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United States Outlaws American Participation in the African Slave Trade

George Henry White (North Carolina Republican), the last black to serve in the House of Representatives in the 19th century, leaves office.


Louisiana Africans Revolt

Africans revolt in Louisiana.


Letters from a Man of Colour, on a Late Bill before the Senate of Pennsylvania,

James Forten Letters From a Man of Colour, on a Late Bill before the Senate of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia black businessman and community leader James Forten publishes, A Series of Letters by a Man of Color, a pamphlet to protest a proposed law requiring the registration of blacks coming into the state.


First All-Black Denomination Organized

The African Methodist Episcopal Church, the first all-black religious denomination in the United States, was formally organized, and Richard Allen was named its first bishop.

American Colonization Society Founded

The American Colonization Society was founded to transport freeborn blacks and emancipated slaves to Africa, leading to the creation of a colony that became the Republic of Liberia in 1847.


First Seminole War

Fugitive slaves in Florida and Native Americans fight together against the forces of Andrew Jackson in the First Seminole War.

Georgia Bans Slave Trade

Georgia officially bans the slave trade.


U.S. Annexes East Florida

The U.S. annexes East Florida, which previously served as a refuge for runaway slaves.

U.S. law Declares Slave Trading Capital Offense

U.S. law declares slave trading to be a capital offense.

US Not Allowed to Pursue Escaped Slaves in Canada

Canada denies the American government the right to pursue runaway slaves within its borders.

Restraints on Slave Trade Removed

Virginia and North Carolina remove restraints on interstate slave trade.

Virginia Outlaws Teaching Blacks

Virginia outlaws blacks and mulattoes, whether free or slave, from meeting for the purposes of education and forbids teaching blacks to read and write.

Friends Accompany Customs Inspectors

Federal law passed requiring the inspection of passenger conditions on ships is used by Quakers to monitor conditions in the slave trade at the Baltimore (Maryland) Port. Society of Friends members accompany federal Customs inspectors.


Missouri Becomes Slave State

Missouri Compromise allows Missouri to become a slave state, establishes Maine as a free state, and bans slavery in the territory west of Missouri.

South Carolina Bans Anti-slavery Speech

South Carolina announces penalties for introducing any written anti-slavery material into the state.

South Carolina Requires Slaves to Wear ID Tags

In Charleston, South Carolina, slaves are required to wear distinctive identification tags. This law is later extended to free blacks in the city as well.

First Organized Emigration of US Blacks to Africa

The first organized emigration of U.S. blacks back to Africa from New York to Sierra Leon


The Genius of Universal Emancipation Established

New Jersey Quaker born Benjamin Lundy establishes the first American anti-slavery newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation, in Mt. Pleasant, Ohio. From September 1829 until March 1830, William Lloyd Garrison assists the paper. In 1836-1838 Lundy establishes and another anti-slavery weekly in Philadelphia, The National Enquirer. This paper becomes The Pennsylvania Freeman with John Greenleaf Whittier as one of its later editors.


Liberia Founded

Liberia is founded as a colony for blacks fleeing America.

Denmark Vesey Plans Slave Revolt

Denmark Vesey, an enslaved African American carpenter who had purchased his freedom, plans a slave revolt with the intent to lay siege on Charleston, South Carolina. The plot is discovered, and Vesey and 34 co-conspirators are hanged. Others are sold out of the state.

Philadelphia Opens Segregated Public Schools

Segregated public schools for blacks open in Philadelphia.


First Black College Graduate in the U.S.

Alexander Lucius Twilight graduates from Middlebury College, making him the first black college graduate in the U.S.


Pennsylvania Passes Anti-kidnapping Law

Pennsylvania passes an anti-kidnapping law to protect free blacks.


Tennessee Bans Slave Trade

Tennessee officially bans slave trading.

Texas Requires Some Slaves be Freed

Texas requires that one tenth of the slaves inherited by any estate be freed.

Texas Allows Individual Slave Sales

Texas permits slaves to be sold between individuals.

Freedom Journal Established

John Russwurm and Samuel Cornish establish the first African American newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, in New York. The paper circulates in 11 states, the District of Columbia, Haiti, Europe, and Canada.

Sarah Mapps Douglas Establishes School

Sarah Mapps Douglass, a black educator and contributor to The Anglo African, an early black paper, establishes a school for black children in Philadelphia. Mapps becomes an important leader in the Female Anti-Slavery Society and is a life-long friend of Angelina and Sarah Grimke. After the Civil War, she becomes a leader in the Pennsylvania Branch of the American Freedman’s Aid Commission, which worked to protect and provide services to the former enslaved in the South.


Walker Publishes Slavery Condemnation

In Boston, Massachusetts, David Walker publishes his widely read vociferous condemnation of slavery, An appeal to the colored citizens of the world, and Walker’s Appeal in Four Articles. Walker’s Appeal, arguably the most radical of all anti-slavery documents, causes a great stir with its call for slaves to revolt against their masters and its protest against colonization.

Mexico Abolishes Slavery

Mexico abolishes slavery and becomes a refuge for American fugitive slaves.


Slave Population Exceeds Two Million

The slave population in the U.S. numbers more than two million, making the ratio of free to enslaved Americans approximately 5.5:1.

Virginia Legislature Launches Debate

Virginia legislature launches an intense debate on abolishing slavery.

