jesus’ divinity was to be understood. Was he of the same nature of God or of like nature? The idea that books that supported the humanity of Jesus were suppressed at Nicea is simply not so. The apocryphal and Gnostic gospels that the Church rejected were later works, generally more miraculous not less, with a more godlike not a less godlike Jesus, unless one assumes that to be involved significantly with a woman ipso facto makes one less godlike.

What neither Brown’s book nor the motion picture understands is that the debate over whether Jesus was a human life, somehow infused with God’s presence, or a divine life, simply masquerading as a human being, has been ongoing since the dawn of the Christian era. The first gospel, Mark, written in the eighth decade, portrays Jesus as fully human, with no hint of a miraculous birth, who at the time of his baptism was filled with the Holy Spirit. The Fourth Gospel, John, written in the tenth decade, portrays Jesus as the pre-existent Word of God incarnated in a human form, which allowed him to do godlike things. That debate actually turned on how God is to be understood. If God is a supernatural being, dwelling outside the life of this world, who periodically enters human history to split the Red Sea or to answer prayers, to meet God in Jesus is to see Jesus as a divine visitor. However, if God is conceived, as many modern theologians suggest, as the “Ground of Being,” the source of life and love, then Jesus becomes the human vessel through whom the God presence is experienced, enabling people like Paul to say: “God was in Christ.” Through the centuries the church has tended to see Jesus as a divine visitor. In the 21st century the emphasis has been to look at God through the lens of humanity. At the end of the movie version of “The Da Vinci Code,” Tom Hanks raises this question poignantly when he says, “Maybe the human is the divine” or at least maybe the human is the only medium through which men and women can talk about God. I think that is true and because I hold that conviction, I think the only task facing the Christian Church in our day is to enhance the humanity of every person, so that living fully, loving wastefully and daring to be all that they can be, they make visible all that the human word ‘God’ means. The Jesus I serve was understood by John’s gospel to be the one who came that “we might have life abundantly.” The religion of Jesus can do no less. When Hanks says, “As long as there has been one “true” God, there has been killing,” he spoke the truth that plagues religion. When any religious system thinks that its understanding of God is the same thing as God it becomes idolatrous and it kills.

Reclaiming Christianity by Rev. Dr. Prof. Emeritus Jerry Maneker

As you know, for Christians, embedded in the quest for civil and sacramental rights for LGBT people is the quest to reclaim Christianity from those who have perverted it into something that is frequently diametrically opposed to the only Gospel to be found in Christianity: The Gospel of grace (God's unmerited favor to us), faith (trusting God over and above seen circumstances), love, peace, reconciliation, and inclusiveness. Those who have twisted, perverted, the Gospel, the Good News, into a legalistic, perfectionistic, exclusionary, and censorious construction of their own twisted mind-sets, have, unfortunately, been given the credibility by the media and by many of their followers, to define Christianity for others; they have made an an indellibly destructive impact upon Christianity that may never truly be avoided or transcended for the foreseeable future.

These perverters of the Gospel have turned away countless intelligent, sensitive, decent people from Christianity; have given Christianity a bad name because what they espouse has not only absolutely nothing to do with Christianity, but is frequently diametrically opposed to Christianity as seen in the words, life, and ministry of Jesus Himself! Indeed, the situation has gotten so bad, that even some committed Christians have sought to avoid the term, "Christian," or have actually renounced that term, in favor of some other designation, as they don't, understandably, want to be associated with the perverters of the Gospel. However, I refuse to abdicate and relinquish the name "Christian," as I also refuse to renounce the term "evangelical," and allow them to be handed over to those whose exclusionary rhetoric and actions spit in the face of Christianity and of Jesus Himself!

The following is a comment I made on the weblog of the Emergent Village, a site devoted to moving quite beyond what passes for Christianity in most of the organized Church. My comment was directed to the question posed as to why more Christians don't respond to "high profile" critics of, for want of a better term, what has been called by many, "progressive Christianity." (I dislike using the term "progressive" in this context, as there is only one Christianity, albeit it certainly has the ability to accommodate varying theological perspectives; yet, these perspectives must, by definition, embody the Gospel, and not some freakish mind-set that promulgates legalism and exclusion!) The following is the comment I made that I thought you might like to read:

"I agree that such terms as “liberal,” “conservative,” “modern,” “post modern,” etc. are useless in trying to come to terms regarding where we feel the Church should be going in following Jesus, rather than in following “traditions that make void the Word of God.” (Matthew 15:3) However, most of the Church as it now stands is on a different wavelength than those of us who have a commitment to what we usually define as the “emergent Church.” We seek to get back to the roots of Jesus and His ministry, rather than adopt the hierarchical, patriarchical, and exclusionary rhetoric and practices of most of the organized Church. We seek to take risks; fight for justice for all people; seek to inject love in the midst of contention; don’t fear contention in order to express love and the need for justice; give of ourselves at the expense of self-exaltation, popularity, and career advancement. In much of these endeavors, we, at this point, don’t seem to share much common ground with those who practice a false gospel of legalism, perfectionism, and exclusion. We seek to preach and practice the Gospel of grace, God’s unmerited favor to all those who have an abiding trust in Him; ancient cultural and biblical practices have no necessary place in contemporary society and, therefore, it’s inappropriate to seek to impose them on anyone. At this point, I’m afraid, there really is no meeting of the minds between those who are wedded to the status quo and those who are part of the emergent Church. That doesn’t mean that we write anyone off, or that we don’t seek dialogue or common ground. It means that we can’t be optimistic that such common ground will be reached any time soon, nor should it be, if it means compromising on basic tenets of the Gospel that manifest love in the quest for justice for all people; the acquisition of civil and sacramental rights for all people as well, something most of the organized Church is currently loathe to grant."

The Evolution of Black Rights in America

Our opposition doesn't want the gay community to compare the struggle for black civil rights to our own. That is all the better reason to do so and see why:

Black American History Timeline from the University of Washington by Dr. Quintard Taylor:

The other crucial event that would play a role in the development of America was the arrival of Africans to Jamestown. A Dutch slave trader exchanged his cargo of Africans for food in 1619. The Africans became indentured servants, similar in legal position to many poor Englishmen who traded several years labor in exchange for passage to America. The popular conception of a racial-based slave system did not develop until the 1680's. The word slave did not appear in Virginia records until 1656.

Jamestown had exported 10 tons of tobacco to Europe and was a boomtown. The export business was going so well the colonists were able to afford two imports which would greatly contribute to their productivity and quality of life. 20 Blacks from Africa and 90 women from England. The Africans were paid for in food; each woman cost 120 pounds of tobacco. The Blacks were bought as indentured servants from a passing Dutch ship low on food, and the women were supplied by a private English company.

1624—The first African American child born free in the English colonies, William Tucker, is baptized in Virginia.

1626—The first enslaved Africans arrive in the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam (now New York City).
1629—The first enslaved Africans arrive in what is now Connecticut.

1634—Slavery is introduced in Maryland.

1638—France's North American colonies open to trade in enslaved Africans.

1641—Massachusetts explicitly permits slavery of Indians, whites, and Negroes in its "Body of Liberties."

1641—Mathias De Sousa, an African indentured servant who came from England with Lord Baltimore, is elected to Maryland's General Assembly.

1642—Virginia passes a fugitive slave law. Offenders helping runaway slaves are fined in pounds of tobacco. An enslaved person is to be branded with a large "R" after a second escape attempt.

When a French privateer brings to New Netherlands some Africans taken from a Spanish ship, they are sold as slaves because of their race, despite their claims to be free.

1643—The New England Confederation reaches an agreement that makes the signature of a magistrate sufficient evidence to reenslave a suspected fugitive slave.

1645—Merchant ships from Barbados arrive in Boston where they trade their cargoes of enslaved Africans for sugar and tobacco. The profitability of this exchange encourages the slave trade in New England.

c. 1645—Dutch colonists transfer some of their landholdings in New Amsterdam to their former enslaved Africans as compensation for their support in battles with Native Americans. A condition of the land transfer, however, is the guarantee of a specified amount of food from those lands to their former owners.

1646—New Spain's (Colonial Mexico) population includes 35,089 blacks and 116,529 mulattoes.

1650—Connecticut legalizes slavery. Rhode Island by this date has large plantations worked by enslaved Africans.

The Dutch West India Company introduces new rules concerning slavery in New Netherlands. After gaining freedom, former slaves, for example, are required to give fixed amounts of their crops to the company. After the English capture of the colony, greater restrictions are imposed on free blacks and enslaved people.

1651—Anthony Johnson, a free African American, imports several enslaved Africans and is given a grant of land on Virginia's Puwgoteague River Other free African Americans follow this pattern.

1652—Massachusetts enacts a law requiring all African American and Native American servants to undergo military training so as to be able to help defend the colony.

1655—Anthony Johnson successfully sues for the return of his slave John Casor, whom the court had earlier treated as an indentured servant.

1656—Fearing the potential for slave uprisings, Massachusetts reverses its 1652 statute and prohibits blacks from arming or training as militia. New Hampshire, and New York soon follow.

1660—A Connecticut law prohibits African Americans from serving in the militia.

1662—Virginia reverses the presumption of English law that the child follows the status of his father, and enacts a law that makes the free or enslaved status of children dependent on the status of the mother.

1663—Black and white indentured servants plan a rebellion in Gloucester County, Virginia. Their plans are discovered and the leaders are executed.

Maryland slave laws rules that all Africans arriving in the colony are presumed to be slaves. Free European American women who marry enslaved men lose their freedom. Children of European American women and enslaved men are enslaved. Other North American colonies develop similar laws.

In South Carolina every new white settler is granted twenty acres for each black male slave and ten acres for each black female slave he or she brings into the colony.

A planned revolt of enslaved Africans is uncovered in Virginia.

1664—In Virginia, the enslaved African's status is clearly differentiated from the indentured servant's when colonial laws decree that enslavement is for life and is transferred to the children through the mother. Black and "slave" become synonymous, and enslaved Africans are subject to harsher and more brutal control than other laborers.

Maryland establishes slavery for life for persons of African ancestry.

New York and New Jersey also recognize the legality of slavery.

1667—England enacts strict laws regarding enslaved Africans in its colonies. An enslaved African is forbidden to leave the plantation without a pass, and never on Sunday. An enslaved African may not possess weapons or signaling mechanisms such as horns or whistles. Punishment for an owner who kills an enslaved African is a 15-pound fine.

Virginia declares that baptism does not free a slave from bondage, thereby abandoning the Christian tradition of not enslaving other Christians.

1670—A law is enacted in Virginia that all non-Christians who arrive by ship are to be enslaved.

A French royal decree brings French shippers into the slave trade, with the rationale that the labor of enslaved Africans helps the growth of France's island colonies.

The Massachusetts legislature passes a law that enables its citizens to sell the children of enslaved Africans into bondage, thus separating them from their parents.

1671—A Maryland law states that the conversion of enslaved African Americans to Christianity does not affect their status as enslaved people.

1672—King Charles II of England charters the Royal African Company, which dominates the slave trade to North America for the next half century.

1673—The Massachusetts legislature passes a law that forbids European Americans from engaging in any trade or commerce with an African American.

1675—An estimated 100,000 Africans are enslaved in the West Indies and another 5,000 are in British North America.

