In 1494 The first Africans arrive in Hispaniola with Christopher Columbus. They are free persons.
1522 African slaves stage a rebellion in Hispaniola. This is the first slave uprising in the New World.
1527 Esteban, a Moroccan-born Muslim slave, explores what is now the Southwestern United States.
1573 Professor Bartolome de Albornoz of the University of Mexico writes against the enslavement and sale of Africans.
1598 Isabel de Olvera, a free mulatto, accompanies the Juan Guerra de Resa Expedition which colonizes what is now New Mexico.
The first African slaves were brought to Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery in 1641.
Captain Jope’s ship brings the first Africans to what will later be called America. Jope trades these Africans for food and supplies. This trade of Africans is as temporary indentured servants in the same way that English whites are owned as laborers in the New World.
Because the Spanish had Christianized these Africans, this labor arrangement is for a specified time and then they are free to live their lives, just as the English laborers are. These Africans had been stolen from the cargo of a Spanish vessel on the high seas.
1644 The first black legal protest in America occurs when 11 blacks successfully petition the government of New Amsterdam for their freedom.
1663 September 13. The first documented attempt at a rebellion by slaves took place in Gloucester County, Virginia.
1688 February 18. The Quakers of Germantown, Pennsylvania, passed the first formal antislavery resolution.
1773 Phillis Wheatley becomes the first notable black poet in America when Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is published in England. Wheatley gains acclaim for her writings in both Europe and America.
1777 Vermont becomes the first state to abolish slavery.
American History in Black & White VIDEO part 1
1790 President George Washington appoints Benjamin Banneker, a free black who owns a farm near Baltimore, Md., to the District of Columbia Commission. A mathematician and compiler of almanacs, Banneker works on the survey of Washington, D.C. He becomes one of the first important African-American intellectuals.
1817 The American Colonization Society is established to transport freeborn blacks and emancipated slaves to Africa, leading to foundation of a colony that becomes the Republic of Liberia in 1847.
American History in Black & White VIDEO part 2
1827 On March 16, Freedom’s Journal becomes the first black-owned and operated newspaper in the United States.
1836 Alexander Lucius Twilight becomes the first black elected to public office; he serves in the Vermont legislature. Also the first African-American college graduate, Twilight had received his degree from Middlebury College in 1823.
1862 Mary Jane Patterson becomes the first black woman to graduate from an American college.
American History in Black & White VIDEO part 3
1863 President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1 and thus frees the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union.
1865 The Civil War ends on April 26, after the surrender of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and J.E. Johnston. Congress establishes the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands to aid four million black Americans in transition from slavery to freedom
Madam C. J. Walker was born Sarah Breedlove, to recently freed slaves on December 23, 1867 on a Delta, Louisiana plantation just five years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Her Parents were Owen and Minerva Breedlove sharecroppers on their former owner Robert W. Burney’s plantation.
During her childhood Yellow fever kills 3,093 in New Orleans and Yellow fever struck the plantation where the Breedloves lived and, in 1874, Sarah’s parents fell sick and died.
Orphaned at age seven, she often said, “I got my start by giving myself a start.” She and her older sister, Louvenia, survived by working in the cotton fields of Delta and nearby Vicksburg, Mississippi.
Madam C. J. Walker moved in with her older sister and brother-in-law, Willie Powell. Powell lashed, whipped, and throttled Sarah Breedlove at every opportunity… while screaming at her: “College? What the hell a li’l n—- gal gon’ do in college? One o’ them yallow n— from up north fillin’ you up with nonsense, wastin’ yo time. You think you read ’nuff, you won’t be a n— no mo? N— can’t hardly feed themselves, but they talkin’ ’bout college an’ walkin ’round dressed like they got a hunnert dollers in they pocket, thinkin’ they’s white folks.”
At the age of 14, she married Moses McWilliams to escape Powell’s abuse and three years later her daughter, Lelia McWilliams (A’Lelia Walker) was born.
When Sarah was 20, her husband died, Lelia was just 2 years old. Many documents say Moses died around 1887 or 1888 simply of unknown causes, other say perhaps in a race riot or lynching or died in an accident. I even found documents that say Moses McWilliams was brutally murdered and tossed from the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River in cold blood by a white mob – incensed over McWilliams‘ lobbying efforts for equal wages.