Canada Becomes Important Refuge for Fugitive Slaves

In response to Ohio’s Black Laws restricting African American freedom, blacks migrate north to establish free black colonies in Canada, which becomes an important refuge for fugitive slaves.

First Negro Convention

The first National Negro Convention convenes in Philadelphia.


Convention of People of Color

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hosts the 1st annual Convention of People of Color.

Underground Railroad Given Name

The Underground Railroad is given its name.

The Liberator Founded

William Lloyd Garrison founds The Liberator, the most famous anti-slavery newspaper.

Anti-Slavery Society Founded

The New England Anti-Slavery Society is founded.

Maria Stewart Speaks Out Against Slavery

Maria W. Stewart, a free black woman in Boston, Massachusetts, speaks out against slavery, becoming the first African-American woman to deliver a public lecture in the U.S.

Debates in Virginia Mark Beginning of Movement

Debates in Virginia concerning emancipation mark the beginning of the last antebellum movement toward abolition in the South.

North Carolina Prohibits Educating Slaves

North Carolina passes a law enforcing prohibition against teaching slaves to read and write as well as against providing slaves with reading materials like books or pamphlets.

Nat Turner Leads Slave Uprising

Nat Turner, an enslaved African American preacher, leads the most significant slave uprising in American history. He and his band of followers launch a short, bloody, rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. The militia quells the rebellion, and Turner is eventually hanged. As a consequence, Virginia institutes much stricter slave laws.

Virginia Prohibits Religious Services

Virginia passes a law enforcing prohibitions against slaves congregating for religious service at night, regardless of whether black or white preachers hold those services.


Alabama Removes Interstate Slave Trade Restraints

Alabama removes restraints on interstate slave trade.

Kentucky Forbids Buying and Importing Slaves

Kentucky forbids residents from buying and importing slaves.


Britain Abolishes Slavery

Britain abolishes slavery in all of its colonies.

1st American Anti-Slavery Society Convention

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, hosts the 1st American Anti-Slavery Society Convention.


Louisiana Removes Slave Trade Restraints

Louisiana removes restraints on the interstate slave trade.

American Antislavery Society Organized

American Antislavery Society, led by William Lloyd Garrison, is organized in Philadelphia. For the next three decades, the Society campaigns that slavery is illegal under natural law, and sees the Constitution as a covenant with hell.

Britain Abolishes Slavery in Colonies

August 1 becomes another black American and abolitionist holiday when Britain abolishes slavery in its colonies.

Anti-abolition Riots

Anti-abolition riots break out in major cities across the Northeast.


Second Seminole War

In the Second Seminole War, blacks again fight alongside Native Americans in opposition to U.S. forces.

North and South Carolina Continue to Try and Suppress Anti-slavery Speech

Both North and South Carolina make formal requests to other states to suppress abolition societies and anti-slavery literature.

Anti-slavery Societies Orgainized

Female antislavery societies are organized in Boston and Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society was an integrated group of white and black middle class women, led by Lucretia Mott, Harriett Forten Purvis, and Grace Bustill Douglass.

Abolitionists Lobby Congress

Abolitionists launch a campaign flooding Congress with antislavery petitions.


Texas Wins Independence From Mexico

Texas wins independence from Mexico and legalizes slavery. Free blacks and mulattos are forbidden from entering the state.

States Request Suppression of Abolition

Virginia, Georgia, and Alabama request that other states suppress abolitionist activities.

U.S. House of Representatives adopts a Gag Rule

Faced with a deluge of abolitionist petitions, the U.S. House of Representatives adopts a Gag Rule by which abolitionist materials are automatically tabled. The rule is renewed numerous times.


National Anti-Slavery Society Convention

New York City hosts the first National Anti-Slavery Society Convention.

Convention of the Anti-Slavery Society of American Women

New York City hosts the first Convention of the Anti-Slavery Society of American Women, an event attended by both black and white women.

Blacks Lose Right to Vote

Blacks in Pennsylvania and Mississippi lose the right to vote. In New York, they petition for continued voting rights.

Vigilance Committee Organized

Philadelphia blacks, under the leadership of well-to-do Robert Purvis, organize the Vigilance Committee to aid and assist fugitive slaves. Purvis’ wife, Harriett Forten Purvis, the daughter of successful black businessman James Forten, leads the Female Vigilant Society. By his contemporaries, Robert Purvis is referred to as the President of the Underground Railroad.

Antislavery Convention of American Women

First gathering of the Antislavery Convention of American Women, an inter-racial association of various female antislavery groups, becomes the first independent women’s political organization.

Founding of the Institute for Colored Youth

Founding of the Institute for Colored Youth, which later became Cheyney University, one of the earliest historically black colleges in the United States.


Philly Plagued With Anti-Black Violence

Philadelphia is plagued with anti-black and anti-abolitionist violence, particularly from Philadelphia white workers who feared that they have to compete with freed slaves for jobs. Second meeting of the Antislavery Convention of American Women, gathered in Philadelphia at the newly built Pennsylvania Hall, is attacked by a mob. The mob burns down the hall, as well as sets a shelter for black orphans on fire and damages a black church.

Pennsylvania Blacks Disfranchised

Pennsylvania blacks are disfranchised in the revised state Constitution.

