Black History Month

Discovery High School Celebrates Black History Month

1619 The first African slaves were brought to North America in Jamestown, Virginia.

1619 to 1865 Slavery is rampant in North America and later the United States, especially in the South. Historians estimate between 6 and 7 million Africans were brought to the U.S. to be be slaves in the 18th Century alone.

1830’s The Abolition Movement begins in the North. An estimated 40,000 to 100,000 slaves reach freedom through the Underground Railroad.

1861 to 1865 American Civil War
Jan. 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln issues preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and announces that all slaves are free.

Dec. 6, 1865 The 13th Amendment was ratified – Slavery and involuntary servitude were abolished

July 9, 1868 The 14th Amendment was ratified – Granted citizenship and equal civil and legal rights to African Americans and slaves who had been emancipated after the American Civil War, including them under the umbrella phrase β€œall persons born or naturalized in the United States.”

March 30, 1870 The 15th Amendment – Granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century.

May 18, 1895 Plessy vs. Ferguson – The U.S. Supreme Court issued its verdict by an 8-1 majority. The Court upheld a Louisiana law that required the segregation of passengers on railroad cars. By asserting that the equal protection clause was not violated as long as reasonably equal conditions were provided to both groups, the Court established the –”separate but equal” doctrine that would thereafter be used for assessing the constitutionality of racial segregation laws.

1908 Jack Johnson became the first African American man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion boxing title.

Feb. 12, 1909 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was Founded.

1920’s The Harlem Renaissance – marked the first time that mainstream publishers and critics turned their attention seriously to African-American literature, music, art and politics.

1940 Hatti McDaniel became the first African American performer to win an Academy Award.

1947 Jackie Robinson became the first black Major League Baseball (MLB) player in the modern era. He played 10 seasons for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

May 17, 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education – Overturned “Separate but Equal” doctrine, stating that, “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

Aug. 1955 A 14-year-old black boy from Chicago named Emmett Till was beaten and shot by locals for whistling at a white woman in grocery store. Two men confessed to kidnapping Till but were acquitted of murder charges by an all-white, all-male jury after barely an hour of deliberations. Never brought to justice, the accused later shared vivid details of how they killed Till to a journalist for Look magazine; their confessions were published under the headline, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi.”

International outrage over the crime and the verdict helped fuel the Civil Rights Movement.

Dec/ 1, 1955 Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. The Montgomery Bus Boycott began.

1957 After a federal court ordered the desegregation of Central High School, located in the state capital of Little Rock, Governor Faubus called out the Arkansas National Guard to prevent nine African-American students from entering the school. He was later forced to call off the guard, and in the tense standoff that followed, TV cameras captured footage of white mobs converging on the “Little Rock Nine” outside the high school. President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the state’s National Guard and sent 1,000 members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne division to enforce the integration of Central High School. The nine black students entered the school under heavily armed guard, marking the first time since Reconstruction that federal troops had provided protection for black Americans against racial violence. Not done fighting, Faubus closed all of Little Rock’s high schools in the fall of 1958 rather than permit integration. A federal court struck down this act, and four of the nine students returned, under police protection, after the schools were reopened in 1959.

Feb. 1, 1960 Four black students from the Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro, NC, sat down at the lunch counter in a local branch of Woolworth’s and ordered coffee. Refused service due to the counter’s whites-only policy, they stayed put until the store closed, then returned the next day with other students. Heavily covered by the news media, the Greensboro sit-ins sparked a movement that spread quickly to college towns throughout the South and into the North

Aug. 28, 1963 March on Washington. MLK Jr. addresses more than 200,000 with, “I have a Dream” speech.

Sept. 1963 White supremacists bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama during Sunday services; four young African-American girls were killed in the explosion. The church bombing was the third in 11 days, after the federal government had ordered the integration of Alabama’s school system. Governor George Wallace was a leading foe of desegregation, and Birmingham had one of the strongest and most violent chapters of the Ku Klux Klan.

1964 Civil Rights Act of 1964 – This legislation outlawed segregation in public facilities and racial discrimination in employment and education. In addition to blacks, women and other victims of discrimination benefited from the act.

Feb. 1965 Malcolm X is assassinated while giving a speech in Harlem. His autobiography, which became popular after his death, set the foundation for the Black Power movement.

1965 Voting Right Act of 1965

1697 – 1991 Thurgood Marshall became the first African American man ever appointed to the US Supreme Court.

April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee.

1968 The Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968. The law was passed to address racial discrimination in the sale, rental or financing of housing units.

1972 Shirley Chisolm became the first woman and the first African American to run for President of the United States. A former educational consultant and a founder of the National Women’s Caucus, Chisholm became the first black woman in Congress in 1968.

1980’s Jesse Jackson was a leading voice for blacks in America during the early 1980s, urging them to be more politically active and heading up a voter registration drive that led to the election of Harold Washington as the first black mayor of Chicago in 1983.

1984 & 1998 Reverend Jesse Jackson was the first African American to run for the presidency as a coalition leader and served as a model for Barack Obama’s successful election and re-election to the presidency. He built a campaign that was inclusive of multiple interest and racial groups, which included whites for the first time in American history. His speech to the 1988 Democratic National convention is one of the great speeches in American history, and is the philosophical basis for Obama’s politics today.

1986 Oprah Winfrey launched her syndicated talk show. It went on to become the highest rated TV show in History.

2001 Colin Powell was appointed as secretary of state, making him the first African American to serve as America’s top diplomat. Succeeding Powell was Condoleeza Rice, becoming the first African-American woman to serve as secretary of state.

Jan. 20, 2009 Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States; he is the first African American to hold that office.

*This timeline is excerpted from’s interactive timeline