1899 Composer and pianist Scott Joplin publishes “The Maple Leaf Rag,” one of the most important and popular compositions during the era of ragtime, precursor to jazz.
Breedlove left the uneasy Reconstruction environment of the deep South and joined her brothers in St. Louis, Missouri, where she worked for years as a washerwoman. Her brothers were all barbers at a local barbershop. It was a step up from sharecropping, but at $1.50 a day it wasn’t very far.
Breedlove would ultimately be inspired by the message of Booker T. Washington, whose autobiography Up From Slavery was a 1901 best-seller. Washington called for black people to lift themselves up by developing skills, working hard, and emphasizing good character.
Breedlove found her future in beauty products. She learned valuable lessons at the elbow of a black role model, Annie Turnbo Malone, who sold her shampoos and hair-pressing irons to crowds in St. Louis for the 1904 World’s Fair.
Malone hired Breedlove as a commission agent and sent the former washerwoman to Denver, Colorado in July 1905. Soon, Breedlove had split from Malone, and was making her own pomades and shampoos.
A chemist and entrepreneur, Annie Turnbo Malone became a millionaire by successfully developing and marketing hair products for black women in St. Louis.
As a black woman, Turnbo was denied access to regular distribution channels. To sell her products, she and her assistants went door-to-door, giving demonstrations. Business grew steadily. After a positive response at the World’s Fair, Turnbo’s Poro company went national.
In 1906 While in Denver, Breedlove met her second husband, a man named Charles Joseph Walker, a newspaper advertising salesman, who encouraged her to use the name “Madam C. J. Walker” and helped her create compelling advertisements to sell her products. “Madam C.J. Walker” traveled for a year and a half on a dizzying crusade throughout the heavily black South and Southeast, selling her products door to door, demonstrating her scalp treatments in churches and lodges, and devising sales and marketing strategies.
Walker’s innovations led to wild success: in 1908, sales reached $6,672 (over $123,000 in 2002 dollars) — and would hit $250,000 (over $4.3 million in 2002 dollars) within a few years. Madam Walker created a college for her future employees. They were trained in the art of hair styling. Leila College, run by Madam Walker’s daughter,A’Lelia, taught their students what became known as the Walker Method.
1909 Matthew Henson is among the first people to reach the North Pole.
By 1910, Walker had moved the Mme. C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company to the railroad hub of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Walker made most of her fortune between 1911 and 1917, making Madam C.J. Walker the first SELF-MADE American woman and First African American MALE or FEMALE to become a millionaire.
1911 My Grandmother Thelma Thompson was Born
At the National Negro Business League Convention in July, 1912, Walker said:
“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there, I was promoted to the washtub. From there, I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there, I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations….I have built my own factory on my own ground.”
In 1913, while Walker traveled to Central America and the Caribbean to expand her business, her daughter A’Lelia, moved into a fabulous new Harlem townhouse and Walker Salon, designed by black architect, Vertner Tandy. “There is nothing to equal it,” she wrote to her attorney, F.B. Ransom. “Not even on Fifth Avenue.”
In 1914 Annie Turnbo married Aaron E. Malone, a St. Louis school principal.
1914 Sam Lucas becomes the first black actor to star in a full-length Hollywood film. Lucas played Tom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Walker herself moved to New York in 1916, leaving the day-to-day operations of the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company in Indianapolis to Ransom and Alice Kelly, her factory fore-lady and a former school teacher.
Madam Walker had a mansion called “Villa Lewaro” built in the wealthy New York suburb of Irvington on Hudson, New York, near the estates of John D. Rockefeller and Jay Gould.
1916 Fritz Pollard is the first black football player to be named “All-American” as well as the first black player to appear in a Rose Bowl.
Her Madam C. J. Walker Hair Culturists Union of America convention in Philadelphia in 1917 must have been one of the first national meetings of businesswomen in the country. Walker used the gathering not only to reward her agents for their business success, but to encourage their political activism as well. As she put it:
“This is the greatest country under the sun.But we must not let our love of country, our patriotic loyalty cause us to abate one whit in our protest against wrong and injustice. We should protest until the American sense of justice is so aroused that such affairs as the East St. Louis riot be forever impossible.”