Fredrick Douglass Runs Away From Slavery

A Maryland slave named Fred runs away and later becomes Frederick Douglass.

Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women Takes Place

The second Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women takes place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Proslavery mobs riot in response.

Diligente Captured

The Portuguese slave ship Diligente, which was engaged in the illegal slave trade, was captured by a British ship.


Liberty Party Holds First National Convention

In Albany, New York, a committed political action group called the Liberty Party holds its first National Convention in the name of abolition.

Africans Board Amistad and Commit Mutiny

Africans aboard the Spanish slave ship, Amistad, commit mutiny. When the ship lands off the coast of Long Island, the slaves plea for freedom in court.

Liberty Party Promotes Anti-Slavery Action

Abolitionists form the Liberty Party to promote political action against slavery.

Pope Condemns Slave Trade

Pope Gregory XVI condemned slavery and the slave trade.


Anti-slavery Society Splits Over Women's Rights

American Anti-Slavery Society splits over the issue of the public involvement of women. Dissidents opposed to women having a formal role form the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.

Clarkson Chairs Convention in London

Aged and venerable abolitionist Thomas Clarkson chairs the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London.

The Mystery Published

Martin Delany publishes The Mystery, the first Black-owned newspaper west of the Alleghenies and he later serves as co-editor of the Rochester North Star with Frederick Douglass.

Texas Forbids Unauthorized Trading

Texas forbids unauthorized trading with slaves and prohibits slaves from carrying weapons without written permission.

South Carolina Enacts Slave Code

South Carolina enacts a Black Code by which slaves are denied the rights to assemble, produce food, earn money, learn to read, and to possess any clothing but low-quality garments.


Slaves From Mutinous Ship Freed

The U.S. Supreme Court declares that the mutinous Africans from the slave ship Amistad are now free.

Texas Urges Citizens to Apprehend Runaway Slaves

Texas gives its citizens the right and responsibility to apprehend runaway slaves and turn them over to the law so that they may be returned to their owners or sold at auction.

Africans Revolt Aboard Creole

Africans revolt aboard the ship Creole and flee to Bahamas.


Prigg v. Pennsylvania

In the case of Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the 1793 Fugitive Slave law is constitutional, while state personal liberty laws make unconstitutional demands on slave owners. Enforcement of the Fugitive Slave law is declared the federal government’s responsibility, not the states.

Georgia Declares Free Blacks Never Citizens

The Georgia legislature declares that it will never recognize free blacks as citizens.

Mob of Angry Whites Attack Parade

An angry mob of whites in Philadelphia attacks a black temperance parade celebrating West Indian Emancipation Day. A riot ensues with mayhem lasting three days and resulting in numerous injuries to blacks, who are dragged from their homes and beaten and several homes, an abolitionist meeting place, and a church are set afire.


New York, Vermont, and Ohio Pass Liberty Laws

In reaction to the decision in Prigg v. Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and Ohio pass personal liberty laws.


Connecticut Passes Liberty Law

Connecticut passes a personal liberty law.

North Carolina Denies Citizenship

North Carolina denies citizenship to free blacks.

Oregon Prohibits Slavery

Oregon prohibits slavery.


Texas Enters Union as Slave State

Texas enters the Union as a slave state.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave is published in Boston.


War With Mexico

War with Mexico adds significant western territory to the United States and opens a new arena in the fight to check the spread of slavery.

Missouri Engages in Interstate Slave Trade

Missouri removes restraints on interstate slave trade.

Texas Creates Slave Patrol

Texas creates a system for patrolling slaves.

Democratic Representative Tries to Ban Slavery

The Wilmot Proviso, introduced by Democratic representative David Wilmot of Pennsylvania, attempts to ban slavery in territory gained in the Mexican War. The proviso is blocked by Southerners, but continues to inflame the debate over slavery.


Pennsylvania Passes Personal Liberty Law

Pennsylvania passes a personal liberty law.

Douglass Founds North Star

Frederick Douglass breaks with William Lloyd Garrison’s abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator, to found a black abolitionist paper called The North Star.


Free Soil Party Organized

Anti-slavery groups organize the Free Soil Party.

First Women's Rights Convention

Seneca Falls, New York, hosts the first Women’s Rights Convention. Women’s rights activists, such as Amy Post, Angelina Grimke, and Susan B. Anthony, become outspoken opponents of slavery.

Rhode Island Passes Personal Liberty Laws

Rhode Island passes a personal liberty law.

Connecticut Law Prohibits Slavery

Connecticut law prohibits slavery entirely.

South Carolina Allows Interstate Slave Trade

South Carolina removes restraints on interstates slave trade.

Free Soil Party Tries to Prevent Slavery Spread

Free Soil Party is organized to stop the spread of slavery into the Western territories.

Slavery Banned in French Territories

Slavery is abolished in all French territories.


Harriet Tubman Escapes Slavery

Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery. She becomes a major conductor on the Underground Railroad, as well as an advocate for Women’s Rights.

Liberia Recognized by Britain

Liberia is recognized as a sovereign state by Britain. Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the son of free Virginian blacks, becomes the first president.

Virginia Permits Emancipation by Will or Deed

Virginia passes a law permitting the emancipation of any slave by will or deed.

Kentucky Embraces Interstate Slave Trade

Kentucky removes restraints on interstate slave trade.