1676—Nathaniel Bacon leads an unsuccessful rebellion of whites and blacks against the English colonial government in Virginia.

1681—Maryland laws mandate that children of European servant women and African men are free.

1682—A new slave code in Virginia prohibits weapons for slaves, requires passes beyond the limits of the plantation and forbids self-defense by any African Americans against any European American.

1685—New York law forbids enslaved Africans and Native Americans from having meetings or carrying firearms.

1688—Quakers in Germantown, Pennsylvania denounce slavery in the first recorded formal protest in North America against the enslavement of Africans.

1690—By this year, all English colonies in America have enslaved Africans.

Enslaved Africans and Native Americans in Massachusetts plan a rebellion.

1692—The Virginia House of Burgesses enacts the Runaway Slave Law making it legal to kill a runaway in the course of apprehension.

1693—All fugitive Africans who have escaped slavery in the British colonies and fled to Florida are granted their freedom by the Spanish monarchy.

1694—The introduction of rice into the Carolina colony, ironically from West Africa, increases the need for labor for emerging plantations. This adds another factor to the economic justification and rationalization for expanding the slave trade.

1696—American Quakers, at their annual meeting, warn members against holding Africans in slavery. Violators who continue to keep slaves are threatened with expulsion.

1700—A census reports more than 27,000 enslaved people, mostly Africans, in the English colonies in North America. The vast majority of these bondspeople live in the Southern colonies.

Boston slave traders are involved in selling enslaved Africans in New England colonies and Virginia.

Massachusetts Chief Justice Samuel Sewall publishes The Selling of Joseph, a book that advances both the economic and moral reasons for the abolition of the trade in enslaved Africans.

1704—French colonist Elias Neau opens a school for enslaved African Americans in New York City.

1708—Africans in South Carolina outnumber Europeans, making it the first English colony with a black majority.

1711—Great Britain's Queen Anne overrules a Pennsylvania colonial law prohibiting slavery.

1712—The New York City slave revolt begins on April 6. Nine whites are killed and an unknown number of blacks die in the uprising. Colonial authorities execute 21 slaves and six commit suicide.

1713—England secures the exclusive right to transport slaves to the Spanish colonies in America.

1721—South Carolina limits the vote to free white Christian men.

1724—The Black Code is enacted in New Orleans, French Territory, to control blacks and banish Jews.

Boston imposes a curfew on non-whites.

1727—Enslaved Africans and Native Americans revolt in Middlesex and Gloucester Counties in Virginia.

1733—Spain promises freedom in Spanish Florida to slaves who escape from the English colonies.

1735—South Carolina passes laws requiring enslaved people to wear clothing identifying them as slaves. Freed slaves are required to leave the colony within six months or risk reenslavement.

1737—An indentured black servant petitions a Massachusetts Court and wins his freedom after the death of his master.

1739—The first major South Carolina slave revolt takes place in Stono on September 9. A score of whites and more than twice as many black slaves are killed as the armed slaves try to flee to Florida.

Nineteen white citizens of Darien, Georgia petition the colonial governor to continue the ban on the importation of Africans into the colony, calling African enslavement "shocking to human nature." This is the first anti-slavery protest in the Southern colonies. Ten years later, however, Georgia authorities repeal the ban.

1741—During the New York Slave Conspiracy Trials, New York City officials execute 34 people for planning to burn down the town. Thirteen African American men are burned at the stake and another 17 black men, two white men and two white women are hanged. Seventy blacks and seven whites are permanently expelled from the city.

South Carolina's colonial legislature enacts a law banning the teaching of enslaved people to read and write.

1742—New Spain's (Colonial Mexico) population includes 20,131 blacks and 266,196 mulattoes.

1746—Lucy Terry, a slave, composes "Bars Fight," the first known poem by an African American. A description of an Indian raid on Terry's hometown in Massachusetts, the poem will be passed down orally and published in 1855

1752—Twenty-one year old Benjamin Banneker constructs one of the first clocks in Colonial America, the first of a long line of inventions and innovations until his death in 1806.

1758—The African Baptist or "Bluestone" Church is founded on the William Byrd plantation near the Bluestone River, in Mecklenburg, Virginia, becoming the first known black church in North America

A school for free black children is opened in Philadelphia.

1760—Jupiter Hammon publishes a book of poetry. This is believed to be the first volume written and published by an African American.

1762—Virginia restricts voting rights to white men.

1770—Crispus Attucks, an escaped slave, becomes the first Colonial resident to die for American independence when he is killed by the British in the Boston Massacre.

1772—On June 22, Lord Chief Mansfield rules in the James Somerset case that an enslaved person brought to England becomes free and cannot be returned to slavery, laying the legal basis for the freeing of England's 15,000 slaves.

1773—Phillis Wheatley publishes a book of poetry.

The Silver Bluff Baptist Church, the oldest continuously operating black church, is founded in Silver Bluff, South Carolina near Savannah, Georgia.

1774—A group of blacks petition the Massachusetts General Court (legislature) insisting they too have a natural right to their freedom.

1775-1781—The American War of Independence. Approximately 450,000 enslaved Africans comprise 20% of the population of the colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence.

1775—African Americans participate on the Patriot side in the earliest battles of the Revolution, Concord, Lexington and Bunker Hill.

General George Washington reverses his earlier policy of rejecting the services of slaves and free blacks in the army. Five thousand African-Americans serve during the Revolutionary War including two predominantly black units in Massachusetts, one in Connecticut, one in Rhode Island.

The first Abolition Society meeting in North America is held Philadelphia; Benjamin Franklin is elected president of the Society.

On Nov. 7, Lord Dunmore, British Governor of Virginia declares all slaves free who come to the defense of the British Crown against the Patriot forces. Dunmore eventually organizes the first regiment of black soldiers to fight under the British flag.

1776—A passage authored by Thomas Jefferson condemning the slave trade is removed from the Declaration of Independence due to pressure from the southern colonies.

Approximately 100,000 enslaved people flee their masters during the Revolution.

1777—Vermont abolishes slavery.

1778—Boston businessman Paul Cuffe and his brother, John, refuse to pay taxes, claiming as blacks not allowed to vote they suffer taxation without representation.

1780—Massachusetts abolishes slavery and grants African American men the right to vote.

The Free African Union Society is created in Newport, Rhode Island. It is the first cultural organization established by blacks in North America.

Pennsylvania adopts first gradual emancipation law. All children of enslaved people born after Nov. 1, 1780 will be free on their 28th birthday.

1781-1783—Twenty thousand black loyalists depart with British Troops from the newly independent United States. Approximately 5,000 African Americans served with Patriot forces. Three times that many served with the British although not all of them leave the new nation.

1781—Los Angeles is founded by fifty-four settlers including twenty-six of African ancestry.

1784—Connecticut and Rhode Island adopt gradual emancipation laws.

Congress rejects Thomas Jefferson's proposal to exclude slavery from all western territories after 1800.

1785—New York frees all slaves who served in the Revolutionary Army.

1787—Congress enacts the Northwest Ordinance, which establishes formal procedures for transforming territories into states. It provides for the eventual establishment of three to five states in the area north of the Ohio River, to be considered equal with the original 13. The Ordinance includes a Bill of Rights that guarantees freedom of religion, the right to trial by jury, public education and a ban on slavery in the region.

The U.S. Constitution is drafted. It provides for the continuation of the slave trade for another 20 years and required states to aid slaveholders in the recovery of fugitive slaves. It also stipulates that a slave counts as three-fifths of a man for purposes of determining representation in the House of Representatives.

Free blacks in New York City found the African Free School, where future leaders Henry Highland Garnett and Alexander Crummell are educated.

Richard Allen and Absalom Jones form the Free African Society in Philadelphia.

1788—In Massachusetts, following an incident in which free blacks were kidnapped and transported to the island of Martinique, the Massachusetts legislature declares the slave trade illegal and provides monetary damages to victims of kidnappings.

1789—The French Revolution begins.

1790—First Census of the United States
U.S. Population: 3,929,214
Black Population: 757,208 (19.3%) including 59,557 free African Americans.

Free African Americans in Charleston form the Brown Fellowship Society.

1791—The Haitian Revolution begins.

1793—The United States Congress enacts the first Fugitive Slave Law. Providing assistance to fugitive slaves is now a criminal offense.

Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin on March 13 which begins the slave-based "cotton economy" of the South.

1794—The French Government abolishes slavery. The law is repealed by Napoleon in 1802.

Mother Bethel AME Church is established in Philadelphia.

New York adopts a gradual emancipation law.

1793—New Spain's (Colonial Mexico) population includes 6,100 blacks and 369,790 mulattoes.

1795—Bowdoin College is founded in Maine. It later becomes a center for Abolitionist activity; Gen. Oliver O. Howard (Howard University) graduated from the college; Harriet Beecher Stowe taught there and began to write Uncle Tom's Cabin while there (in 1850)

1796—On August 23, The African Methodist Episcopal Church is organized in Philadelphia.

1800—Census of 1800
U.S. Population: 5,308,483
Black Population: 1,002.037 (18.9%) including 108,435 free African Americans.

Gabriel Prosser attempts a slave rebellion in Virginia

The United States Congress rejects 85 to 1 an antislavery petition offered by free Philadelphia African Americans.

1802—The Ohio Constitution outlaws slavery. It also prohibits free blacks from voting. The Ohio Legislature passes the first "Black Laws" which place other restrictions on free African Americans living in the state.

James Callender claims that Thomas Jefferson has "for many years past kept, as his concubine, one of his own slaves," Sally Hemings. His charge is published in the Richmond Recorder that month, and the story is soon picked up by the Federalist press around the country.

1803—On April 30, Louisiana is purchased from the French. The new territory nearly doubles the size of the United States.

1804—On January 1, Haiti becomes an independent nation. It is the second independent nation in the western hemisphere (after the United States).

1804-1806—The Lewis and Clark Expedition explores newly purchased Louisiana and the Pacific Northwest. An African American, York, is prominent in the expedition.

1807—Great Britain abolishes the importation of enslaved Africans into its colonial possessions.

New Jersey disfranchises black voters.

1808—The United States government abolishes the importation of enslaved Africans, however, the ban is widely ignored. Between 1808 and 1860, approximately 250,000 blacks are illegally imported into the United States. Slave trading within the states (the domestic trade) continues until the end of the Civil War.

1809—New York recognizes marriage within the African American community.

1810—Census of 1810
U.S. Population: 7,239,881
Black Population: 1,377,808 (19%) including 186,446 free African Americans.

The U.S. Congress prohibits African Americans from carrying mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

1811—Andry's Rebellion on January 8-11. A slave insurrection led by Charles Deslondes, begins on the Louisiana plantation of Manual Andry.

1812—Previously independent African American schools become part of the Boston public school system.

Two African American regiments are formed in New York to fight in the War of 1812.

1814—Six hundred African American troops are among the U.S. Army of 3,000 led by General Andrew Jackson which defeats British forces at the Battle of New Orleans.

1815—Richard Allen officially creates the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first wholly African American church denomination in the United States.

Abolitionist Levi Coffin establishes the Underground Railroad.

1816—The American Colonization Society is founded by Bushrod Washington (the nephew of George Washington) and other prominent white Americans who believe enslaved African Americans should be freed and settled in Africa.

