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African-Americans & the Black Experience: Milestones in Black History

Milestones

Today in Black History by BlackFacts.com

From Slavery to Civil Rights : A Timeline of African American History.  An interactive timeline with primary sources.

Since arriving in America in 1619 as slaves, African Americans have fought for their independence and to be seen as equals. These struggles have produced many historical figures and events that make all Americans proud, and a few that brought major disappointment.  Below is a chronological list of a few of the events that shaped black history and some information about the brave men and women who led the way for later generations.

  • African Endentured Servants Brought to Jamestown, VA, 1619. A Dutch ship brings 20 African indentured servants to the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia.
  • Maryland Passes First Law Banning Interracial Marriage, 1664. On Septeember 20 1664, Maryland passed the first antiamalgamation law. This was intended to prevent English women from marrying African men. Interracial marriage was a fairly common practice during the colonial era among white indentured servants and black slaves-as well as in more aristocratic circles.
  • The Stono Rebellion, 1739. One of the earliest slave revolts takes place in Stono, South Carolina, near Charleston. A score of whites and more than twice as many blacks slaves are killed as the armed slaves try to flee to Florida.
  • Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770. Crispus Attacks, 1st American and African Amrican killed in Revolutionary War.
  • Thomas Paine Publishes Anti-Slavery Tract, 1775. Although Paine was not the first to advocate the aboliton of slavery in Amerca, he was certainly one of the earliest and most influential. The essay African Slavery in America was written in 1774 and published March 8, 1775 when it appeared in the Pennsylvania Journal and the Weekly Advertiser. Just a few weeks later on April 14, 1775 the first anti-slavery society in America was formed in Philadelphia. Paine was a founding member.
  • Declaration of Independence, 1776. A passage by Thomas Jefferson condemning the slave trade is removed from the Declaration of Independence due to pressure from the southern colonies.
  • Revolutionary War, 1775-1782. Blacks fought for both the British and the American side during the Revolutionary War, depending on who was offering freedom for doing so.
  • Battle of Trenton, December 25, 1779. African American soldier Prince Whipple, a black man, crossed the Delaware with General Washington on December 25, 1779, on the eve of the Revolutionary War's famous Battle of Trenton. Whipple (pictured in the left rear pulling an oar) was a bodyguard for General Whipple of New Hampshire, an aide to the future President.
  • Massachusetts Grants African-Americans Right to Vote, 1780. On February 9,  1780, Capt. Paul Cuffe and six other African-American residents of Massachusetts petitioned the state legislature for the right to vote. Claiming "no taxation without representation," the residents had earlier refused to pay taxes. The courts agreed and awarded Cuffe and the six other defendants full civil rights.
  • Northwest Ordinance, 1787. In addition to laying out the procedure for future states to be created in western territories, the Northwest Ordinace forbade slavery in the Northwest Territory, where the future state of Michigan would be created.
  • U.S. Constitution Adopted, 1789. Slaves counted as three-fifths of a person for means of representation.
  • First Fugitive Slave Act, 1793. Congress passes the first Fugitive Slave Act, which makes it a crime to harbor an escaped slave.
  • Gabriel's Conspiracy, 1800. On August 30, 1800, a tremendous storm dropped heavy rain on central Virginia, swelling creeks and turning Richmond's dirt streets into quagmires. The storm aborted one of the most extensive slave plots in American history, a conspiracy known to hundreds of slaves throughout central Virginia. A charismatic blacksmith named Gabriel, who was owned by Thomas Prosser, of Henrico County, planned to enter Richmond with force, capture the Capitol and the Virginia State Armory, and hold Governor James Monroe hostage to bargain for freedom for Virginia's slaves.
  • Slave Revolt in Louisiana, 1811. More than a century before the first modern-day civil rights march, Charles Deslondes and his make-do army of more than 200 enslaved men battled with hoes, axes and cane knives for that most basic human right: freedom.
  • The Missouri Compromise, 1820This legislation admitted Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a non-slave state at the same time, so as not to upset the balance between slave and free states in the nation. It also outlawed slavery above the 36º 30´ latitude line in the remainder of the Louisiana Territory.
  • The Vesey Conspiracy, 1822. In response to the closing of their church in Charleston, which boasted a membership of over three thousand in 1820, Denmark Vesey used his position as a respected free man and Methodist leader to organize other free and enslaved blacks to battle for freedom.
  • Freedom's Journal, 1827-1829. Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm publish Freedom's Journal, the first African American newspaper in America, from March 16, 1827-March 28, 1829
  • Nat Turner Slave Revolt, 1831. In late summer 1831 a free man of color named Billy Artis, a celebrated slave known as "Gen. Nelson," and a slave preacher by the name of Nat Turner helped lead an insurrection of slaves seeking freedom in Southamption County, Va.
  • Amistad Case, 1839. Slaves being transported aboard the Spanish ship Amistad take it over and sail it to Long Island. They eventually win their freedom in a Supreme Court case.
  • Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895. In 1845 publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, Written by Himself, one of the enduring classics of American literature. Douglass advocates enlisting in the Union Army to lay the groundwork for citizenship during the Civil War. In December, 1866, The Atlantic Monthly publishes "Reconstruction" , in which Douglass warns Congress of the potential for the de facto re-enslavement of blacks should the South's antebellum political system remain intact. Douglass exhorted Congress to pass a civil-rights amendment affirming the equality of blacks and whites in the United States.
  • Harriet Tubman, c.1820–March 10, 1913. The most famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. Having escaped slavery herself, she returned time and time again to rescue family and friends in Maryland between 1849 and the outbreak of the Civil War. She was nicknamed General Tubman by John Brown and Grandma Moses by others for leading so many slaves out of bondage. She also served as a spy for Union forces during the Civil War.  She was awarded full military honors upon her death.
  • The Compromise of 1850The Compromise of 1850 was actually a series of bills passed mainly to address issues related to slavery. The bills provided for slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty in the admission of new states, prohibited the slave trade in the District of Columbia, settled a Texas boundary dispute, and established a stricter fugitive slave act. This featured document is Henry Clay's handwritten draft.