White Mobs Attack in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania

Blacks in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, protect themselves against attacks by white mobs.


Seminoles and Blacks in Texas Flee to Mexico

Approximately 300 Seminoles and blacks in Texas head to Mexico, where enslavement is prohibited.

Compromise of 1850

The Compromise of 1850 admits California to the Union as a free state, allows the slave states of New Mexico and Utah to be decided by popular sovereignty, and bans slave trade in D.C.

Fugitive Slave Law Threatens Rights of Free Blacks

A second fugitive slave law, enforced by the federal government, strengthens the rights of slave owners and threatens the rights of free blacks. Many states pass personal liberty laws in response.

Maryland Embraces Interstate Slave Trade

Maryland removes restraints on interstate slave trade.

Virginia Demands Emancipated Slaves Leave State

Virginia demands that emancipated slaves leave the state within a year and forbids the legislature from freeing any slave.


Sojourner Truth Speaks at Women's Convention

Sojourner Truth gives her famous Ain’t I a Woman speech at the Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.

Abolitionists Found Innocent of Treason and Conspiracy

Federal marshals and Maryland slave hunters seek out suspected fugitive slaves in Christiana (Lancaster County), PA. In the ensuing struggle with black and white abolitionists, one of the attackers is killed, another is seriously wounded, and the fugitives all successfully escape. Thirty-six black men and five white men are charged with treason and conspiracy under the federal 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and brought to trial in federal court at Independence Hall in Philadelphia in which they were found innocent in a jury trial.


Uncle Tom's Cabin Published

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s influential abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin is published.

Missouri Compromise Repealed

Congress repeals the Missouri Compromise, opening western territories to slavery and setting the stage for a bloody struggle between pro and anti-slavery forces in Kansas Territory.


Clotel Published

William Wells Brown’s Clotel is published in London by an African-American.


Kansas-Nebraska Act

The Kansas-Nebraska Act creates sovereignty to decide the slave status of each. It also repeals the anti-slavery clause of the Missouri Compromise and renews tensions between anti- and pro-slavery factions.

Ashmun Institute Chartered

Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) is chartered in April 1854 as Ashmun Institute. It becomes a higher education institution providing an education in the arts and sciences for male youth of African descent. Thurgood Marshall and Langston Hughes are among its esteemed alumni.

Martin Delany Leads National Emigration Convention

Martin Delany leads 145 participants in the 4-day National Emigration Convention in Cleveland, OH. His arguments appeal to some educated and successful northern freed blacks and are defiantly opposite the position held by Frederick Douglass and others. In 1865 Major Delany becomes the first black commissioned as a line field officer in the U.S. Army.

Connecticut, Maine and Mississippi Pass Personal Liberty Laws

Connecticut, Maine, and Mississippi pass personal liberty laws. Massachusetts and Rhode Island renew personal liberty laws first enacted in the 1840s.


Georgia and Tennessee Embrace Interstate Slave Trade

Georgia and Tennessee remove restraints on interstate slave trade.

Langston Elected

John Mercer Langston is elected to political office in Ohio, making him the first black to serve in the U.S. government.

Still and Williamson Intercept Slave Trade

With the assistance of others, William Still, a leader in the Philadelphia Underground Railroad, and his white colleague Passmore Williamson, intercept slave owner John Weaver, his slave Jane Johnson and her two sons as they are leaving town. The two help Jane and her children leave their master for freedom.


Republican Party Forms

The Republican Party is formed out of the Free Soil Party.

Pro-slavery Groups Attack Lawrence Kansas

Pro-slavery groups in Kansas attack the free soil town of Lawrence. Radical abolitionist John Brown and his followers strike in retaliation, initiating a wave of violence and destruction, known as Bleeding Kansas.

Republican Party Holds First Convention

The Republican Party, newly formed from various groups opposing the extension of slavery, holds its first convention in Philadelphia.

Wilberforce University Founded

Wilberforce University, named for English statesman and abolitionist William Wilberforce, opens in Ohio as a private, coeducational institution affiliated with The African Methodist Episcopal Church. This is the first institution of higher education owned and operated by African Americans.

Massachusetts Senator Badly Beaten by South Carolina House Rep for Attacking Slavery in Speech

Senator Charles Sumner delivers a stinging speech in the U.S. Senate, “The Crime against Kansas,” in which he attacks slavery, the South, and singles out his Senate colleague, Andrew Butler of South Carolina, for criticism. In retaliation, Butler’s nephew, Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina, attacks Sumner with a cane while the Massachusetts senator is seated at his desk on the floor of the Senate. The injuries he sustains cause Sumner to be absent from the Senate for four years.


Dred Scott v. Sanford

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Dred Scott v. Sanford denies citizenship to all slaves, ex-slaves, and descendants of slaves and denies Congress the right to prohibit slavery in the territories.

New Hampshire Repeals Laws Against Blacks

New Hampshire declares that no one shall be denied citizenship on account of African descent and, along with Vermont, repeals laws against the enlistment of blacks in state militia.

Virginia Passes Comprehensive Slave Code

Richmond, Virginia, passes a comprehensive slave code that, among other stipulations, prohibits self-hiring by slaves, restricts blacks from entering certain parts of the city, specifies street etiquette, and forbids slaves from smoking, carrying canes, standing on the sidewalk, and using provocative language.