1817-1818—Escaped slaves from Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama join the military campaign of the Florida Seminoles to keep their homelands.

1818—Connecticut disfranchises black voters.

1819—The Canadian government refuses to cooperate with the American government in the apprehension of fugitive slaves living in Canada.

1820—Census of 1820
U.S. Population: 9,638,452
Black Population: 1,771,656 (18.4%) including 233,504 free African Americans.

The Compromise of 1820 allows Missouri into the Union as a slave state and Maine as a free state. It also sets the boundary between slave and free territory in the West at the 36th parallel.

Rev. Daniel Coker of Baltimore leads eighty six African Americans who become the first black settlers to Liberia.

1821—New York maintains property qualifications for African American male voters while abolishing the same for white male voters. Missouri disfranchises free black male voters.

1822—Denmark Vesey is arrested for planning a slave rebellion in South Carolina.

Rhode Island disfranchises black voters.

1824—Mexico outlaws slavery. This act creates the incentive for Anglo Texans to fight for independence.

1826—On August 23, Edward Jones receives a degree from Amherst College in Massachusetts, becoming the first African American college graduate.

1827—Freedom's Journal begins publication on March 16 in New York City as the first African American owned newspaper in the United States. The editors are John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish.

Slavery is officially abolished in New York.

1829—More than half of Cincinnati's African American residents are driven out of the city by white mob violence. The Cincinnati riots usher in a more than century-long period of white violence against Northern black urban communities.

David Walker of Boston publishes An Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World which calls for a slave uprising in the South.

1830—Census of 1830
U.S. Population: 12,866,020
Black Population: 2,328,842 (18.1%) including 319,599 free African Americans.

African American delegates from New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia meet in Philadelphia in the first of a series of National Negro Conventions to devise ways to challenge slavery in the South and racial discrimination in the North.

1831—North Carolina enacts a statute that bans teaching slaves to read and write.

Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Southampton, Virginia, killing at least 57 whites.

Alabama makes it illegal for enslaved or free blacks to preach.

William Lloyd Garrison of Boston founds The Liberator, the first abolitionist newspaper in the United States.

1832—Oberlin College is founded in Ohio. It admits African American men, black women and white women. By 1860 one third of its students are black.

The Female Anti-Slavery Society, the first African American women's abolitionist society, is founded in Salem, Massachusetts.

1833—The American Anti-Slavery Society is established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The British Parliament abolishes slavery in the entire British Empire.

1834—African Free Schools are incorporated into the New York Public School system.

Henry Blair is the first African American to receive a patent from the U.S. government. He develops a mechanical corn planter.

South Carolina bans the teaching of blacks, enslaved or free, in its borders.

1835—Texas declares its independence from Mexico. In its Constitution as an independent nation, Texas recognizes slavery and makes it difficult for free blacks to remain there.

1836-1844—The "Gag Rule" prohibits Congress from considering petitions regarding slavery.

1836—John B. Russwurm is appointed Governor of the Cape Palmas district of Liberia by the American Colonization Society.

1837—The Institute for Colored Youth is founded in Southeastern Pennsylvania. It later becomes Cheyney University.

Dr. James McCune Smith of New York City graduates from the Medical School of the University of Glasgow, and becomes the first African American to hold a medical degree.

1838—Pennsylvania disfranchises black voters.

1839—On August 29, American vessels tow the Spanish ship the Amistad and its 53 slaves into New London, Connecticut. Their fate is decided by the United States Supreme Court in United States v. The Amistad on March 9, 1841 when the Court rules them free and they return to Africa.

1840—Census of 1840
U.S. Population: 17,069,453
Black Population: 2,873,648 (16.1%) including 386,293 free African Americans.

1842—Frederick Douglass leads a successful campaign against Rhode Island's proposed Dorr Constitution which continue the prohibition on black voting rights.

1843—Rev. Henry Highland Garnet delivers his controversial "Address to the Slaves" at the National Negro Convention meeting in Buffalo, New York, which calls for a servile insurrection.

Sojourner Truth and William Wells Brown begin their campaigns against slavery.

1844—On June 25, the Legislative Committee of the Provisional Government of Oregon enacts the first of a series of black exclusion laws.

1845—Texas is annexed to the United States.

Frederick Douglass publishes his autobiography, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

1846-1848—War with Mexico.

1847—Frederick Douglass begins publication of The North Star in Rochester, New York.

Missouri bans the education of free blacks.

Missouri abolitionists file a lawsuit on behalf of Dred Scott to gain his freedom. The case is eventually decided by the U.S. Supreme Court a decade later.

1848—On February 2 in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico cedes California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah and gives up claim to Texas at conclusion of War in exchange for $20 million.

In February Karl Marx publishes The Communist Manifesto in London.

On July 19-20, Frederick Douglass is among the handful of men who attend the first Women's Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, New York.

1849—The California Gold Rush begins. Eventually four thousand African Americans will migrate to California during this period.

Harriett Tubman escapes from slavery and begins her efforts to rescue enslaved people.

On December 4, Benjamin Roberts files a school desegregation lawsuit on behalf of his daughter, Sarah, who is denied admission to a Boston school. The lawsuit is unsuccessful.

1850—Census of 1850
U.S. Population: 23,191,876
Black Population: 3,638,808 (15.7%) including 433,807 free African Americans.

The Compromise of 1850 revisits the issue of slavery. California enters the Union as a free state, but the territories of New Mexico and Utah are allowed to decide whether they will enter the Union as slave or free states. The 1850 Compromise also allowed passage of a much stricter Fugitive Slave Law.

On August 27, Lucy Stanton of Cleveland completes the course requirements for Oberlin Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College) and becomes the first African American woman to graduate from an American college or university.

1851—Sojourner Truth delivers her famous "Aren't I a Woman" speech at the Women's Rights Convention, Akron, Ohio on May 29.

1852—Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, which becomes a best selling book and a major influence on the Anti-Slavery Movement.

Martin R. Delany publishes The Condition, Elevation, Emigration and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States.

The Jackson Street Hospital in Augusta, Georgia is established as the first medical facility solely for the care of African American patients.

1853—Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield (the Black Swan) debuts at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and performs before Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace a year later.

William Wells Brown becomes the first African American novelist when he publishes Clotel, or the President's Daughter.

1854—On May 24, Virginia fugitive slave Anthony Burns is captured in Boston and returned to slavery under the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act. Fifty thousand Boston residents watch his transport through the streets of the city in shackles. A Boston church raises $1,500 to purchase his freedom and Burns returns to the city in 1855, a free man.

On May 30, the Kansas-Nebraska Act is passed by Congress. The Act repeals the Missouri Compromise and permits the admission of Kansas and Nebraska Territories to the Union after their populations decide on slavery.

The Republican Party is formed in the summer in opposition to the extension of slavery into the western territories.

"Bleeding Kansas" is an outgrowth of the controversy over the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Between 1854 and 1858 armed groups of pro- and anti-slavery factions often funded and sponsored by organizations in the North and South, compete for control of Kansas Territory, initiating waves of violence that killed 55 people. Bleeding Kansas was seen as a preview of the U.S. Civil War.

On October 13, Ashmun Institute, the first institution of higher learning for young black men, is founded by John Miller Dickey and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson. In 1866 it is renamed Lincoln University (Pa.) after President Abraham Lincoln.

James A. Healy is ordained in France as the first black Jesuit priest. He becomes Bishop of Portland, Maine in 1875, a diocese that includes all of Maine and New Hampshire, and holds that post for 25 years.

1855—The Massachusetts Legislature outlaws racially segregated schools.

William C. Nell of Boston publishes The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, considered the first history of African Americans.

In November, John Mercer Langston is elected town clerk of Brownhelm Township, Ohio, becoming the first black elected official in the nation.

1856—Wilberforce University becomes the first school of higher learning owned and operated by African Americans. It is founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Bishop Daniel A. Payne becomes the institution's first president.

1857—On March 6, The Dred Scott Decision is handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court.

1858—Arkansas enslaves free blacks who refuse to leave the state.

1859—On October 16, John Brown leads twenty men, including five African Americans, in an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Federal Armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia to inspire a servile insurrection.

Harriett Wilson of Milford, New Hampshire publishes Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, the first novel by an African American woman.

1860—Census of 1860
U.S. Population: 31,443,321
Black Population: 4,441,830 (14.1%) including 488,070 free African Americans.

On November 6, Abraham Lincoln is elected president.

On December 20, South Carolina secedes from the Union.

1861—By February, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas secede. They form the Confederate States of America on March 4. After the firing on Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina secede.

1861-1865—The Civil War. Approximately 200,000 blacks (most are newly escaped/freed slaves) serve in Union armed forces and over 20,000 are killed in combat.

1861—Congress passes the First Confiscation Act which prevents Confederate slave owners from reenslaving runaways.

1862—The Port Royal (South Carolina) Reconstruction Experiment begins in March.

On April 16, Congress abolishes slavery in the District of Columbia.

In May the coastal pilot Robert Smalls escapes Charleston, South Carolina with The Planter, a Confederate vessel and sixteen enslaved people.

Congress permits the enlistment of African American soldiers in the U.S. Army on July 17.

With the southern states absent from Congress, the body recognizes Haiti and Liberia, marking the first time diplomatic relations are established with predominately black nations.

1863—Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation takes effect on January 1, legally freeing slaves in areas of the South still in rebellion against the United States.

The New York City draft riots erupt on July 13 and continue for four days, during which at least 100 of the city's residents are killed. This remains the highest death toll in any urban conflict in the 19th or 20th Centuries.

On July 18, the Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, the first officially recognized all-black military unit in the Union army, assaults Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina in an unsuccessful effort to take the fortification. Sergeant William H. Carney becomes the first African American to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for bravery under fire.

1864—The Fort Pillow Massacre takes place in West Tennessee on April 12. Approximately 300 of the 585 soldiers of the Union garrison at Fort Pillow are killed including many after the Union forces surrender. Only 14 Confederate soldiers die in the battle.

In June Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler of Boston is the first African American woman to earn a medical degree when she graduates from the New England Female Medical College in Boston.

On June 15, Congress passed a bill authorizing equal pay, equipment, arms, and health care for African-American Union troops.

On October 4, the New Orleans Tribune begins publication. The Tribune is the first daily newspaper produced by African Americans.

1865—On February 1, 1865, Abraham Lincoln signs the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawing slavery throughout the United States.

On March 3, Congress established the Freedmen's Bureau to provide health care, education, and technical assistance to emancipated slaves. Congress also charters the Freedman's Bank to promote savings and thrift among the ex-slaves.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the Civil War.

On April 15, President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth in Washington, D.C.

On June 19, enslaved African Americans in Texas finally receive news of their emancipation. From that point they commemorate that day as "Juneteenth."

Between September and November, a number of ex-Confederate states pass so called "Black Codes."

The Ku Klux Klan is formed on December 24th in Pulaski, Tennessee by six educated, middle class former Confederate veterans.

Twenty thousand African American troops are among the 32,000 U.S. soldiers sent to the Rio Grande as a show of force against Emperor Maximilian's French troops occupying Mexico. Some discharged black soldiers join the forces of Mexican resistance leader Benito Juarez.

1866—Fisk University is founded in Nashville, Tennessee on January 9.