  • Sojourner Truth, Electrifies Women's Rights Conference, 1851. Freedwoman Sojourner Truth, a compelling speaker for abolitionism, gives her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech in Akron, Ohio. Truth would later move to Battle Creek, Michigan. On June 1, 1834, Sojourner Truth set out from New York on an historic journey across America. She traveled far and wide preaching about the evils of slavery and promoting women's rights. She claimed the Lord gave her the name Sojourner Truth, as he had called upon her " to travel up and down the land" declaring the truth to people. Truth was born a slave, originally bearing the name Isabella Baumfree. She gained her freedom when the New York State Emancipation Act was passed in 1827. An impressive sight, she stood six-feet tall and wore a satin banner that said, "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." Truth was the guest of President Lincoln at the White House on several occasions and was one of the voices that influenced Lincoln to recruit African-American soldiers for the Union Army during the Civil War.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin Published, 1851-1852. Angered by the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes the first of 41 installments of Uncle Tom’s Cabin in an abolitionist weekly, June 5, 1851. She intends her novel about slaves Uncle Tom, who is sold and resold, and Eliza, who flees to save her child, to “awaken sympathy” for those suffering under a “cruel and unjust” system. In book form the following year, Cabin sells 300,000 copies and is credited with shaping perceptions leading to the Civil War. In time the novel’s stereotypes, exaggerated in minstrel show versions, alter attitudes toward Stowe’s hero, and “Uncle Tom” becomes a pejorative for a passive, subservient black man.
  • The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. In January 1854, Senator Stephen Douglas introduced a bill that divided the land west of Missouri into two territories, Kansas and Nebraska. He argued for popular sovereignty, which would allow the settlers of the new territories to decide if slavery would be legal there. Antislavery supporters were outraged because, under the terms of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, slavery would have been outlawed in both territories. After months of debate, the Kansas-Nebraska Act passed on May 30, 1854. Pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers rushed to Kansas, each side hoping to determine the results of the first election held after the law went into effect. The conflict turned violent, aggravating the split between North and South until reconciliation was virtually impossible. Opponents of the Kansas-Nebraska Act helped found the Republican Party, which opposed the spread of slavery into the territories. As a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the United States moved closer to Civil War.
  • Dred Scott v Sanford (1857). In 1846 a slave named Dred Scott and his wife, Harriet, sued for their freedom in a St. Louis city court. The odds were in their favor. They had lived with their owner, an army surgeon, at Fort Snelling, then in the free Territory of Wisconsin. The Scotts' freedom could be established on the grounds that they had been held in bondage for extended periods in a free territory and were then returned to a slave state. Courts had ruled this way in the past. However, what appeared to be a straightforward lawsuit between two private parties became an 11-year legal struggle that culminated in one of the most notorious decisions ever issued by the United States Supreme Court....On its way to the Supreme Court, the Dred Scott case grew in scope and significance as slavery became the single most explosive issue in American politics. By the time the case reached the high court, it had come to have enormous political implications for the entire nation....On March 6, 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney and the majority of the Court, rules that slaves were not U.S. citizens and therefore could not expect any protection from the Federal Government or the courts. The opinion also stated that Congress had no authority to ban slavery from a Federal territory. This decision moved the nation a step closer to Civil War. The decision of Scott v. Sanford, considered by legal scholars to be the worst ever rendered by the Supreme Court, was overturned by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution, which abolished slavery and declared all persons born in the United States to be citizens of the United States.
  • Last Known Slave Ship Arrives in United States, 1859. On August 22, 1859, Captain Foster guided the slaver Clotilde into Mobile, Alabama, under a veil of secrecy. The vessel was laden with human cargo in violation of the ban on the international slave trade. To avoid being arrested by the federal authorities, Captain Foster hid his African captives ashore and set fire to the ship. Foster and the ship's owner, Timothy Meaher, found it impossible to secure buyers for their contraband cargo and were forced to keep all the intended slaves themselves. Not long afterwards, at the outset of the Civil War, Meaher and Foster freed the Clotilde captives. The Clotilde was the last known slave ship to arrive in America.
  • Nicholas Biddle : First African-American Soldier Wounded in Civil War, 1861. For more information, see John David Hoptak, "Baltimore, Bricks, and First Blood", courtesy  of HistoryNet.com.  Just days after Fort Sumter, a pro-Confederate mob in Baltimore, Maryland turned ex-slave Nicholas Biddle into the war's first casualty.
  • Slave Freed in Missouri, But Lincoln Backtracks, 1861. On Aug. 30, 1861, Union Gen. John C. Fremont instituted martial law in Missouri and declared slaves there to be free. (However, Fremont's emancipation order was countermanded by President Abraham Lincoln).
  • Robert Smalls, Commandeers Confederate Ship, and Delivers It to the Union, May 13, 1862. Robert Smalls became a ship's pilot and eventually a Captain for the Union during the Civil War. Unable to read or write and a former slave, Smalls would ultimately achieve the rank of Major General and serve five terms in the U.S. Congress.
  • The Emancipation Proclamation, 1862 & 1863. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emanicipation Proclamation in the midst of the Civil War, announcing on September 22, 1862, that if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states would be free.  Since the Ceonfederacy did not respond, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863.
  • War Department General Order 143: Creation of the U.S. Colored Troops (1863). The War Department issued General Order 143 on May 22, 1863, creating the United States Colored Troops. By the end of the Civil War, roughly 179,000 black men (10 percent of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the U.S. Army, and another 19,000 served in the Navy. For additional information, see Teaching With Documents Lesson Plan: The Fight for Equal Rights: Black Soldiers in the Civil War
  • Bravery Displayed at Fort Wagner (1863) earns First U.S. Medal of Honor for African-American Soldier. On July 18, 1863, at the Battle of Fort Wagner outside Charleston, S.C. William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts displays the courage that will ultimately win him the first U.S. Medal of Honor given an African-American.  For more information see Thomas M. Hammond, "William H. Carney : 54th Massachusetts Soldier and First Black U.S. Medal of Honor Recipient",  HistoryNet.com, January 27, 2007.
  • Wade-Davis Bill (1864). Near the end of the Civil War, this bill created a framework for Reconstruction and the readmittance of the Confederate states to the Union. Although Lincoln used a pocket veto to kill it, after his assassination the Republican Congress passed the measure requiring among other things, that southern states give the Negro the right to vote.