Ohio and Wisconsin Pass Personal Liberty Laws

Ohio and Wisconsin pass personal liberty laws.


Vermont Passes Personal Liberty Law

Vermont passes a personal liberty law and declares that no one shall be denied citizenship on account of African descent.

Kansas Enters Union as Free State

Kansas enters the Union as a free state.


First African American Novelist

Harriet E. Wilson, author of Our Nig, becomes the first African-American novelist published in the U.S.

White Workers in South Carolina Petition for Relief

White workers in South Carolina petition for relief against competition from slave and free black workers.

New Mexico Slave Code

New Mexico enacts a slave code.

Arizona Declares Free Blacks to be Slaves

Arizona declares that all free blacks in the territory will be considered slaves on the first day of the New Year.

Last Slave Ship Brings Slaves to Alabama

The last slave ship to bring slaves into the U.S. lands in Mobile Bay, Alabama.

John Brown Attempts Slave Revolt and is Executed

John Brown and 21 followers capture the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. (now West Virginia.), in an attempt to launch a slave revolt to free and arm slaves. His effort fails and he is executed.


Crittenden Compromise

Kentucky Senator John Crittenden proposes six amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The amendments, contained in the Crittenden Compromise, specifically addressed slavery.

Census Records Nearly 4 Million Enslaved

The British-operated slave trade across the Atlantic was one of the biggest businesses of the 18th century. Approximately 600,000 of 10 million African slaves made their way into the American colonies before the slave trade – not slavery – was banned by Congress in 1808.

By 1860, the US census recorded nearly 4 million enslaved black people (3,953,760) and 488,070 free – 13% of the population – in the country as the American-born population grew.

Abraham Lincoln Elected

Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States.

Arizona Passes Expulsion Act

Arizona passes an Expulsion Act, banishing all free blacks from the state.


Texas Prohibits Manumission

Texas prohibits manumission.

South Carolina Secedes

South Carolina secedes from the Union, followed by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas. Later in the year, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina also secede.

Union of Confederate States Forms

The Union of Confederate States is formed. Jefferson Davis is elected its president.

Harriet Jacobs Publishes Autobiography

Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the life of a slave girl is the first published autobiography of an African-American woman.

U.S. Civil War Begins

The Civil War begins in Charleston, South Carolina.

Black Volunteers Rejected

75,000 blacks volunteering for the U.S. army are rejected.

First Confiscation Act

Slaves seeking refuge with Northern forces are considered contraband of war. The First Confiscation Act is passed, declaring all property used in support of rebellion, including slaves, subject to capture.

Southern States Secede

Southern states secede and start Civil War between the free and the slave states.

Secretary of Navy Authorizes Slave Enlistment

The Secretary of the Navy authorizes enlistment of contrabands (slaves) taken in Confederate territories.


First Black Union Army Organizes

First black Union Army forces are organized in South Carolina.

Congress Incentivizes Emancipation

Congressional resolutions offer monetary incentives to states for emancipating slaves.

Congress Abolishes Slavery in Some Territories

Congress abolishes slavery in Washington, D.C., and the territories.

Lincoln Urges States to Adopt Emancipation

Lincoln urges the border states to adopt gradual, compensated emancipation and advocates the colonization of freed blacks.

Homestead Act

Lincoln signs the Homestead Act, which gives public land in the public domain to qualified private citizens, including black heads of house over 21 years old and single black women.

Second Confiscation Act

The Second Confiscation Act gives freedom to slaves of treasonous parties and supporters of the Confederate rebellion.

Militia Act

The Militia Act authorizes the President to employ all persons, including blacks, in military or naval service and gives enemy-owned slaves freedom in return for service to Union forces.

Southern States Use Slaves for Military Labor

Virginia, followed by other Southern states, authorizes the use of slaves to perform military labor.

South Carolina Slaves Take Confederate Ship

A group of South Carolina slaves, led by Robert Smalls, takes possession of The Planter, a Confederate ship, and delivers it to the Union army at Fort Sumpter.

South Carolina Allows Black Soldiers

South Carolina authorizes the recruitment of black soldiers.

First Black Regiment

The first black regiment with full War Department authorization is raised in South Carolina.

West Virginia Joins Union as Free State

West Virginia is admitted to the Union as a free state. Its constitution calls for gradual emancipation.

Utah Abolishes Slavery

Utah abolishes slavery.

Mary Jane Patterson Graduates Oberlin

In Ohio, Mary Jane Patterson receives a degree from Oberlin, becoming the first black woman to graduate from an American college.

Emancipation Proclamation

Emancipation Proclamation issued by U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.


Emancipation Proclamation

Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in areas of rebellion.

Lincoln Proposes Reconstruction Plan

Lincoln puts forth a reconstruction plan offering amnesty to white Southerners who take loyalty oaths and accept the abolition of slavery. State government can be formed in those states where at least 10 percent of voters comply with these terms.

54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry

The 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry is organized at Camp Meigs, Readville, Massachusetts. Between 178,000 and 200,000 black enlisted men and white officers serve under the Bureau of Colored Troops.

Bureau of Colored Troops Established

In Washington, D.C., the Federal War Department establishes the Bureau of Colored Troops.

Draft Riots Staged

In New York City and other Northern cities, whites’ stage draft riots.

