African American History Timelines

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Pennsylvania abolishes slavery, with the other states north of the Mason Dixon Line doing the same by the turn of the century=1780 Constitutional Convention agrees that no Constitutional amendment concerning slavery will be allowed for 20 years=1787 Importing slaves into the United States banned, a decision which had been deferred for 20 years when the Constitution was written in 1787=1808 Missouri Compromise attempts to balance the number of free states and slave states=1820 Former escaped slave Frederick Douglass' best-selling autobiography draws attention to and inspires the anti-slavery movement=1845 Fugitive Slave Act outlaws aid to runaway slaves and requires their arrest and return even in free states=1850 Dred Scott Decision, Supreme Court denies citizenship to any slave or ex-slave=1857 Eleven slave states secede from the Union, forming the Confederate States of America and leading to the Civil War=1861 Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln frees slaves in the rebelling states of the Confederacy=1863 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishes slavery, extending the Emancipation Proclamation which applied only to the Confederacy=1865 14th Amendment to the Constitution nullifies the Dred Scott Decision, recognizing the citizenship and rights of ex-slaves=1868 15th Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the denial of voting rights based on race or previous slavery=1870 Booker T. Washington, Tuskegee Institute founding president, supports accepting discrimination in exchange for education and legal protection=1895 Plessy vs. Ferguson, Supreme Court upholds "separate but equal" racial segregation=1896 Booker T. Washington, influential founder of Tuskegee Institute, becomes first African American invited to the White House=1901 W. E. B. DuBois and the Niagara Movement oppose Booker T. Washington's Atlanta Compromise, calling for equal civil rights=1905 NAACP, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, founded by W. E. B. DuBois and others to fight racial discrimination=1909 Jesse Owens wins 4 Gold Medals at the Berlin Olympics, dramatically refuting Hitler's idea of Aryan superiority=1936 Jackie Robinson breaks major league baseball's color barrier when he joins the Brooklyn Dodgers=1947 President Truman's executive order ends official segregation in the U. S. military=1948 In Brown vs. Board of Education, brought by the NAACP, Supreme Court rules "separate but equal" school segregation violates the 14th Amendment=1954 Rosa Parks sparks Birmingham Bus Boycott by refusing to obey the segregated transit rules=1955 Arkansas Governor prevents black students from entering segregated schools. After federal action, schools closed to avoid integration=1957 The Greensboro 4 begin a series of non-violent sit-ins at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter, later leading to an effective boycott=1960 James Farmer and CORE lead the first Freedom Ride challenging segregation on interstate bus systems=1961 Martin Luther King delivers his "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington civil rights rally=1963 Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, banning racial discrimination in education, employment and public facilities=1964 The Voting Rights Act reinforces the 15th Amendment's protection of voting rights, which had been eroded by taxes and other barriers=1965 Thurgood Marshall, former NAACP counsel and U. S. Solicitor General, becomes first African American Supreme Court Justice=1967 Congress passes the Fair Housing Act, prohibiting discrimination in housing based on race, religion or national origin=1968 Shirley Chisolm, the first African American Congresswoman in 1968, becomes the first African American to run for a major party presidential nomination=1972 Andrew Young is appointed Ambassador to the United Nations, the first African-American to serve in the position=1977 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is first celebrated as a national holiday=1986 Colin Powell becomes first African American Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff=1989 Carol Moseley Braun becomes the first African American woman U. S. Senator, serving her term as the only African American in the Senate=1992 Colin Powell becomes first African American Secretary of State=2001 Barack Obama becomes the first African American President of the United States=2008 The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. is opened to the public=2011