  • 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865). Passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865, the 13th amendment abolished slavery in the United States.
  • 1866 Civil Rights Act. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 granted citizenship and the same rights enjoyed by white citizens to all male persons in the United States "without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude."
  • 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Civil Rights (July 9, 1868). Passed by Congress June 13, 1866, and ratified July 9, 1868, the 14th amendment extended liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to former slaves.
  • First African American Elected Official In Michigan (1868). In 1868, the same year the state rejected the 15th Amendment giving blacks the right to vote, Dawson Pompey became the first African American to hold elective office in Michigan when Covert residents chose him to oversee local road projects.
  • Mary Ellen Pleasant, 1868. Long before Rosa Parks, Mary Ellen Pleasant sued to win the right to ride on cable cars in San Francisco.  Source: Pleasant v North Beach & Mission Railway.
  • 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870). Passed by Congress February 26, 1869, and ratified February 3, 1870, the 15th amendment granted African American men the right to vote. At the same time, however, the first "Jim Crow" or segregation law is passed in Tennessee mandating the separation of African Americans from whites on trains, in depots and wharves. In short order, the rest of the South falls into step. By the end of the century, African Americans are banned from white hotels, barber shops, restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations. By 1885, most southern states also have laws requiring separate schools.
  • First Jim Crow Segregation Law Passed, 1871. Tennessee passes the first of the "Jim Crow" segregation laws, segregating state railroads. Other Southern states pass similar laws over the next 15 years.
  • First Open Heart Surgery Performed by Black Physician, 1873. African American physician Daniel Hale Williams performs the world's first successful open-heart surgery.  For an article about Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, see Frank Daniels III, "Doctor performed successful open-heart surgery", The Tennessean, January 17, 2013.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1875. “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal and enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”
  • Civil Rights Cases, 1883. “On the whole, we are of opinion that no countenance of authority for the passage of the law in question can be found in either the thirteenth or fourteenth amendment of the constitution; and no other ground of authority for its passage being suggested, it must necessarily be declared void, at least so far as its operation in the several states is concerned.” (overturns the Civil Rights Act of 1875).
  • First Poll Tax Passed, 1890. Mississippi enacts a poll tax, which most African Americans cannot afford to pay, to try to keep blacks from voting.
  • Ida B. Wells Launches Her Anti-Lynching Crusade, 1892. African American journalist Ida B. Wells begins a crusade to investigate the lynchings of African Americans after three of her friends are lynched in Tennessee.
  • Daniel Hale Williams successfully performs first hear operation, July 9, 1893.
  • Received medical degree from Chicago Medical College in 1883. Upset over the fact that African Americans were not allowed treatment in white hospitals, Williams opens Provident Hospital. When James Cornish showed up with a chest wound, Dr.l Williams determined he had internal bleeding. Opening his chest, he was able to sew him up, before the invention of penicillin, antibiotics, and xrays, allowing Cornish to live another 20 years.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson (May 18, 1896). The ruling in this Supreme Court case upheld a Louisiana state law that allowed for "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races."
  • Louisiana Disenfranchizes All African Americans, 1898. Louisiana passes limits the right to vote to anyone whose fathers and grandfathers were qualified on January 1, 1867. No African Americans had the right to vote at that time. Other southern states follow suit. For more information visit "grandfather clause" in BlackPast.org.
  • Booker T. Washington : First African American To Address a Racially-Mixed Southern Audience, September 18, 1898. On September 18, 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered his famous "Atlanta Compromise" speech at the opening of the Cotton States and International Exhibition in Atlanta, Georgia. Washington, the founder and president of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute, was the first African-American man ever to address a racially-mixed Southern audience.  More info from the Library of Congress.
  • Scott Joplin Helps Launch Ragtime, 1899. Pianist and composer Scott Joplin publishes "The Maple Leaf Rag," a major hit that helps popularize ragtime music.
  • Black National Anthem, 1900. On November 1, 1900, brothers James Weldon Johnson, author, educator and general secretary of the NAACP (1920-1930), and John Rosamond Johnson composed the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing", commonly referred to as the black national anthem.
  • DuBois Publishes The Souls of Black Folk, 1903. William Edward Burghardt DuBois, social scientist, critic and public intellectual, was a leading figure in African-American protest for most of his adult life. He emerged at the turn of the century as an opposing voice to Booker T. Washington, who appeared to have accepted segregation, or-in DuBois's eyes -- defeat. His book Souls of Black Folk, written in 1903, presented an alternative to Booker T. Washington's "accommodation" platform and is considered a classic work of the civil rights movement.  For DuBois the "color line" was the major problem of the 20th century. In 1905 he will help found the Niagara Movement, demanding full equality for African Americans.
  • African American Woman Starts A Business Which Will Make Her a Millionaire, 1903. Sarah Breedlove MacWilliams, better known as Madam C. J. Walker, starts an African American hair-care business in Denver and eventually becomes America's first self-made woman millionaire.
  • Chicago Defender, Chicago's First African American Newspaper, Launched in 1903. Thwarted in practicing law, Robert S. Abbott turns to publishing an African American newspaper in Chicago. Within a decade, it is one of the country's most influential African American weekly papers, and Abbott has become a millionaire.
  • NAACP Established (1909). The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, usually abbreviated as NAACP, formed in 1909. Its mission is "to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination". Its name, retained in accordance with tradition, is one of the last surviving uses of the term colored people.
  • Early NAACP Comic Book History : Your Future Rests In Your Hands (1964) and The Street Where You Live (1960).
  • First African American Reaches North Pole, 1909. On April 6, 1909, Matthew Henson became the first man to reach the North Pole. Adm. Robert E. Peary, the expedition's commander, arrived about 45 minutes after Henson. The temperature was 29 degrees when Henson planted the American flag at 90 degrees north-the only place on the planet where the only way you can go is south.
  • Great Migration Begins, 1910-1920. Looking for better opportunities, massive numbers of African Americans move north to seek employment in factories. Trend won't slow down until 1960s, and may start to reverse in the 2000s.