Maryland Abolishes Slavery

Maryland state law abolishes slavery.


Fugitive Slave Law Repealed

Lincoln signs a repeal of the Fugitive Slave Law.

Wade-Davis Bill

Congress passes a new reconstruction plan called the Wade-Davis Bill. Unlike Lincoln’s plan, this stipulates that only those who swear never to have fought against the Union can participate in the reconstruction of state governments. In addition to requiring bans on slavery, the bill demands the disenfranchisement of Confederate leaders and the repudiation of Confederate debts. Lincoln refuses to sign the bill.

Equalization Bill

Black soldiers of the 54th Massachusetts (as well as those from other regiments) protest unequal compensation. A few months later, Congress passes the Equalization Bill, promising black Union soldiers equal pay.

State Governments Reconstructed

The Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee State governments are reconstructed under Lincoln’s 1863 plan. Congress, under the sway of Radical Republicans, recognizes neither these governments nor their representatives.

Some States Abolish Slavery

Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri abolish slavery.

New Orleans Tribune Begins Publication

In Louisiana, the New Orleans Tribune begins publication. It is one of the first African-American-run daily newspapers.

National Equal Rights League Convenes

The National Equal Rights League convenes in Syracuse, New York. Delegates are all prominent northern blacks, led by John Mercer Langston who later organized Howard University’s Law Department, and included Frederick Douglass and Octavius V. Catto. Working through state chapters, the League promotes an aggressive advocacy agenda to obtain civil rights for blacks. Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan are charged to take the lead. Philadelphia blacks, led by Catto, boycott to desegregate public transportation.


13th Amendment Proposed

Thirteenth amendment to the Constitution of the United States proposed. The amendment stated that:”Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

13th Amendment Ratified

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, outlawing slavery.

Reconstruction Era Begins

Reconstruction Era begins. It introduces a series of laws, codes, amendments, and acts. Although African Americans received U.S. citizenship with the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, America’s Indigenous peoples, aka Native Americans, were not U.S. citizens until the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

Confederates Pass Negro Slave Bill

At the recommendation of Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Congress signs and passes the Negro Soldier Bill, allowing slave enlistment.

General Lee Surrenders

General Lee surrenders to Union General Grant at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia.

Civil War Ends

The Civil War ends with a northern victory.

Lincoln's Last Public Address

President Lincoln speaks publicly about extending the franchise to black men, particularly “on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.”

Lincoln Assassinated

Lincoln is assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.

Andrew Johnson becomes President

Andrew Johnson becomes President and begins to implement his own Reconstruction Plan that does not require the franchise for black men in the former Confederate states.

Slavery Abolished in Tennessee

Tennessee abolishes slavery.

Mississippi Enacts Black Code

Mississippi enacts a Black Code.

Congress Refuses to Acknowledge States

Congress refuses to acknowledge state governments formed under Johnson’s reconstruction plan.

Congress Establishes Bureau of Refugees

Congress establishes the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (The Freedmen’s Bureau) to assist former slaves in the transition to freedom.

Southern Blacks Seek to Reunite Families

With their freedom, Southern blacks seek to reunite their families torn apart by slavery, as well as acquire education – particularly reading and writing. Many leave the South for the West and North.

Northern States Reject Referendums

Many northern states reject referendums to grant black men in their states the franchise.

Mississippi Enacts Black Codes

Mississippi becomes the first of the former Confederate states to enact Black Codes laws, which severely limited the rights and liberties of blacks. Other Southern states follow with similar legislation.

KKK Formed by Ex-confederates

The Ku Klux Klan is formed by ex-Confederates in Pulaski, Tennessee.

Freedmen's Bureau Established

The Freedmen’s Bureau is established in the War Department. The Bureau supervises all relief and educational activities relating to refugees and freedmen, including issuing rations, clothing and medicine. The Bureau also assumes custody of confiscated lands or property in the former Confederate States, Border States, District of Columbia, and Indian Territory.


Virginia Recognizes Legitimacy of African American Marriages

Virginia legally recognizes marriages between African Americans and grants children of those marriages legitimacy and inheritance rights.

Republicans Pass Civil Rights Bill

The Republican majority Congress passes a Civil Rights Bill to protect the rights of blacks. After repeated presidential vetoes, Congress overrides Johnson to enact the bill.

Sit In at Massachusetts Legislature

Two African Americans sit in the Massachusetts Legislature. It is the first time black representatives have participated in this branch of American government.

Congress Expands Freedmen's Bureau

Congress passes an act to expand the Freedmen’s Bureau. Johnson vetoes the act, but again Congress overrides his veto.

Johnson Meets with Delegation

Johnson meets with a delegation headed by Frederick Douglass to discuss the issue of black suffrage.

Army Creates Black Cavalry

The U.S. Army creates black cavalry and infantry regiments.

Emancipation Celebration

Nearly 15,000 people gather in the nation’s capital to celebrate Emancipation.

Confederate States Enact Black Code

The former Confederate States enact Black Code laws to counteract the thirteenth amendment.

Tennessee Ratifies Fourteenth Amendment

Congress votes to readmit Tennessee after its ratification of the fourteenth amendment.

Race Riots

Race riots take place in Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana.