On April 9, Congress overrides President Andrew Johnson's veto to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1866. The act confers citizenship upon black Americans and guarantees equal rights with whites.

On May 1-3, white civilians and police in Memphis, Tennessee kill forty-six African Americans and injure many more, burning ninety houses, twelve schools, and four churches in what will be known as the Memphis Massacre.

On June 13, Congress approves the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law to all citizens. The amendment also grants citizenship to African Americans.

Congress authorizes the creation of four all-black regiments in the United States Army. Two cavalry regiments, the 9th and 10th and two infantry regiments, the 24th and 25th will become the first and only units in which black soldiers can serve until the Spanish American War. They will be known as Buffalo Soldiers.

Police in New Orleans supporting the Democratic Mayor storm a Republican meeting of blacks and whites on July 30, killing 34 black and 3 white Republicans. Over 150 people are injured in the attack.

In November Mifflin W. Gibbs is elected to the Victoria, British Columbia City Council. He becomes the second African American (after John Mercer Langston) elected to public office in North America.

1867—On January 8, overriding President Andrew Johnson's veto, Congress grants the black citizens of the District of Columbia the right to vote. Two days later it passes the Territorial Suffrage Act which allows African Americans in the western territories to vote.

Morehouse College is founded in Atlanta on February 14.

The Reconstruction Acts are passed by Congress on March 2. Congress divides ten of the eleven ex-Confederate states into military districts. These acts also reorganize post-war Southern governments, disfranchising former high ranking Confederates and enfranchising former slaves in the South.

On March 2, Howard University is chartered by Congress in Washington, D.C. The institution is named after General Oliver O. Howard who heads the Freedman's Bureau.

1868—On July 21, the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, granting citizenship to any person born or naturalized in the United States.

Opelousas, Louisiana is the site of the Opelousas Massacre on September 28, in which an estimated 200 to 300 black Americans are killed by whites opposed to Reconstruction and African American voting.

On November 3, Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant (Republican) is elected president.

On November 3, John Willis Menard is elected to Congress from Louisiana's Second Congressional District. Menard is the first African American elected to Congress. However, neither he nor his opponent will be seated due to disputed election results.

Howard University Medical School opens on November 9.

1869—On February 26, Congress sends the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution to the states for approval. The amendment guarantees African American males the right to vote.

On April 6, Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett is appointed minister to Haiti. He is the first black American diplomat and presidential appointee.

Isaac Myers organizes the Colored National Labor Union in Baltimore.

1870—Census of 1870.
U.S. population: 39,818,449
Black population: 4,880,009 (12.7%)

Hiram R. Revels (Republican) of Mississippi takes his seat in the U.S. Senate on February 25. He is the first black United States senator, though he serves only one year, completing the unexpired term of Jefferson Davis.

The Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified on March 30.

In June Richard T. Greener becomes the first African American to graduate from Harvard University.

1871—In February Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1871 popularly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act.

On October 6, Fisk University's Jubilee Singers begin their first national tour. The Jubilee Singers become world-famous singers of black spirituals, performing before the Queen of England and the Emperor of Japan. The money they earn finances the construction of Jubilee Hall on the Fisk University campus.

1872—Charlotte Ray of Washington, D.C. becomes the first African American woman to practice law.

Lt. Governor Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback of Louisiana serves as governor of the state for one month from December 1872 to January 1873. He is the first African American to hold that position.

1873—The 43rd Congress has seven black members

On April 14, the U.S Supreme Court in the Slaughterhouse Cases rules that the "due process" clause of the 14th Amendment protects national, not state, citizenship.

Bishop Patrick Healy serves as President of Georgetown University from 1873 to 1881. He is the first African American to preside over a predominately white university.

1874—The Freedman's Bank closes after African American depositors and investors lose more than one million dollars.

1875—Federal troops are sent to Vicksburg, Mississippi in January to protect African Americans attempting to vote and to allow the safe return of the African American sheriff who had been forced to flee the city.

Congress enacts the Civil Rights Act of 1875 on March 1, guaranteeing equal rights to black Americans in public accommodations and jury duty.

Blanche Kelso Bruce (Republican) of Mississippi becomes the first African American to serve a full six year term as senator when he takes his seat in the United States Senate on March 3.

The 44th Congress has eight black members

On February 23rd the first Southern "Jim Crow" laws are enacted in Tennessee. Similar statutes had existed in the North before the Civil War.

1876—Lewis H. Latimer assists Alexander Graham Bell in obtaining a patent for the telephone on February 14.

In May, Edward Alexander Bouchet receives a Ph.D. from Yale University. He is the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from an American university and only the sixth American to earn a Ph.D. in physics. Bouchet is also believed to be the first African American elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

Race riots and other forms of terrorism against black voters in South Carolina over the summer prompt President Grant to sent federal troops to restore order.

On October 13 Meharry Medical College is founded by the Freedman's Aid Society of the Methodist Church.

The presidential election of 1876, pitting Samuel Tilden (Democrat) against Rutherford B. Hayes (Republican), is inconclusive when the votes in the Electoral College are disputed.

1877—The Compromise of 1877 (also known as the Wormley House Compromise because the meeting takes place in a black-owned hotel in Washington, D.C.) is an arrangement worked out in January of that year which effectively ends Reconstruction. Although Democratic Presidential candidate Samuel Tilden won the popular vote, Southern Democratic leaders agree to support Rutherford Hayes's efforts to obtain the disputed electoral votes of Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina in exchange for the withdrawal of the last federal troops from the South and the end of federal efforts to protect the civil rights of African Americans.

The 45th Congress has three black members.

On June 15, Henry O. Flipper became the first African American to graduate from West Point.

In July, 30 African American settlers from Kentucky establish the town of Nicodemus in western Kansas. This is the first of hundreds of all or mostly black towns created in the West.

Frederick Douglass becomes U.S. Marshal for the District of Columbia.

1879-1880—Approximately six thousand African Americans leave Louisiana and Mississippi counties along the Mississippi River for Kansas in what will be known as the Exodus.

1879—Mary Eliza Mahoney becomes the first African American professional nurse, graduating from the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston.

1880—Census of 1880.
U.S. population: 50,155,783
Black population: 6,580,793 (13.1%)

On May 14, Sgt. George Jordan of the Ninth Cavalry, commanding a detachment of Buffalo Soldiers, leads a successful defense of Tularosa, New Mexico Territory, against Apache Indians.

1881—In January the Tennessee State Legislature votes to segregate railroad passenger cars. Tennessee's action is followed by Florida (1887), Mississippi (1888), Texas (1889), Louisiana (1890), Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Georgia (1891), South Carolina (1898), North Carolina (1899), Virginia (1900), Maryland (1904), and Oklahoma (1907).

Spelman College, the first college for black women in the U.S., is founded on April 11 by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles.

On the Fourth of July Booker T. Washington opens Tuskegee Institute in central Alabama.

1883—The 50th Congress has no black members. Intimidation keeps most black voters from the polls.

On October 16, U. S. Supreme Court declares invalid the Civil Rights Act of 1875, stating the Federal Government cannot bar corporations or individuals from discriminating on the basis of race.

On November 3, white conservatives in Danville, Virginia, seize control of the local racially integrated and popularly elected government, killing four African Americans in the process.

1885—On June 25, African American Samuel David Ferguson is ordained a bishop of the Episcopal Church.

1886—Slavery is abolished in Cuba.

The Knights of Labor reaches it peak membership of 700,000 with approximately 75,000 African American members.

The American Federation of Labor is organized on December 8. All major unions of the federation excluded black workers.

1887—African American players are banned from major league baseball.

The National Colored Farmers' Alliance is formed in Houston County, Texas.

1888— On April 11, Edward Park Duplex is elected mayor of Wheatland, California. He is believed to be the first African American mayor of a predominantly white town in the United States.

Two of America's first black-owned banks, the Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of the Reformers, in Richmond, Virginia, and Capital Savings Bank of Washington, D.C, open their doors.

Slavery is abolished in Brazil.

1889—Florida becomes the first state to use the poll tax to disenfranchise black voters.

Frederick Douglass is appointed Minister to Haiti.

1890—Census of 1890
U.S. population: 62,947,714
Black population: 7,488,676 (11.9%)

The Afro-American League is founded on January 25 in Chicago under the leadership of Timothy Thomas Fortune.

On November 1, the Mississippi Legislature approves a new state Constitution that disenfranchises virtually all of the state's African American voters. The Mississippi Plan used literacy and "understanding" tests to prevent African Americans from casting ballots. Similar statutes were adopted by South Carolina (1895), Louisiana (1898), North Carolina (1900), Alabama (1901), Virginia (1901), Georgia (1908), and Oklahoma (1910).

1891—Dr. Daniel Hale Williams founds Provident Hospital in Chicago, the first African American-owned hospital in the nation.

1892—On July 14 three companies of the 24th Infantry occupy the Coeur d'Alene Mining District in northern Idaho which has been declared under martial law following a violent strike by silver miners. They remain for four months.

A record 230 people are lynched in the United States this year, 161 are black and 69 white. In the period between 1882 and 1951, Tuskegee Institute compiled nationwide lynching statistics. In that 69 year period, 4,730 people were lynched including 3,437 blacks and 1,293 whites. Ninety-two women were victims of lynching, 76 were black and 16 were white. Although southern states accounted for 90% of the lynchings, every state in the continental U.S., with the exception of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Vermont, reported lynching deaths sometime during the 69 year period.

In October activist Ida B. Wells begins her anti-lynching campaign with the publication of Southern Horrors: Lynch Law and in All Its Phases and a speech in New York City's Lyric Hall

The National Medical Association is formed in Atlanta by African American physicians because they are barred from the American Medical Association.

First intercollegiate football game between African American colleges takes place between Biddle University (now Johnson C. Smith University) and Livingston College.

1893—Henry Ossawa Tanner paints The Banjo Lesson which is eventually hailed as one of the major works of art of the late 19th Century.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams performs the first successful operation on a human heart. The patient, a victim of a chest stab wound, survives and lives for twenty years after the operation.

1895—White terrorists attack black workers in New Orleans on March 11-12. Six blacks are killed.

In June, W.E.B. Du Bois becomes the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Booker T. Washington delivers his famous "Atlanta Compromise" address on September 18 at the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition. He says the "Negro problem" would be solved by a policy of gradualism and accommodation.

Three black Baptist organizations, the Foreign Mission Baptist Convention of the United States (1880), the American National Baptist Convention (1886) and the Baptist National Educational Convention (1993) combined at Friendship Baptist Church in Atlanta to form the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc. The National Baptist Convention is the largest black religious denomination in the United States.

1896—Plessey v. Ferguson is decided on May 18 when the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Southern segregation laws and practices (Jim Crow) do not conflict with the 13th and 14th Amendments. The Court defends its ruling by articulating the "separate but equal" doctrine.

On July 21 the National Association of Colored Women is formed in Washington, D.C. Mary Church Terrell is chosen as its first president.

In September George Washington Carver is appointed director of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute. His work advances peanut, sweet potato, and soybean farming.

1897—The American Negro Academy is established on March 5 in Washington, D.C. to encourage African American participation in art, literature and philosophy.