  • National Urban League Founded, 1911. Started to help the many African Americans who are migrating to the cities find jobs and housing.
  • First African American Pilot, March 1912. Emory Malick wins pilot's license. Source : Rebecca Maksel, Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine, March 1, 2011.
  • Father of the Blues Produces First Big Hit, 1912. W. C. Handy publishes his song "Memphis Blues," which becomes a huge hit.
  • Harriet Tubman Dies, March 10, 1913. Born into slavery, Harriet Tubman served as a "conductor with the Underground Railroad" leading countless slaves to freedom.  For her help during the Civil War as a nurse, cook, and spy, she was awarded full military honors upon her death in Auburn, New York.
  • East Saint Louis Race Riots, 1917. Forty African Americans and eight whites are killed in race riots in East St. Louis, Ill., stirred up by white resentment of African Americans working in wartime industry.
  • World War I, 1918. Du Bois calls on African Americans to serve in World War I to help build a case for citizenship. The Crisis, January-February 1999, p. 44.
  • Henry Johnson Wins Croix de Guerre in World War I, May 15, 1918. Kept on the sidelines by the U.S. Army, Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts join the Harlem Hellfighters and fight for the French Army. Attacked by a platoon of German soldiers in the Argonne Woods, running out of grenades, running out of bullets, his rifle splintered, Johnson fights on with a bolo knife to save his comrade Roberts from being captured until reinforcements arrive, receiving 21 separate wounds.  For their heroic actions, both Johnson and Roberts were awarded the Croix de Guerre, France's highest military honor; Johnson received an additional coveted Gold Palm for extraordinary valor. Years later, the U.S. belatedly awarded Johnson a Purple Heart, Distinguished Cross, and Medal of Honor.
  • Madam C. J. Walker Dies, May 25, 1919. Escaping the cotton fields of Louisiana, born Sarah Breedlove, Madam C. J. Walker developed her own line of African American hair products and sold them across the country. When she died, her wealth was estimated at over a million dollars, making her the wealthiest African American woman at the time.
  • Red Summer Race Riots, 1919. Scores of race riots across the country leave at least 100 people dead. These are again sparked by white resentment of African Americans working in industry, and their large-scale migration from South to North. 
  • Oscar Micheaux Produces First Film, 1919. Pioneering director-producer produces his first film, The Homesteader, based on his novel., for the African-American audience.
  • 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constituion, 1920. "The rights of citizens...to vote shall not be denied or abridged...on account of sex."
  • Bessie Coleman Receives Her Pilot's License in France, June 15, 1921. Suppored by Robert Abbott, publisher of the Chicago Defender, Coleman travels to France to earn an international pilot's license from the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
  • Jesse Owens Wins Four Gold Medals at Berlin Olympics, August 1936. On August 3, 1936, at the Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany, Jesse Owens won the 100-meter sprint, capturing his first of four gold medals. Over the next six days, Owens won Olympic gold in the 200-meter dash, the broad jump, and the 400-meter relay.
  • Marian Anderson Performs at Lincoln Memorial, April 9, 1939. When the Daughters of the American Revolution denied Anderson the opportunity to sing to an integrated audience at Constitution Hall, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and invited her to perform at the Lincoln Memorial on Easter Sunday. Her first song was "My Country 'Tis of Thee."
  • Eleanor Roosevelt Climbs Into Airplane With Tuskegee Flight Instructor, March 29, 1941. No one expected Eleanor Roosevelt - America's First Lady - to get into a small plane with an African-American pilot.  Such events didn't happen in the early spring of 1941.  For more information, see Red Tails courtesy of Awesome Stories.
  • Executive Order 9808 : First President's Committee on Civil Rights Established (1946). On December 5, 1946, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order No. 9808. This landmark order established the first President's Committee on Civil Rights charged with examining law enforcement agencies and government systems to determine how their means of safeguarding the civil rights of Americans could improve and strengthened. The committee was ordered to report their findings to the president in writing.
  • Breaking the Color Line in Baseball, April 15, 1947. When Jackie Robinson  stepped onto Ebbets field on April 15th, 1947, Robinson became the first African American in the twentieth century to play baseball in the major leagues — breaking the “color line,” a segregation practice dating to the nineteenth century. Jackie Robinson was an extremely talented multi-sport athlete and a courageous man who played an active role in civil rights.   Source : Baseball and Jackie Robinson.
  • Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of the Armed Forces (1948). On July 26, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed this executive order establishing the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services, committing the government to integrating the segregated military.
  • Ralph Bunche, First African-American Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1950. On September 22, 1950 Ralph J. Bunch was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as mediator in the Israeli-Palistinian conflict. Bunch was the first African-American Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
  • Brown v Board of Education (May 17, 1954). In this milestone decision, the Supreme Court ruled that separating children in public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional. It signaled the end of legalized racial segregation in the schools of the United States, overruling the "separate but equal" principle set forth in the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case.
  • Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, December 1955"Civil Rights Icon Rosa Parks Dies", NPR, October 25, 2005.
  • Althea Gibson, First African American Tennis Champion, May 26, 1956. Taking up tennis at the age of fourteen, Gibson would go on to win five Grand Slams, including the U.S. Open (twice) and Wimbledon (twice).
  • Desegregation of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas (1957)The Legacy of Little Rock. Article by Juan Willisms, Time, Sept. 20, 2011. Executive Order 10730 of September 23, 1957, signed by President Dwight Eisenhower, sent Federal troops to maintain order and peace while the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, AR, took place.
  • Civil Rights Act Passes Congress (1957). August 29, 1957, the Senate gave final congressional approval to a Civil Rights Act after South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond (then a Democrat) ended a filibuster that had lasted 24 hours.
  • Greensboro Woolworth Sit-In, 1960. On Monday, February 1, 1960, at 4:30 p.m., four freshmen from North Carolina Agricultural and Technological College, Ezell Blair, Jr., David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain, sat down at the lunch counter at the local F.W. Woolworth store and ordered coffee and cherry pie. This simple act was extremely bold for the times. They were acting in defiance of Jim Crow laws that permitted blacks to shop in the store but not to eat a meal there.  The Greensboro sit-in is credited with re-igniting the civil rights movement in America, transforming the older generation's don't-rock-the-boat tactics to a more militant, protest-based platform.