Republicans Push to Extend Suffrage

Republicans efforts begin to extend suffrage in the District of Columbia. Initial attempts fail with President Johnson’s vetoes. Suffrage is finally granted in 1867.

Republicans Favor Increased Intervention in South

Congress passes the first civil rights act. President Johnson’s veto of the bill is overturned by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress, and the bill becomes law. Johnson’s attitude contributes to the growth of the Radical Republican movement. These Republicans favor increased intervention in the South and more aid to former slaves, and ultimately to Johnson’s impeachment.

Republicans Gain Veto-Proof Majority

Republicans gain veto-proof majorities in both the Senate and the House.

Fisk University Established

In Nashville, Tennessee, Fisk University is established for former slaves by the American Missionary Association. The school becomes the first black American college to receive a class “A” rating by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools in 1878. W.E. B. DuBois graduates from Fisk in 1888.


Congress Overrides Presidential Vetoes

Congress overrides Presidential vetoes to pass the first, second, and third Reconstruction Acts, ushering in the period known as Radical Reconstruction, during which the governments of all Southern States, except Tennessee, are declared invalid and the states are broken up into military districts overseen by federal troops.

Congress Gives Blacks Right to Vote

Congress gives blacks the right to vote in Washington, D.C.

Howard University Founded

Howard University, named after the head of the Freedmen’s Bureau, is founded in Washington, D.C.

Black Voters Push Republicans to Victory

The first election in the District of Columbia to include black voters results in a victory for the Republican ticket. Similar results are repeated in other areas of the country, where blacks are granted the franchise. These elections also produce new black political leaders.

Congress Grants Black Men Franchise in Nebraska and Colorado

Congress passes bills granting the franchise to black men in the territories of Nebraska and Colorado, over President Johnson’s veto.

Howard Becomes Premier Education Institution

Congress charters Howard University, named after General Oliver O. Howard, Commissioner of the Freeman Bureau and the college’s first president. Howard becomes a premier education institution in the black community and plays an important role in civil rights history. It is here that Thurgood Marshall earns his law degree.


14th Amendment Ratified

The fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified. It gives all native born and naturalized persons citizenship and gives blacks equal protection under the law.

Fourth Reconstruction Act Passes

Congress passes a fourth Reconstruction Act.

Johnson Impeached

President Johnson is impeached by the House of Representatives. He avoids removal from office by a narrow vote in the Senate.

States Readmitted to Union

South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia, followed by Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, and Louisiana, are readmitted to the Union and allowed representation in Congress.

Black Majority Elected in South Carolina

In South Carolina the first and only American legislature made up of a black majority is elected. The ratio of black to white representatives is 87:40.

African-American Representatives Expelled from Legislature

African-American representatives are expelled from the Georgia legislature. It takes them a year to gain re-admittance.

African Americans Killed in Massacre

In Louisiana, 200-300 African Americans are killed in the Opelousas Massacre.

Black Voters Granted Franchise

White voters in Iowa pass a referendum granting the franchise to black voters.

Ku Klux Klan Becomes Terrorist Organization

The Klu Klux Klan evolves into a hooded terrorist organization known to its members as The Invisible Empire of the South. An early influential Klan Grand Wizard is Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was a Confederate general during the Civil War.

Black Americans Not Truly Free, But Granted Right to Vote

Some experts have argued that Reconstruction laid the foundation for the organization of new segregated institutions, white supremacist ideologies, legal rationalizations, extra-legal violence and everyday racial terror – further widening the racial divide among blacks and whites. Others have pointed out that the end of the war left black Americans free but their status undetermined, with the passing of codes to prevent black people from being truly free. But eventually, under the 14th amendment, African American men were granted the right to vote.


National Convention of Colored Men

The National Convention of Colored Men meets in Washington, D.C., promoting suffrage for all black men and the education of former slaves. Advocacy and for rights continues through the Equal Rights Leagues.

Congress Approves Amendment

Congress approves an amendment to the Reconstruction bill for Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia, requiring those states to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment before being readmitted to Congress.

New York Ratifies the Fifteenth Amendment

New York becomes the first northern state to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment.

Black Men From Louisiana Elected to Congress

James Lewis, John Willis Menard, and Pinckney B.S. Pinchback, all black men from Louisiana, are elected to Congress and but are never seated.

Grant Elected President

General Ulysses S. Grant is elected President. Although allied with the Radical Republicans in Congress, he proves a weak leader for Reconstruction.

Tennessee Establishes Anti-Equality Government

Tennessee is the first of many Southern states to establish an all-white, Democratic Redeemer government sympathetic to the cause of the former Confederacy and against racial equality.

Supreme Court Rules Secession Illegal

In Texas v. White, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that secession is illegal.

First Black American Diplomat Elected

The first black American diplomat is elected as minister to Haiti.


Fifteenth Amendment Ratified

The fifteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified, securing the right to vote for black adult males.

First Enforcement Act Passes

Congress passes the First Enforcement Act to protect the rights of African Americans.

Rainey Elected

Joseph Hayne Rainey is the first black elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. Hiram Revels is the first black elected to the U.S. Senate. In all, twenty-two blacks are elected to Congress during Reconstruction.

African Americans Listed by Name on Census

For the first time, African Americans are listed by name in a U.S. census.

Whites Vote in Redeemer Governments

Whites in Virginia and North Carolina vote in Redeemer governments.