The first Phillis Wheatley Home is founded in Detroit. These homes, established in most cities with large African American populations, provide temporary accommodations and social services for single African American women.

1898—In January the Louisiana Legislature introduces the "Grandfather Clause" into the state's constitution. Only males whose fathers or grandfathers were qualified to vote on January 1, 1867, are automatically registered. Others (African Americans) must comply with educational or property requirements.

The Spanish-American War begins on April 21. Sixteen regiments of black volunteers are recruited; four see combat in Cuba and the Philippines Five African Americans win Congressional Medals of Honor during the war. A number of black officers command troops for the first time.

The National Afro-American Council is founded on September 15 in Washington, D.C. The organization elects Bishop Alexander Walters as its first president.

On November 10, in Wilmington, North Carolina, eight black Americans were killed during white rioting as conservative Democrats drove out of power black and white Republican officeholders in the city.

The North Carolina Mutual and Provident Insurance Company of Durham, North Carolina and the National Benefit Life Insurance Company of Washington, D.C. are established.

1899—In May, the 24th Infantry returns to occupy the Coeur d'Alene Mining District in northern Idaho after violence again erupts.

The Afro-American Council designates June 4 as a national day of fasting to protest lynching and massacres.

1900—Census of 1900.
U.S. population: 75,994,575
Black population: 8,833,994 (11.6%)

In January James Weldon Johnson writes the lyrics and his brother John Rosamond Johnson composes the music for Lift Every Voice and Sing in their hometown of Jacksonville, Florida in celebration of the birthday of Abraham Lincoln. The song is eventually adopted as the black national anthem.

The United States Pavilion at the Paris Exposition (April 14- Nov. 10) houses an exhibition on black Americans called the "Exposition des Negres d'Amerique."

The first Pan African Conference, organized by Henry Sylvester Williams a Trinidad attorney, meets in London in July.

The New Orleans Race Riot (also known as the Robert Charles Riot) erupts on July 23 and lasts four days. Twelve African Americans and seven whites were killed.

On August 23, the National Negro Business League is founded in Boston by Booker T. Washington to promote business enterprise.

In September Nannie Helen Burroughs leads the founding of the Women's' Convention of the National Baptist Convention at its meeting in Richmond, Virginia.

This year marks the beginning of significant West Indian immigration to the United States.

1901—The last African American congressman elected in the 19th Century, George H. White, Republican of North Carolina, leaves office. No African American will serve in Congress for the next 28 years.

On October 11, when Bert Williams and George Walker record their music for the Victor Talking Machine Company, they become the first African American recording artists.

On October 16, only one month after becoming President, Theodore Roosevelt holds an afternoon meeting at the White House with Booker T. Washington. At the end of the meeting the President informally invites Washington to remain for dinner, making the Tuskegee educator the first black American to dine at the White House with a president. Roosevelt's casual act generates a national furor.

1902—In May jockey Jimmy Winkfield wins the Kentucky Derby in an era when African American jockeys dominate the sport.

1903—W.E.B. Du Bois's The Souls of Black Folk is published on April 27. In it Du Bois rejects the gradualism of Booker T. Washington, calling for agitation on behalf of African American rights.

Maggie Lena Walker founds St. Luke's Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Virginia.

1904—Educator Mary McLeod Bethune founds a college in Daytona Beach, Florida that today is known as Bethune-Cookman College.

Sigma Pi Beta (the Boule) is founded in Philadelphia by four wealthy African American college graduates.

Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller, who trains at the Royal Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Munich with Dr. Alois Alzheimer, becomes a widely published pioneer in Alzheimer's disease research. Fuller also becomes the nation's first black psychiatrist.

1905—The Chicago Defender is founded by Robert Abbott on May 5.

The Niagara Movement is created on July 11-13, by African American intellectuals and activists, led by W.E.B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter.

Nashville African Americans boycott streetcars to protest racial segregation.

1906—The Azusa Street Revival begins in the former African Methodist Episcopal Church building at 312 Azusa Street in April. The revival, led by black evangelist William J. Seymour, is considered the beginning of the worldwide Pentecostal Movement.

On August 13 in Brownsville, Texas, approximately a dozen black troops riot against segregation and in the process kill a local citizen. When the identity of the killer cannot be determined, President Theodore Roosevelt discharges three companies of black soldiers on November 6.
A race riot in Atlanta on September 22-24 produces twelve deaths; ten blacks and two whites.

On December 4, seven students at Cornell University form Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first college fraternity for black men.

1907—Alain Locke of Philadelphia, a Harvard graduate, becomes the first African American Rhodes Scholar.

The Pittsburgh Courier is established by Edwin Harleston, a security guard and aspiring writer. Three years later attorney Robert Vann takes control of the paper as its editor-publisher.

Madame C.J. Walker of Denver develops and markets her hair straightening method and creates one of the most successful cosmetics firms in the nation.

1908—On January 15, Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first black sorority, is founded on the campus of Howard University.

John Baxter "Doc" Taylor of the University of Pennsylvania becomes the first African American to win an Olympic Gold Medal. His event is the 4/400-meter medley at the London Games.

On August 14, a two day race riot breaks out in Springfield, Illinois, the home town of Abraham Lincoln. Two blacks and four whites are killed. This is the first major riot in a Northern city in nearly half a century.

On December 26, Jack Johnson defeats Canadian Tommy Burns in Sydney, Australia to become the first African American heavyweight boxing champion of the world.

1909—The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is formed on February 12 in New York City, partly in response to the Springfield Riot.

On April 6, Admiral Robert E. Peary and African American Matthew Henson, accompanied by four Eskimos, become the first men known to have reached the North Pole.

On December 4, the New York Amsterdam News begins publication.

1910—Census of 1910
U.S. population: 93,402,151
Black population: 9,827,763 (10.7%)

The National Urban League is founded in New York City on September 29. The League is organized to help African Americans secure employment and to adjust to urban life.

The first issue of Crisis, the official publication of the NAACP, appears on November 1. W.E.B. Du Bois is the first editor.

On December 19, the City Council of Baltimore approves an ordinance segregating black and white neighborhoods. This ordinance is followed by similar statutes in Dallas, Texas, Greensboro, North Carolina, Louisville, Kentucky, Norfolk, Virginia, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Richmond, Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia, and St. Louis, Missouri.

1911—Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity is founded at Indiana University on January 5.

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity is founded at Howard University on November 17.

1913—The Jubilee year, the 50th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, is celebrated throughout the nation over the entire year.

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority is founded at Howard University on January 13.

On April 11, the Wilson administration initiates the racial segregation of work places, rest rooms and lunch rooms in all federal offices across the nation.

1914—Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity is founded at Howard University on January 9.

The Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) is founded in Kingston, Jamaica by Marcus and Amy Jacques Garvey.

Cleveland inventor Garrett Morgan patents a gas mask called the Safety Hood and Smoke Protector. The mask, initially used to rescue trapped miners, is eventually adopted by the U.S. Army.

On August 1, World War I began in Europe.

African American pilot Eugene J. Bullard volunteers to serve with the French Air Force in World War I. He is the first black pilot to see combat in that conflict.

1915—The Great Migration of African Americans from the South to Northern cities begins.

On June 21, the Oklahoma Grandfather Clause is overturned in Guinn v. United States.

On July 28, the United States begins a 19 year occupation of Haiti, the longest in U.S. history.

In September, Carter G. Woodson founds the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in Chicago. The association produces The Journal of Negro History the following year.

1916—Marcus Garvey founds the New York Division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association with sixteen members. Four years later the UNIA holds its national convention in Harlem. At its height the organization claims nearly two million members.

In March the Tenth Cavalry is one of two cavalry units under the command of General John J. Pershing given the assignment to capture Mexican Revolutionary leader Pancho Villa. The Seventh Cavalry is the other. They are unsuccessful.

On July 25, Garrett Morgan uses his newly invented gas mask to rescue 32 men trapped after an explosion in a tunnel 250 feet beneath Lake Erie.

1917—The United States enters World War I on April 6. Some 370,000 African-Americans join the armed forces with more than half serving in the French war zone. Over 1,000 black officers command these troops. The French government awards the Croix de Guerre to 107 African American soldiers.

The East St. Louis Race Riot begins on July 1 and continues to July 3. Forty people are killed, hundreds more injured, and 6,000 driven from their homes.

Nearly 10,000 African Americans and their supporters march down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue on July 28 as part of a "silent parade," an NAACP-organized protest against lynchings, race riots, and the denial of rights. This is the first major civil rights demonstration in the 20th Century.

On August 23, a riot erupts in Houston between black soldiers and white citizens; two blacks and 11 whites are killed. Twenty-nine black soldiers are executed for participation in the riot.

In August, A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen found The Messenger, a black socialist magazine, in New York City.

On November 5, the Supreme Court in Buchanan v. Warley strikes down the Louisville, Kentucky ordinance mandating segregated neighborhoods.

1918—On July 25-28, a race riot in Chester, Pennsylvania claims five lives, three blacks and two whites.

On July 26-29, in nearby Philadelphia, another race riot breaks out killing four, three blacks and one white.

The Armistice on November 11 ends World War I. However, the northern migration of African Americans continues. By 1930 there were 1,035,000 more black Americans in the North than in 1910.

1919—The Ku Klux Klan is revived in 1915 at Stone Mountain, Georgia, and by the beginning of 1919 operates in 27 states. Eighty-three African Americans are lynched during the year, among them a number of returning soldiers still in uniform.

The West Virginia State Supreme Court rules that an African American is denied equal protection under the law if his jury has no black members.

The Second Pan African Conference, led by W.E. B. DuBois, meets in Paris in February partly to help influence the post war Versailles Peace Conference.

The Associated Negro Press is established by Claude A. Barnett on March 2.

The twenty five race riots that take place throughout the nation prompt the term, "Red Summer." The largest clashes take place on May 10 in Charleston, South Carolina, July 13 in Longview, Texas, July 19-23 in Washington, D. C, July 27-Aug. 1 in Chicago, September 28 in Omaha, and October 1-3 in Elaine, Arkansas.

Claude McKay publishes "If We Must Die," considered one of the first major examples of Harlem Renaissance writing.

Father Divine founds the Peace Mission Movement at his home in Sayville, New York.

Oscar Micheaux's first film, The Homesteader, is released in Chicago.

1920 - Census of 1920
U.S. population: 105,710,620
Black population: 10,463,131 (9.9%)

The decade of the Twenties witnesses the Harlem Renaissance, a remarkable period of creativity for black writers, poets, and artists, including among others Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston.

On January 16, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority is founded at Howard University.

Andrew "Rube" Foster leads the effort to establish the Negro National (Baseball) League on February 14 in Kansas City. Eight teams are part of the league.

On August 26, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified giving all women the right to vote. Nonetheless, African American women, like African American men, are denied the franchise in most Southern states.

1921—On May 31-June 1, at least 60 blacks and 21 whites are killed in a race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The violence destroys a thriving African American neighborhood and business district called Deep Greenwood.

In June Sadie Tanner Mossell Alexander of the University of Pennsylvania, Eva B. Dykes of Radcliff and Georgiana R. Simpson of the University of Chicago become the first African American women to earn Ph.D. degrees.

Bessie Coleman, the first black female pilot, also becomes the first woman to receive an international pilot's license when she graduates from the Federation Aeronautique International in France.