  • Wilma Rudolph, First African American and American Woman to Win 3 Gold Medals in a singly Olympics, September 11, 1960.
  • Freedom Riders Fight Segregation Across South, 1961. Thirteen members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) set off on a bus ride from Washington D.C. to New Orleans on May 4, 1961. These civil rights activist were testing a 1960 Supreme Court ruling that expanded anti-discrimination laws covering interstate travel to include facilities used by travelers. The Freedom Riders bravely entered segregated terminals, waiting rooms, restrooms and restaurants. They were met with harassment, violence, and even arrest.
  • Birmingham Campaign and Church Bombing, 1963. The Birmingham Campaign was launched in 1963. Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists were soon jailed, but it was the participation of the children that advanced the momentum of the Birmingham movement. They marched alongside the adults and were taken to jail with them as well. Because the 16th St. Baptist Church was close to the downtown area, it was an ideal location to hold rallies and meetings. On Sunday morning, Sept. 15, 1963, dynamite planted by the Ku Klux Klan, exploded in the building. Under the fallen debris, the bodies of four girls were found. Denise McNair, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley died because of the color of their skin.
  • Letter from Birmingham City Jail, 1963. While residing in jail, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous "Letter from Birmingham City Jail" which later appeared in The Atlantic Monthly (under the title "The Negro Is Your Brother"), addressing a national audience that did not recognize his full rights of equality as a citizen and human being.
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963. Prohibits sex-based pay differentials on jobs.
  • August 28, 1963 : Martin Luther King Jr. Delivers "I Have a Dream" in Washington, D.CThanks to the Power of TV and radio, Martin Luther King Jr's speech at the end of the March on Washington was broadcast around the world. I Have A Dream audio courtesy of the Internet Archive.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964This act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.
  • Malcolm X Assassinated, 1965On Februry 21, 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated while speaking at a rally of the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City. Malcolm X was a charismatic speaker and disciplined leader who quickly rose to prominence through his association with the Nation of Islam.
  • Bloody Sunday, 1965The Historic Selma to Montgomery marchers started on March 7, 1965.  More than 600 hundred marchers led by the SNCC and SCLC gathered in Selma to march in solidarity. Coupled with the original aim of the protest, marchers also wanted to call attention to the denial of their voting rights. With the 1964 Civil Rights Act passing, King and other leaders hoped the gathering would speed along the opportunity for fairness. Led by current Georgia congressman John Lewis (then-chairman of the SNCC) and Rev. Hosea Williams of the SCLC, the marchers were undeterred until they reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge that crosses the Alabama River heading in to Montgomery.  Police gathered and formed a wall barring the passing of the marchers, after Sheriff Jim Clark called all able-bodied White men to become temporary deputies and assist in enforcement. When Rev. Williams tried to peacefully reason with the officers, shoving matches ensued and the carnage began: officers fired tear gas in to the crowd and began beating the non-violent protesters with billy clubs. The aggressive actions of the Alabama police force were televised nationally and around the world, sparking fierce debate and renewed support for the Civil Rights Movement. Reports vary, but between 17 and 50 people were injured and hospitalized with one woman, Amelia Boynton, nearly beaten to death.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965This act was signed into law on August 6, 1965, by President Lyndon Johnson. It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. Source : Our Documents . gov : 100 Milestone Documents of American History.
  • 1965 Executive Order 11246. Affirmative action requirements of government contractors and subcontractors.
  • Thurgood Marshall, 1967. First Black appointed to the United States Supreme Court, August 30, 1967. Spent his entire life battling for civil rights, winning 29 out of 32 Supreme Court Cases before ever serving on the Supreme Court.
  • Loving versus Virginia, 1967. Banned anti-miscegenation laws (race-based restrictions on marriage).
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated, 1968On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot outside of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. King's assassination precipitated marches and rallies across America and riots erupted in over 100 cities. In the melee, 46 people were killed and 20,000 arrested. From April 5 - 11, there were 50,000 federal and state troops called in to keep order. President Lyndon B. Johnson declared April 7 an official day of mourning. King was 38 years old at the time of his death.
  • Arthur Ashe Wins First Tennis Title, August 25, 1968. Graduating as valedictorian from his high school, Arthur Ashe turned pro at the age of 26. He went on to win the U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and became the first African American tennis player to be ranked number one.
  • Shirley Chisholm, 1968 and 1972In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. A Democrat, she represented the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. In 1972 she became the first African-American woman to run for president with a major political party. Aware that she would not win the nomination, Chisholm explained her motivation for entering the race," The next time a woman of whatever color, or a dark-skinned person of whatever sex aspires to be president, the way should be a little smoother because I helped pave it."
  • First African-American Astronaut in Space, 1983On August 30, 1983, the space shuttle Challenger blasted off in the dark from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying the first African-American astronaut to go into space. Forty-year-old Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr., a mission specialist, tested the Challenger's mechanical arm, helped launch weather and communications satellites, and performed experiments in electrophoresis.
  • First African-American Miss America, 1983. On September 17, 1983, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the first African-American Miss America was crowned. At age of 20, Vanessa Williams of New York had won American's foremost beauty pageant.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991Adds provisions to Title VII protections, including right to jury trial.
  • First Female African-American Astronaut in Space, 1992On September 12, 1992, Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman to go into space.
  • Colin Powell, 2001First African American U.S. Secretary of State. For more infomation, see BlackPast.org biographic sketch.
  • Oprah Winfrey Becomes First African American Female Billionaire, February 27, 2003.
  • Condoleezza Rice, 2005First African American Woman Secretary of State.
  • Barak Obama Election, 2008, and Presidency, 2009-2016How Barack Obama Defied History, BBC, November 5, 2008.