Warned by physicians that her hypertension required a reduction of her activities, Madame Walker nevertheless continued her busy schedule. She died at age 52 in 1919 at her estate.
1922 Aviator Bessie Coleman, who later refuses to perform before segregated audiences in the South, stages the first public flight by an African-American woman.
1924 Mary Montgomery Booze became the first African American woman elected to the Republican National Committee
1924 William DeHart Hubbard becomes the first black athlete to win an Olympic gold medal in an individual event at the Summer Games in Paris.
1925 A. Philip Randolph, trade unionist and civil-rights leader, founds the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which becomes the first successful black trade union.
1926 Pianist, composer, and self-proclaimed inventor of jazz Jelly Roll Morton records several of his masterpieces, including “Black Bottom Stomp” and “Dead Man Blues.”
1928 Poet and novelist Claude McKay publishes Home to Harlem, the first fictional work by an African-American to reach the best-seller lists.
Theodore Gilmore Bilbo (October 13, 1877 – August 21, 1947) was an American politician. Bilbo, a Democrat, twice served as governor of Mississippi (1916–20, 1928–32) and later was elected a U.S. Senator (1935–47). A master of filibuster and scathing rhetoric, a rough-and-tumble fighter in debate, he made his name a synonym for white supremacy. Proud of being a racist, Bilbo believed that black people were inferior, defended segregation, and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Bilbo helped Al Smith carry the state despite overwhelming anti-Catholicism, by claiming that Herbert Hoover had met with a black member of the Republican National Committee and danced with her. In a speech in Memphis on October 17, Bilbo asserted that during a visit to Mississippi in 1927, “Hoover insisted that his train be routed through Mount Bayou … in order that he might visit Mrs. Mary Booze, a negress, socially,” and added, “Mary Booze is as black as the ace of spades. And Hoover danced with her.” Though widely reported, and followed by an anonymous political flyer featuring a doctored photo supposedly showing Hoover and Mrs. Booze dancing together, which was circulated throughout the South, the story did not prevent Hoover from being elected President of the United States the following month.
1930 Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr. becomes the first black colonel in the U.S. Army.
1940 Hattie McDaniel becomes the first black to receive an Oscar for her supporting role in Gone With the Wind.
In 1945 Robert Byrd penned a letter to Mississippi’s senator Theodore Bilbo: “I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side … Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”
1945 Ebony magazine is founded by John H. Johnson of Chicago. Modeled after Life but intended for an emerging black middle class, the magazine is an instant success. This same year, Nat King Cole becomes the first black with his own network radio show.
1947 Jackie Robinson plays baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, the first black in the major leagues in the modern era.
1948 Alice Coachman takes gold in the high jump at the Olympic Games in London. She is the first black woman to win Olympic gold and the only American woman that year to win.
1950 Ralph J. Bunche, undersecretary of the United Nations, is the first black to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He receives the honor for his work as the United Nations mediator in the Arab-Israeli dispute in Palestine.
1951 Amos ‘n’ Andy move from radio to television and become the first TV show to have an all-black cast.
1955 Opera diva Leontyne Price is triumphant in the title role of the National Broadcasting Company’s Tosca, making her the first black to sing opera on television. That same year, singer and guitarist Chuck Berry travels from St. Louis to Chicago, recording “Maybellene,” an immediate sensation among teenagers. The hit helps shape the evolution of rock and roll.
1956 Arthur Mitchell, future director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, becomes the only black dancer in the New York City Ballet. George Balanchine creates several roles especially for him.
1964 Martin Luther King Jr. is the youngest person awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He is 35.
1967 Thurgood Marshall is the first African American to be appointed to the Supreme Court.
1975 Lee Elder is the first black to play in the Masters Tournament at Augusta, Ga. Tennis player Arthur Ashe wins the singles title at Wimbledon, becoming the first black to win a major men’s singles championship.
1989 President George Bush nominates Colin Powell as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the first black officer to hold the highest military post in the United States
1996 At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Ga., sprinter Michael Johnson becomes the first man of any race to win gold medals in the 200 meters and the 400 meters, setting a 200-meter world record of 19.32 seconds.
2002 Halle Berry becomes the first African-American woman to be awarded an Oscar for best actress in a leading role. She wins for her role in Monster’s Ball. Denzel Washington wins the Academy Award for best actor in a leading role for his part in Training Day.