Harry Pace forms Black Swan Phonograph Corporation, the first African American-owned record company in Harlem. His artists will include Mamie and Bessie Smith.

One of the earliest exhibitions of work by African American artists, including Henry Ossawa Tanner and Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, is held at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library.

1922—Shuffle Along by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake opens on Broadway on May 23. This is the first major play of the Harlem Renaissance.

In September William Leo Hansberry of Howard University teaches the first course in African history and civilization at an American university.

Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority is founded on November 12 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Harmon Foundation is established in New York City to promote African American participation in the fine arts.

1923—On January 4, the small, predominately black town of Rosewood, Florida is destroyed by a mob of white residents from nearby communities.

Marcus Garvey is imprisoned for mail fraud. He is sent to the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta in 1925.

In September, the Cotton Club opens in Harlem.

Bessie Smith signs with Columbia Records to produce "race" records. Two years later she records St. Louis Blues with Louis Armstrong.

On November 20, Garrett T. Morgan patents the traffic signal.

The National Urban League publishes it first issue of Opportunity, A Journal of Negro Life. The magazine, edited by Charles S. Johnson, quickly becomes a forum for artists and authors of the Harlem Renaissance.

1924—Eugene O'Neill's play The Emperor Jones opens in London with Paul Robeson in the title role.

Photographer James Vander Zee begins his career by capturing images of Marcus Garvey and the UNIA.

Opera star Roland Hayes becomes the first African American to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

1925—Alain Locke's The New Negro is published in New York City.

The National Bar Association, an organization of black attorneys, is established on August 1 in Des Moines, Iowa.

On August 2, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids is organized with A. Philip Randolph as its first president.

On September 9, Ossian Sweet, a Detroit physician, is arrested for murder after he and his family kill a member of a white mob while defending their home. The Sweet family is represented at their trial by Clarence Darrow and acquitted of the charge.

1926—Carter G. Woodson establishes Negro History Week in February between the Lincoln and Washington Birthdays.

Dr. Mordecai Johnson becomes the first African American president of Howard University in September.

The Carnegie Corporation purchases Arturo Schomburg's collection of books and artifacts on African American life. The collection becomes the basis for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City.

1927—New York businessman Abe Saperstein forms the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team on January 30.

On December 2, Marcus Garvey is deported from the United States.

1928—On November 6, Oscar DePriest, a Republican, is elected to Congress from Chicago's South Side. He is the first African American to represent a northern, urban district.

The Atlanta Daily World begins publication in November.

1929—Fats Waller's Ain't Misbehavin opens on Broadway.

1930—Census of 1930
U.S. population: 122,775,046
Black population: 11,891,143 (9.7%)

James V. Herring establishes the Howard University Gallery of Art, the first gallery in the United States directed and controlled by African Americans. It is also one of the earliest galleries to highlight African American art.

Wallace Fard Muhammad founds Black Muslim movement in Detroit in 1930. Four years later Elijah Muhammad assumes control of the movement and transfers the headquarters to Chicago.

1931—Walter White is named NAACP executive secretary. Soon afterwards the NAACP mounts a new strategy primarily using lawsuits to end racial discrimination.

The Scottsboro Boys are arrested in Alabama. Their trial begins on April 6.

1932—The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment begins under the direction of the U.S. Public Health Service. The experiment ends in 1972.

Gospel Composer Thomas Dorsey writes "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president of the United States in November.

1933—On January 31, Etta Moten becomes the first African American entertainer to perform at the White House.

The Los Angeles Sentinel is founded by Leon H. Washington.

Dudley Murphy releases the film The Emperor Jones starring Paul Robeson.

1934—W.E.B. Du Bois resigns from the NAACP in a dispute over the strategy of the organization in its campaign against racial discrimination. Roy Wilkins becomes the new editor of Crisis magazine.

The Southern Tenant Farmers Union is organized by the Socialist Party.

Zora Neale Hurston's first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine, is published.

The Apollo Theater opens in Harlem.

1935—March 20, a one day riot erupts in Harlem leaving two people dead.

On April 1, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in Norris v. Alabama that a defendant has a right to trial by a jury of his or her peers.

The Michigan Chronicle is founded in Detroit by Louis E. Martin.

On October 3, Italy invades Ethiopia.

On November 5, the Maryland Supreme Court rules in Murray v. Pearson that the University of Maryland must admit African Americans to its law school or establish a separate school for blacks. The University of Maryland chooses to admit its first black students.

On December 24, Mary McLeod Bethune calls together the leaders of 28 national women's organizations to Washington, D.C. to found the National Council of Negro Women.

1936—The first meeting of the National Negro Congress takes place in Chicago on February 14, 1936. Nearly 600 black organizations are represented.

On June 24, Mary McLeod Bethune is named Director of the Division of Negro Affairs, the National Youth Administration. She is the highest ranking black official in the Roosevelt Administration and leads the Black Cabinet. She is also the first black woman to receive a presidential appointment.

Track star Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics between August 3 and August 9.

Dr. William Augustus Hinton's book, Syphilis and Its Treatment, is the first published medical textbook written by an African American.

1937—William H. Hastie, former advisor to President Franklin Roosevelt, is confirmed on March 26 as the first black federal judge after his appointment by Roosevelt to the federal bench in the Virgin Islands.

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids is recognized by the Pullman Company.

Approximately 80 African Americans are among the 3,000 U.S. volunteers who fight in the Spanish Civil War. One of them, Oliver Law of Chicago, commands the Lincoln Battalion. Law is killed in battle on July 9.

On June 22, boxer Joe Louis wins the heavyweight championship in a bout with James J. Braddock in Chicago.

In October, Katherine Dunham forms the Negro Dance Group, a company of black artists dedicated to presenting aspects of African American and African-Caribbean Dance. The company eventually becomes the Katherine Dunham Group.

1938—On June 22, Joe Louis beats Max Schmeling in a rematch of his 1936 defeat by the German boxer.

Jacob Lawrence holds his first solo exhibition at the Harlem YMCA and completes his Toussaint L'Overture series.

In November Crystal Bird Fauset of Philadelphia becomes the first African American woman elected to a state legislature when she is chosen to serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

On December 12, the U.S. Supreme Court in Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada rules that a state that provides in-state education for whites must provide comparable in-state education for blacks.

1939—Popular contralto Marian Anderson sings at Lincoln Memorial before 75,000 people on Easter Sunday after the Daughters of the American Revolution refuse to allow her to perform at Constitution Hall.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson organizes the Black Actors Guild.

World War II begins in Europe on September 1 when Germany invades Poland.

Hattie McDaniel receives an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Gone With the Wind. She becomes the first black actor to win an academy award.

1940—Census of 1940
U.S. population 131,669,275
Black population: 12,865,518 (9.8%)

Richard Wright publishes his first novel, Native Son.

Dr. Charles R. Drew presents his thesis, "Banked Blood" at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. The thesis includes his research which discovers that plasma can replace whole blood transfusions.

In October, Benjamin Oliver Davis is named the first African American general in the regular army.

1941—Mary Lucinda Dawson founds the National Negro Opera Company.

The U.S. Army creates the Tuskegee Air Squadron.

On June 25, Executive Order 8802 desegregates war production plants and creates the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC).

On December 8, the United States enters World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dorie Miller is awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism during that battle.

1941-1945—The desperate need for factory labor to build the war machine needed to win World War II leads to an unprecedented migration of African Americans from the South to the North and West. This migration transforms American politics as blacks increasingly vote in their new homes and put pressure on Congress to protect civil rights throughout the nation. Their activism lays much of the foundation for the national Civil Rights Movement a decade later.

1942—Margaret Walker publishes For My People.

The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is founded in Chicago by James Farmer, Jr., George Houser and Bernice Fisher.

The U.S. Marine Corps accepts African American men for the first time.

Charity Adams becomes the first black woman commissioned officer in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAACs).

1943—The Naval Academy at Annapolis and other naval officer schools accept African American men for the first time.

The Detroit Race Riot, June 20-21, claims 34 lives including 25 African Americans. Other riots occur in Harlem, Mobile, Alabama and Beaumont, Texas.

The first black cadets graduate from the Army Flight School at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama.

By summer, fourteen thousand African American soldiers of the 93rd Infantry Division and the 32nd and 33rd companies of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (approximately 300 women) are stationed in the Arizona desert at Fort Huachuca for training. They are the largest concentration of black military personnel in the history of the nation.

Two American Navy Destroyer ships, the USS Mason and the submarine chaser PC1264 are staffed entirely by African American crews.

The black 99th Pursuit Squadron (Tuskegee Airmen) flies its first combat mission in Italy.

1944—On April 3, the U.S. Supreme Court in Smith v. Allwright declares white only political primaries unconstitutional.

Frederick Douglass Patterson establishes the United Negro College Fund on April 25 to help support black colleges and black students.

Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York, is elected to Congress from Harlem in November.

Gunnar Myrdal publishes An American Dilemma.

1945—President Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies on April 12.

The United Nations is founded at San Francisco on April 25.

On May 8, Germany surrenders on VE day.

Colonel Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. is named commander of Goodman Field, Kentucky. He is the first African American to command a military base.

Japan surrenders on VJ day ending World War II on September 2. By the end of the war one million African American men and women have served in the U.S. military.

Nat King Cole becomes the first African American to have a radio variety show. The show airs on NBC.

Ebony magazine publishes its first issue on November 1.

1946—Dr. Charles S. Johnson becomes the first African American president of Fisk University.

The U.S. Supreme Court in Morgan v. Virginia rules that segregation in interstate bus travel is unconstitutional.

1947—On April 10, Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers becomes the first African American to play major league baseball in the 20th Century.

The NAACP petition on racism "An Appeal to the World" is presented to the United Nations.

1948—On July 26, President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981 directing the desegregation of the armed forces.

Alice Coachman becomes the first African American woman to win an Olympic Gold Medal. She wins the high jump competition in the London Olympics.

On October 1, the California Supreme Court voids the law banning interracial marriages in the state.

1949—In June Wesley Brown becomes the first African American to graduate from the Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Businessman Jesse Blanton, Sr. establishes WERD-AM, the first black owned radio station. It begins broadcasting in Atlanta on October 3.

1950—U.S. Census
U.S. population: 150,697,361
Black population: 15,044,937 (10%)

On May 1, Gwendolyn Brooks of Chicago becomes the first African American to receive a Pulitzer Prize. She wins the prize in Poetry.

On September 22, Ralph Bunche becomes the first African American recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of a settlement between Arabs and Israelis in the 1947-48 Mideast Crisis.

1951—On May 24, the U.S. Supreme Court rules racial segregation in District of Columbia restaurants is unconstitutional.

On May 24, a mob of 3,500 whites attempt to prevent a black family from moving into a Cicero, Illinois apartment. Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson calls out the Illinois National Guard to protect the family and restore order.

Harry T. Moore, a Florida NAACP official, is killed by a bomb in Mims, Florida, on December 25.

1952—Tuskegee Institute reported no lynchings in the United States for the first time in 71 years of tabulation.

Col. Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. is appointed commander of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing in Korea.

Ralph Ellison publishes Invisible Man.

1953—On June 19, Baton Rouge, Louisiana African Americans begin a boycott of their city's segregated municipal bus line.