100 Amazing Facts

How Many Slaves Landed in the US? : You might think you know, but you're probably wrong. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 1. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 15, 2012.

Who Was the First African American? : We know his name, and that he arrived well before the Mayflower. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 2. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 21, 2012.

Who Was the First Black Saint? : We know his name, and why a Swiss resort town is named after him. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 3. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 29, 2012.

Who Was North America's 1st Black President? : He's sometimes called the "Abraham Lincoln" of his nation. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 4. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 5, 2012.

Who Was Africa's 1st Ambassador to Europe? : The answer lies a lot further back in time than you think. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 5. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 12, 2012.

Who Was the First Black to Explore the West? : He traveled the North American Southwest before Lewis and Clark. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 6. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 19, 2012.

Which Slave Wrote His Way Out of Slavery? : This African penned a letter powerful enough to lead to freedom. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 7. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 26, 2012.

North America's 1st Black Town? : It was founded during slavery, and it wasn't in the U.S. South. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 8. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 3, 2012.

George Washington's Runaway Slave, Harry : His journey would take him a world away from Mount Vernon. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 9. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 10, 2012.

george-washington-billy-lee-trumbell

Who Led the First Back-to-Africa Effort? : Paul Cuffee was also the first free black White House guest. Amazing Facts About the Negro No. 10. Article by Henry Louis Gates Jr. appearing in the Root, December 17, 2012.