More States Readmitted to the Union

Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia are readmitted to the Union and are permitted to have representatives in Congress.

Pennsylvania Grants Franchise to Black Men

Pennsylvania, the home of the oldest and largest northern free black community at the time of the Civil War and a major center for the abolition movement, grants the franchise to black men after thirty-two years of disfranchisement.


Ku Klux Klan Act Passed

The Ku Klux Klan Act is passed, giving the federal government the right to mete out punishment where civil rights laws are not upheld and to use military force against anti-civil rights conspiracies.

Second Enforcement Act Passed

The Second Enforcement Act is passed to enforce rights granted to African Americans by the amended Constitution.

Grant Imposes Martial Law

In South Carolina, Grant imposes martial law and suspends the writ of habeas corpus.

Whites in Georgia Vote for Redeemer Government

Whites in Georgia vote in a Redeemer government.

Jubilee Singers Go on National Tour

The African-American Fisk Jubilee Singers go on national tour. The proceeds from the tour go toward the founding of Fisk University.

Equal Rights Leader Assassinated

National Equal Rights League leader, Octavius V. Catto, is assassinated by a white man attempting to discourage black voting in a key Philadelphia election. Catto’s funeral is the largest public funeral in Philadelphia since Lincoln’s and his death is mourned in black communities throughout the country.


Grant Wins Re-election

Grant wins re-election against a Democratic/liberal Republican opponent.

Freedmen's Bureau Abolished

The Freedmen’s Bureau is abolished.

Amnesty Act Removes Confederate Restrictions

The Amnesty Act removes most remaining restrictions on Confederate office-holding.


New York Tribune Charges Black Representatives with Corruption

The New York Tribune prints articles charging black representatives in South Carolina with corruption.

White League Kills African Americans

In Colfax, Louisiana, in an attempt to protect the Republican government, the primarily black state militia clashes with the White League, a group committed to all white government. Over 100 African Americans are killed.


Arkansas and Alabama Vote in Redeemer Governments

Arkansas and Alabama vote in Redeemer governments.

Democrats Win Control of Both Houses

Democrats win control of both houses of Congress for the first time since the antebellum period.

Whites Regain Majority Control in South Carolina

Whites regain majority control of the South Carolina legislature.


Civil Rights Act Passes

The last U.S. Congress of the 19th century with bi-racial Senate and House passes the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The law protects all Americans, regardless of race, in their access to public accommodations and facilities such as restaurants, theaters, trains and other public transportation, and grants the right to serve on juries. However, the law is not enforced, and the Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional in 1883.

Mississippi Votes in Redeemers

Whites in Mississippi vote in a Redeemer government and more than 20 African Americans are killed in the Clinton Massacre.


Hayes-Tilden Election - Most Divisive Until 2020

Both political parties participated in rampant fraud, something that is very rare today, but was pretty common in that time. Republicans allowed repeat votes, and threw away Democratic ballots, and Democrats intimidated Black voters to keep them from the polls. The eventual compromise in 1877 was disastrous for Blacks, with consequences extending to the present day.


Rutherford B. Hayes Becomes President

Republican Rutherford B. Hayes becomes president and the last federal troops withdraw from the South, marking the end of Reconstruction.

More Redeemer Governments Elected

Whites in Florida and Louisiana vote in Redeemer governments.


Exoduster Movement Begins

The relocation of former slaves to Kansas, called the Exoduster Movement begins. Within the year, 30,000 blacks migrate to Kansas.


Tennessee Passes First Jim Crow Laws

Tennessee passes the first of its Jim Crow laws, segregating the state railroad. Other states follow the lead and legalize segregation.

Mississippi Republican Ends Senate Term

Blanche K Bruce, Mississippi Republican, ends his term in the U.S. Senate. He is the last black to serve in the Senate until Edward Brooke, Massachusetts Republican, in 1967. With Reconstruction replaced with segregation, voting rights for blacks cease in many areas and greatly curtailed in others.

Booker T. Washington Works at Tuskegee Institute

Booker T. Washington begins to work at the Tuskegee Institute and builds it into a center of learning and industrial and agricultural training for blacks.


Ida B. Wells Barnett Begins Campaign Against Lynching

Ida B. Wells Barnett begins her campaign against the lynching of blacks, a common practice by white racists and the Klan to instill fear in the black community. She later writes Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases and becomes a tireless worker for women’s suffrage.


W.E.B. DuBois Begins Social Analysis

W.E.B. DuBois begins his social analysis of the black conditions in Philadelphia.


Plessy vs. Ferguson Establishes Separate, But Equal Doctrine

Supreme Court establishes Separate, But Equal Doctrine with Plessy vs. Ferguson. This law enables the expansion of growing segregation or “Jim Crow” practices across America, with many states codifying segregation in state constitutions and local laws and ordinances.


U.S. Knight Riders Terrorize African Americans and Washington

The recession of the late 19th century hit the US. Knight riders went out in the dark, burning the homes of African Americans who bought their own land. They rode up to Washington to demand change as southern white Democrats rolled back many of the albeit limited freedoms from Reconstruction just a couple of decades before.

Jim Crow Segregation Limits African Americans Freedom

The Jim Crow era of segregation forbade African Americans from drinking from the same water fountains, eating at the same restaurants or attending the same schools as white Americans.

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