1954—On May 17, the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declares segregation in all public schools in the United States unconstitutional, nullifying the earlier judicial doctrine of "separate but equal."

Malcolm X becomes Minister of the Nation of Islam's Harlem Temple 7.

1955—Fourteen year old Chicago resident Emmett Till is lynched in Money, Mississippi on August 28.

Chuck Berry, an early breakthrough rock and roll artist, records "Maybellene"

Rosa Parks refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white man on December 1, initiating the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Soon afterwards Dr. Martin Luther King becomes the leader of the Boycott.

1956—Autherine Lucy is admitted to the University of Alabama on February 3. She is suspended on February 7 after a riot ensues at the University to protest her presence. Lucy is expelled on February 29.

On November 11, Nat King Cole becomes the first African American to host a prime time variety show on national television. He appears on NBC.

On November 13, the U.S. Supreme Court in Gayle v. Browder bans segregation in intrastate travel, effectively giving a victory to those supporting the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

1957—Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first legislation protecting black rights since Reconstruction. The act establishes the Civil Rights section of the Justice Department and empowers federal prosecutors to obtain court injunctions against interference with the right to vote. It also creates the federal Civil Rights Commission with the authority to investigate discriminatory conditions and recommend corrective measures.

On July 6, Althea Gibson becomes the first African American to win the Women's Singles Division of the British Tennis Championship at Wimbledon.

In September President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends federal troops to Little Rock, Arkansas to ensure the enforcement of a Federal court order to desegregate Central High School and to protect nine African American students enrolled as part of the order. The troops remain at the high school until the end of the school year.

1958—On January 12, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is organized in Atlanta with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as its first President.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater is formed in New York.

1959—On January 12, Berry Gordy, Jr. founds Motown Records in Detroit.

Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun opens on March 11 with Sidney Poitier in the starring role. It is the first play by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway.

On April 26, Mack Charles Parker is lynched near Poplarville, Mississippi.

1960—Census of 1960
U.S. population: 179,323,175
Black population: 18,871,831 (10.6%)

On February 1, 1960, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro begin a sit-in at Woolworth's Drug Store to protest company policy which bans African Americans from sitting at its counters.

On April 15, 150 black and white students gather at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The Civil Rights Act of 1960 is signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on May 6. The Act established federal inspection of local voter registration rolls and introduces penalties for anyone who obstructs a citizen's attempt to register to vote or to cast a ballot.

Track star Wilma Rudolph of Tennessee State University is the first woman to win three gold medals at the Olympic Games which are held that year in Rome.

On Nov. 8, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy defeats Vice President Richard Nixon in one of the closest elections in history. Many observers credit African American voters with Kennedy's narrow margin of victory.

1961—The Congress of Racial Equality organizes Freedom Rides through the Deep South.

Riots on the University of Georgia campus in September fail to prevent the enrollment of the institution's first two African American students, Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter (Gault).

1962—Ernie Davis, a running back at Syracuse University, becomes the first African American athlete to receive football's Heisman Trophy.

On October 1, James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. On the day he enters the University, he is escorted by U.S. marshals after federal troops are sent in to suppress rioting and maintain order.

1963—Martin Luther King writes his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" on April 16.

On May 3, Birmingham Police use dogs and fire hoses to attack civil rights demonstrators.

Despite Governor George Wallace's vow to "block the schoolhouse door" to prevent their enrollment on June 11, Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes at the University of Alabama. They are the first African American students to attend the university.

James Baldwin publishes The Fire Next Time.

On June 12, Mississippi NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers is assassinated outside his home in Jackson.

Over 200,000 people gather in Washington, D.C. on August 28 as part of the March on Washington, an unprecedented demonstration demanding civil rights and equal opportunity for African Americans. Dr. Martin Luther King delivers his "I Have a Dream Speech" here.

On September 15, the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is bombed in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, ages 11-14.

President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas on November 22.

Sidney Poitier wins the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in the film Lilies of the Field.

1964—SNCC organizes the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.

On February 25, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali) wins the first of three world heavyweight championships in a bout with Sonny Liston in Miami, Florida.

On March 12, Malcolm X announces his break with the Nation of Islam and his founding of the Muslim Mosque in Harlem.

On June 21 civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner are abducted and killed by terrorists in Mississippi.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed by Congress on July 2. The act bans discrimination in all public accommodations and by employers. It also establishes the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) to monitor compliance with the law.

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) delegation led by Fannie Lou Hamer is denied seating at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City in August.

On August 20, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act, initiating the federally-sponsored War on Poverty. The act includes Head Start, Upward Bound and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).

On December 10, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. receives the Nobel Peace Prize in Stockholm, Sweden.

1965—Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem on February 21.

On March 7, six hundred Alabama civil rights activists stage a Selma to Montgomery protest march to draw attention to the continued denial of black voting rights in the state. The marchers are confronted by Alabama State Troopers whose attack on them at the Edmund Pettus Bridge is carried on national television. On March 21, Rev. Martin Luther King leads a five-day, 54 mile march retracing the route of the original activists. The 3,300 marchers at the beginning of the trek eventually grow to 25,000 when they reach the Alabama capitol on March 25. After the protest march President Lyndon Johnson proposes the Voting Rights Act to guarantee black voting throughout the South.

In March, the White House releases "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action," popularly known as the Moynihan Report.

On June 4, President Lyndon Johnson first uses the term "affirmative action" in a speech at Howard University.

Alex Haley publishes the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

The Voting Rights Act is signed into law on August 6.

The Watts Uprising occurs on August 11-16. Thirty four people are killed and one thousand are injured in the five day confrontation.

Maulana Ron Karenga founds the black nationalist organization known as US in Los Angeles soon after the Watts Uprising.

1966—On January 13, Robert Weaver, President Lyndon Baines Johnson's nominee to head the newly created Department of Housing and Urban Development, is confirmed for the post by the U.S. Senate. Weaver becomes the first African American to hold a cabinet post.

On January 25th Constance Baker Motley is appointed by President Lyndon Baines Johnson to the Federal Bench in New York City. She becomes the first African American woman elevated to a Federal judgeship.

In May, Stokely Carmichael becomes chairman of SNCC and embraces the concept of "black power."

On June 5, James Meredith begins a solitary March Against Fear for 220 miles from Memphis to Jackson, Mississippi to protest racial discrimination. Soon after crossing into Mississippi Meredith is shot by a sniper. Civil Rights leaders including Martin Luther King (SCLC), Floyd McKissick (CORE) and Stokely Carmichael (SNCC) vow to continue the march which eventually reaches Jackson. While in Greenwood, Carmichael gives his first "Black Power" speech on June 26.

The Black Panther Party is formed in Oakland in October by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.

Andrew F. Brimmer is appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to be the first African American to serve on the Federal Reserve Board.

On November 8, Edward Brooke of Massachusetts becomes the first African American to be popularly elected to the U.S. Senate.

On November 8, Julian Bond wins a seat in the Georgia State Senate. However he is denied the seat by the Georgia Legislature because of his opposition to the Vietnam War. Bond is eventually seated after a bitter court battle.

1967—On April 4, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence" at a meeting of Clergy and Laity Concerned at Riverside Church, New York City.

H. Rap Brown becomes chairman of SNCC on May 12.

On June 12, the U.S. Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia strikes down state interracial marriage bans.

The six-day Newark Riot begins on July 12 and claims 23 dead, 725 injured and 1,500 arrested.

Thurgood Marshall takes his seat as the first African American Justice on the United States Supreme Court on July 13.

On July 23, Detroit erupts. Between July 23 and July 28, 43 are killed, 1,189 are injured and over 7,000 are arrested.

On November 7, Carl Stokes and Richard G. Hatcher are elected the first black mayors of Cleveland and Gary, Indiana, respectively.

1968—On February 8, three students at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg are killed by police in what will be known as the Orangeburg Massacre.

The Report of the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, popularly known as the Kerner Report, is released in March.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4. In the wake of the assassination 125 cities in 29 states experience uprisings. By April 11, 46 people are killed and 35,000 are injured in these confrontations.

In April Congress enacts the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which outlaws discrimination in the sale and rental of housing.

New York Senator and Presidential Candidate Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated on June 5 in Los Angeles.

On June 19, the Poor People's Campaign brings 50,000 demonstrators to Washington, D.C.

Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to win the Men's Singles competition in the U.S. Open.

San Francisco State University establishes the nation's first Black Studies Program in September.

In November Shirley Chisholm of New York is the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress.

1969—The Ford Foundation gives one million dollars to Morgan State University, Howard University, and Yale University to help prepare faculty members to teach courses in African American studies.

On September 22, the African American Studies Program begins offering courses at Harvard University.

Alfred Day Hershey, Ph.D. geneticist, becomes the first African American to share a Nobel Prize in Medicine when he is recognized for his work on the replication and genetic structure of viruses.

Robert Chrisman and Nathan Hare publish the first issue of The Black Scholar in November.

Moneta Sleet, Jr. of Ebony magazine, becomes the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in Photography.

On December 4, Chicago police kill Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clarke.

1970—Census of 1970
U.S. population: 204,765,770
Black population: 22,580,289 (11.1%)

Dr. Clifton Wharton, Jr., is named president of Michigan State University on January 2. He is the first African American to lead a major, predominately white university.

On February 18, Bobby Seale and six other six defendants (popularly known as the Chicago Seven) are acquitted of the charge of conspiring to disrupt the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

The first issue of Essence magazine appears in May.

On May 15, two students, Philip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, are killed by police in a confrontation with students at Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi.

On July 1, Kenneth Gibson becomes the first black mayor of an eastern city when he assumes the post in Newark, New Jersey.

The first issue of Black Enterprise magazine appears in August.

The San Rafael, California courthouse shooting on August 7 results in the death of Judge Harold Haley and three others including Jonathan Jackson, the younger brother of imprisoned Black Panther George Jackson. UCLA Philosophy Professor Angela Davis is implicated in the shooting and becomes the subject of a nationwide FBI-led search. Davis is captured and brought to trial. She is acquitted of all charges on June 4, 1972.

On October 12, Charles Gordone becomes the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his play, No Place to Be Somebody.

The Joint Center for Political Studies is established in Washington, D.C.

1971—On January 12th the Congressional Black Caucus is formed in Washington, D.C.

In July Captain Samuel L. Gravely, Jr was promoted to Rear Admiral. He was the first African American to achieve Flag Rank in the U.S. Navy.

On September 9, nearly 1,200 inmates seize control of half of the New York State Prison at Attica. Four days later 29 inmates and ten hostages are killed when state troopers and correctional officers suppress the uprising.

On December 18, Rev. Jesse Jackson founds People United to Save Humanity (PUSH) in Chicago.

1972—On March 10-12 several thousand African Americans gather in Gary, Indiana, for the first National Black Political Convention.

Over the summer New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm makes an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She is the first African American to campaign for the nomination.

In November Barbara Jordan of Houston and Andrew Young of Atlanta become the first black Congressional representatives elected from the U.S. South since 1898.

The first Haitian "boat people" arrive in south Florida.

1973—On May 29, Thomas Bradley is elected the first black mayor of Los Angeles in the modern era.

The National Black Feminist Organization is established by Elizabeth Holmes Norton.