The 1st Black Man to See the Baby Jesus : What do we really know about Balthasar's origins?  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 11.   Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 24, 2012.

What Was America's First Black Town? : As the nation turns its attention to the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, it's worth noting that decades before the United States was even formed, African Americans lived free in a town of their own -- at least for a while....Sometime between March and November of 1738, Spanish settlers in Florida formed a town named Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose, two miles to the north of St. Augustine. Initially, it consisted of 38 men, all fugitive slaves, "most of them married," who had fled to Florida for sanctuary and freedom from enslavement in the Carolinas and Georgia. It came to be known as Fort Mose. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 12. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 31, 2012.

Fort Mose map: The Jefferys map of 1762 showed what Fort Mose (labeled “Negroe Fort”) looked like in 1740. (www.flmnh.ufl.edu)

The Truth Behind '40 Acres and a Mule' : Find out who came up with the idea, and how it fell through. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 13. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, January 7, 2013.

Did Dogs Really Eat Slaves, Like in 'Django'?  : Plus, whether slaves rode horses or had Mandingo death matches. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 14.    Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, January 14, 2013.

Where Was the 1st Underground Railroad? : Here's a hint -- don't follow the North Star to find it. Amazing Facts About the Negro No. 15Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, January 21, 2013.

Where Was the Second Middle Passage? : A second forced migration of slaves wasn't transatlantic. .  Amazing Facts About the Negro No. 16.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, January 28, 2013

Why Was Cotton 'King'? : The lucrative crop didn't reign just in the slaveholding South.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 17. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 4, 2013.

Exactly How 'Black' Is Black America? : Find out the percentage of African ancestry in black Americans.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 18. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 11, 2013.

Who Really Invented the 'Talented Tenth'? : Why you'd be wrong if you said W.E.B. Du Bois.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 19. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 18, 2013.

Who Was the Black Swallow of Death? : Before the Tuskegee Airmen, there was Eugene Jacques Bullard.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 20. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 25, 2013.

Black and white photograph of Eugene Bullard

Did Black People Own Slaves? : Yes -- but why they did and how many they owned will surprise you. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 21. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 4, 2013.

New on The Root: Bobo, Lomax, Others : Politics, education and society are just a few of the hot topics our new regulars touch upon.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 22.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 11, 2013.

Why Richard Wright Hated Zora Neale Hurston? : A genre lost its inhibitions as Janie's orgasm riled critics.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 23. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 18, 2013.

Who Really Ran the Underground Railroad? : Find out which popular beliefs are myths (slave quilts, anyone?).  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 24. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 25, 2013.

Did Peter the Great Have a Black Son? : How Russian black history came to include two famous relations.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 25. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 1, 2013.

Was Jackie Robinson Court-Martialed? : His struggle for equality began even before he integrated baseball. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 26. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 8, 2013.

Was the Father of Russian Lit a Brother? : Find out if Alexander Pushkin's African roots held meaning for him.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 27. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 15, 2013.

Did African-American Slaves Rebel? : Haitians weren't the only ones unwilling to accept their fates. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 28. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 22, 2013.

Were There Slaves Like Stephen in "Django"? : Whether so-called house slaves betrayed others in bondage.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 29. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 29, 2013.

Which Slave Mailed Himself to Freedom?  Really! : Find out how a 200-pound man survived the trip in a coffin-like box.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 30. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 6, 2013.

Who Was the 1st Black Duke : Meet the scion of a legendary Italian dynasty. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 31. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 13, 2013.

Which Slave Sailed Himself to Freedom : Life took him from a daring sea escape to a stint in Congress. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 32. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 20, 2013.

What Was Black America’s Double War? : A paper's call for blacks to support the WWII effort had a twist.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 33. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 24, 2013.

Should Blacks Collect Racist Memorabilia?  A case for saving imagery that worked in tandem with Jim Crow laws. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 34. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 3, 2013.

"Plessy v. Ferguson" ;: Who Was Plessy? Learn about the man whose case led to decades of legal segregation. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 35. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 10, 2013.

What Is Juneteenth?  Learn about the most popular annual celebration of black emancipation. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 36. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 17, 2013.

Who Was the First Black Millionairess?  Even if you know the answer, you don't know the whole story. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 37. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 24, 2013.

Madam C.J. Walker (A'Lelia Bundles/Madam Walker Family Collection)

Did Black Men Fight at Gettysburg? It depends on how you define the pivotal Civil War battle. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 38.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 1, 2013.

Free Blacks Lived in the North, Right?  During slavery, some blacks were free. But where did they live? Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 39.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 8, 2013.

Why Did Free Blacks Stay in the Old South?  Find out what made them stay put during slavery.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 40.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 15, 2013.

Who Was the Sultan of Jazz?  This black man ruled nightlife in Moscow and Constantinople.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 41.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 22, 2013.

What Was the Colfax Massacre?  A racially driven rampage changes history.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 42.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 29, 2013.

Who Killed Black Wall Street?   An incident in an elevator sparks deadly and enduring consequences.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 43. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, August 5, 2013.