Marion Wright Edelman creates the Children's Defense Fund.

On October 16, Maynard H. Jackson, Jr. is elected the first black mayor of Atlanta.

On Nov. 6, Coleman Young is elected the first black mayor of Detroit.

1974—On April 8, Henry "Hank" Aaron hits his 715th home run to become the all-time leader in home runs in major league baseball.

On June 21, U.S. District Judge W. Arthur Garrity initiates a busing program, involving several thousand students, designed to desegregate the public schools of Boston.

The largest single gift to date from a black organization is the $132,000 given by the Links, Inc., to the United Negro College Fund on July 1.

On October 30, Muhammad Ali defeats George Foreman in Kinshasa, Zaire to regain the world heavyweight championship.

On November 5, George Brown and Mervyn Dymally are elected Lieutenant Governors of Colorado and California respectively. They are the first African Americans to hold these posts in the 20th century.

1975—The Morehouse School of Medicine (Atlanta) becomes the only black medical school established in the United States in the 20th Century. The first dean and president of Morehouse School of Medicine is Dr. Louis Sullivan who later becomes the U.S. Surgeon General.

Wallace D. Muhammad assumes control of the Nation of Islam after the death of his father, Elijah Muhammad. He changes the organization's direction and its name to the World Community of al-Islam.

Arthur Ashe becomes the first African American to wins the British Men's Singles at Wimbledon.

General Daniel "Chappie" James of the Air Force becomes the first African American four star general.

The first black owned television station, WGPR, begins broadcasting in Detroit.

On October 12, Frank Robinson becomes the first black Major League Baseball manager when he takes over the Cleveland Indians.

1976—The United States Naval Academy at Annapolis admits women for the first time in June. Janie L. Mines becomes the first African American women cadet to enter. She graduates in 1980.

College and university enrollment for African American students rises sharply from 282,000 in 1966 to 1,062,000 in 1976.

1977—In January, Patricia Harris is appointed by President Jimmy Carter to head Housing and Urban Development. She becomes the first African American woman to hold a cabinet position.

In January, Congressman Andrew Young is appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. He is the first African American to hold that post.

The eighth and final night for the miniseries based on Alex Haley's Roots is shown on February 3. This final episode achieves the highest ratings to that point for a single television program.

In September, Randall Robinson founds TransAfrica, a lobbying group for Africa, in Washington, D.C.

1978—Minister Louis Farrakhan breaks with the World Community of al-Islam and becomes the leader of the revived Nation of Islam.

On June 28, the U.S. Supreme Court in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke narrowly uphold affirmative action as a legal strategy for addressing past discrimination.

On September 15, Muhammad Ali becomes the first boxer to win the heavyweight championship three times when he defeats Leon Spinks at the Superdome in New Orleans.

1979—The Sugar Hill Gang records "Rapper's Delight" in Harlem.

Franklin Thomas is named president of the Ford Foundation. He is the first African American to head a major philanthropic foundation.

Frank E. Petersen, Jr. becomes the first African American to earn the rank of General in the United States Marines.

In September Hazel W. Johnson becomes the first African American woman to be promoted to the rank of General in the United States Army.

Richard Arrington, Jr .is elected the first African American mayor of Birmingham, Alabama.

The Nobel Prize in Economics goes to Arthur Lewis of Princeton University.

1980—Census of 1980
U.S. population: 226,504,825
Black population: 26,482,349 (11.8%)

In January Willie Lewis Brown, Jr. becomes the first African American Speaker in a state legislature when he is selected for the post in the California Assembly. Brown holds the Speakership until 1995 when he is elected Mayor of San Francisco.

On May 17-18 rioting breaks out in Liberty City, Florida (near Miami) after police officers are acquitted for killing an unarmed black man. The riot which generates 15 deaths is the worst in the nation since Detroit in 1967.

Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters wins the American Book Award.

Robert L. Johnson begins operation of Black Entertainment Television (BET) out of Washington, D.C.

1982—The struggle of Rev. Ben Chavis and his followers to block a toxic waste dump in Warren County, North Carolina launches a national campaign against environmental racism.

Bryant Gumbel is named anchor of The Today Show, becoming the first African American to hold the post on a major network.

1983—On April 12, Harold Washington is elected the first black mayor of Chicago.

On August 30, Guion (Guy) S. Bluford, Jr., a crew member on the Challenger, becomes the first African American astronaut to make a space flight.

Vanessa Williams becomes the first African American crowned Miss America on September 18 in Atlantic City. In July 1984 she relinquishes her crown when nude photos of her appear in Penthouse magazine.

On November 2, President Ronald Reagan signs a bill establishing January 20 as a federal holiday in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Alice Walker's The Color Purple wins the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

1984—In January Rev. Jesse Jackson travels to Syria to negotiate the release of U.S. Air Force pilot Robert Goodman who had been shot down over that country. Jackson returns to the U.S. with the freed pilot.

Rev. Jesse Jackson wins approximately one fourth of the votes cast in the Democratic primaries and caucuses and about one eighth of the convention delegates in a losing bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In August Carl Lewis wins four Gold Medals at the Olympics in Los Angeles, matching the record set by Jesse Owens in 1936.

In September The Cosby Show makes its television debut. The show runs for eight seasons and will become the most successful series in television history featuring a mostly African American cast.

Russell Simmons forms Def Jam Records in Harlem.

1985—In May, Philadelphia's African American mayor, Wilson Goode, orders the Philadelphia police to bomb the headquarters of MOVE, a local black nationalist organization. The bombing leaves 11 people dead and 250 homeless.

1986—On January 20, the first national Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday is celebrated.

On January 28, Dr. Ronald McNair and six other crew members die when the space shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Oprah Winfrey Show becomes nationally syndicated.

Spike Lee releases his first feature film, She's Gotta Have It, initiating a new wave of interest in black films and African American filmmakers.

1987—Rita Dove wins the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

On August 6, Reginald Lewis orchestrates the leveraged buyout of Beatrice Foods to become the first African American CEO of a billion dollar corporation.

Neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson makes medical history when he leads a seventy-member surgical team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in a 22 hour operation separating Siamese twins (the Binder twins) joined at the cranium.

On October 28, Brigadier General Fred A. Gordon is appointed Commandant of the Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

1988—In his second try for the Democratic Presidential nomination Jesse L. Jackson receives 1,218 delegate votes at the Democratic National Convention on July 20. The number needed for the nomination, which goes to Michael Dukakis, was 2,082.

In September, Temple University offers the first Ph.D. in African American Studies.

On November 4, Comedian Bill Cosby announces his gift of $20 million to Spelman College. This is the largest donation ever made by a black American to a college or university.

1989—On January 29, Barbara Harris is elected the first woman bishop of the Episcopal Church.

On February 7, Ronald H. Brown is elected chair of the Democratic National Committee, becoming the first African American to head one of the two major political parties.

In March Frederick Drew Gregory becomes the first African American to command a space shuttle when he leads the crew of the Discovery..

Houston, Texas Congressman George Thomas "Mickey" Leland is killed in a plane crash near Gambela, Ethiopia on August 7.

On August 10, General Colin L. Powell is named chair of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first African American to hold the post.

On November 7, L. Douglas Wilder wins the governorship of Virginia, making him the first African American to be popularly elected to that office. On the same day David Dinkins and Norm Rice are the first African Americans elected as mayors of New York and Seattle respectively.

1990—Census of 1990
U.S. population: 248,709,878
Black population: 29,986,060 (12%)

On February 11, Nelson Mandela, South African Black Nationalist, is freed after 27 years in prison.

August Wilson wins a Pulitzer Prize for the play The Piano Lesson.

In November Sharon Pratt Kelly is elected mayor of Washington, D.C. She becomes the first African American woman to lead a large American city.

1991—On January 15, Roland Burris becomes the first black attorney general of Illinois.

On March 3, Los Angeles police use force to arrest Rodney King after a San Fernando Valley traffic stop. The beating of King is captured on videotape and broadcast widely prompting, an investigation and subsequent trial of three officers.

On June 18, Wellington Webb becomes the first African American mayor of Denver, Colorado.

On October 23, Federal Judge Clarence Thomas, nominated by President George H.W. Bush, is confirmed by the U.S. Senate and takes his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Julie Dash releases Daughters of the Dust, the first feature film by an African American woman.

1992—On April 29, a Simi Valley, California jury acquits the three officers accused of beating Rodney King. The verdict triggers a three day uprising in Los Angeles that results in over 50 people killed, over 2,000 injured and 8,000 arrested.

On September 12, Dr. Mae Carol Jemison becomes the first African American woman in space when she travels on board the space shuttle Endeavor.

On November 3, Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois becomes the first African American woman elected to the United States Senate.

1993—M. Joycelyn Elders becomes the first African American and the first woman to be named United States Surgeon General on September 7.

On October 7, Toni Morrison becomes the first black American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. The work honored is her novel Beloved.

1994—On June 12, O.J. Simpson's former wife, Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman are found stabbed to death. O.J. Simpson emerges as the leading suspect and is subsequently arrested on June 17 after a two hour low speed pursuit of Simpson and his friend Al Cowlings that is seen on television by an estimated 95 million people.

1995—On October 3, after an eight month televised trial, O.J. Simpson is acquitted of the charges of murder in the deaths of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

The Million Man March organized by Minister Louis Farrakhan is held in Washington, D.C. on October 17.

Dr. Helene Doris Gayle becomes the first woman and the first African American Director of the National Center for HIV, STD, and TB Prevention for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

1996—Commerce Secretary Ron Brown is killed in a plane crash near Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 3.

On April 9, George Walker becomes the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music. The winning composition, "Lilies for Soprano or Tenor and Orchestra," is based on a poem by Walt Whitman.

In May, President Bill Clinton signs into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which replaces Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) with state block grants. It also substantially cuts programs designed to help the poor.

On November 5, California voters pass Proposition 209 which outlaws affirmative action throughout the state.

1997—On April 13, golfer Tiger Woods wins the Master's Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. At 21 he is the youngest golfer ever to win the title. He is also the first African American to hold the title.

On October 25 African American women participate in the Million Woman March in Philadelphia, focusing on health care, education, and self-help.

1999—On January 13, after thirteen seasons and six NBA championships, professional basketball star Michael Jordan retires from the game as a player.

On September 10 Serena Williams wins the U.S. Open Women's Singles Tennis Championship.

2000—Census of 2000
U.S. population: 281,421,906
Black population: 34,658,190 (12.3%)

Rev. Vashti M. McKenzie becomes the first woman bishop of the African Methodist Zion Church.

2001—In January President-elect George Bush nominates Colin Powell to be Secretary of State. Condoleezza Rice takes the position of National Security Advisor for the Bush administration. This is the first time these either of these posts is held by an African American.

2002—In March, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington win Oscars for best actress and best actor for their portrayals in Monster's Ball and Training Day respectively.

2004—On November 2, Barack Obama is elected to the U.S. Senate from Illinois. He becomes the second African American elected to the Senate from that state, and only the fifth black U.S. Senator in history.

2005—In January Condoleezza Rice becomes the Secretary of State. She is the first African American woman to hold the post.

On August 30, Hurricane Katrina hits the Gulf Coast, taking an estimated 1,700 lives. The vast majority of the deaths are in Louisiana including heavily African American New Orleans.