Why Don't Kids Know More About the Civil Rights Movement? A report shows too few U.S. high schoolers know the answer.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 44. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, August 12, 2013.

Who Designed the March on Washington?  This gay man was kept in the closet of the civil rights movement.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 45. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, August 19, 2013.

Did MLK Improvise in the 'Dream' Speech? What led to it and how some famous lines nearly weren't spoken.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 46. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, August 26, 2013.

When Jack Johnson Met the Black Russian  New book recalls the historic encounter between the boxing champ and savvy entrepreneur Frederick Bruce Thomas.  Honarary mention. Article by Vladimir Alexandrov. appearing in the Root, September 5, 2013.

Which African Prince Was Sold Into Slavery? His plight moved a president to act, and his fate defied the odds. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 47. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 9, 2013.

Who Was Napoleon's 'Black Devil'? His life, exploits and legacy had a profound effect on literature. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 48. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 16, 2013.

Discovery of 1st Black Female Novelist : The discovery of the author's real identity will forever change the history of African-American literature.  Honorary mention.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 19, 2013.

Who Was the 1st Black Poet? : The first to publish in a Western tongue isn't who you might think.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 49. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 23, 2013.

The First White Man in Chicago Was a Negro? : How Jean Baptiste Point du Sable became legend, and much more.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 50. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 27, 2013.

Were There 'Mulatto' Slave Traders? : A father-son story illustrates dynamics of the trade in humans.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 51. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 7, 2013.

12 Years a Slave: Trek From Slave to Screen : Long before Solomon Northup's ordeal hit screens, he wrote about it.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 52. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 14, 2013.

Cory Booker and the 1st Black Senators : Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 53. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 28, 2013.

Which Black Governor Was Almost a Senator? : His failed Senate bid prevented a situation that Cory Booker's now in. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 54. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 4, 2013.

How Black Was JFK's Camelot? : The answer reveals why Kennedy is so highly regarded by blacks. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 55 Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 18, 2013.

The Era of the Black Woman : When did the golden age of black female achievement begin? Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 56. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 25, 2013.

An African Princess Who Stood Unafraid Among Nazis : Her autobiography is a one-of-a-kind perspective of an educated, empowered, world-traveling daughter of a royal family, which no one wanted to publish until now.   Honorary mention : Article by  Jenée Desmond-Harris, November 23, 2013.

Was a Black Man on the Titanic? : The making of a legend named Shine, after the demise of a real person.  Who were the black passengers on the doomed Titanic voyage?  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 58. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 2, 2013.

Was the Lone Ranger Black? : Which former slave became a deputy U.S. marshal and a renowned symbol of law and order in the Wild West? The character's story is strikingly similar to that of 19th-century lawman Bass Reeves. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 59.  Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 9, 2013.

Was John Brown's 1st Victim Black? : Within a famous attempt to start a slave revolt was a terrible irony.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 60. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 16, 2013.

Did a Black Man Discover the Fountain of Youth? : Learn about the legend that predates Ponce de León’s legendary search.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 61. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 23, 2013.

Who Legalized Arming Black Men to Kill Confederates? :The answer reveals a complex relationship between Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 62. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, December 30, 2013.

Which Black Man Told Jefferson He Was Racist? : Many schools bear his name, but his legacy is poorly understood.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 63. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, January 13, 2014.

Nelson Mandela and the 1st Martin Luther King Holiday : From the very beginning, the King holiday reminded us how the struggle for freedom continued. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 64. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, January 20, 2014.

Did Lincoln Really Free the Slaves? : Several versions of the bill that abolished slavery were written before he signed the 13th Amendment as we know it today. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 65. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, January 27, 2014.

Shouldn't Every Day Be Black History Month? : Its founder thought so, ironically. Here's what happened instead. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 66. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 3, 2014.

Slavery, by the Numbers : Twenty-eight statistics every American should know this Black History Month.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 67. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 10, 2014.

Was Andromeda Black? : Evidence that a figure in Greek mythology received a European makeover. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 68. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 17, 2014.

How Many Slave Narratives Were There? : Sizing up the genre from which an Oscar favorite originated.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 69. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, February 24, 2014.

What Was the 1st Black American Newspaper? : Find out when it launched, and what pressing concern led to its demise.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 70. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 10, 2014.

How Many White People Are Passing? : A report reveals the proportion of Americans with “hidden African ancestry.”  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 71. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 17, 2014.

Who Was the 1st Black Ventriloquist? : Meet the original magical character named Potter. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 72. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 24, 2014.

Who Was the 1st Black Othello? : A new play tells the story of a pioneer of Shakespearean drama. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 73. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, March 31, 2014.

Who Is Black America's Patron Saint? : Meet the black Sicilian whose image was used to convert slaves to Catholicism.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 74. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 7, 2014.

The 'Black' Witch of Salem : Forget what you think you know about the person who started it all.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 75. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 14, 2014.

High Cheekbones and Straight Black Hair? : Why most black people aren’t “part Indian,” despite family lore.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 76. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 21, 2014.

A Raisin Still in the Sun : Beyond its star-studded Broadway revival, Lorraine Hansberry’s play remains relevant.    Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 77. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, April 28, 2014.

Who Was the Real Dido Elizabeth Belle? : What historical records say about the mixed-race heroine of a new film.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 78. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 5, 2014.

Who Was Black America's 1st Investigative Journalist? : Meet the man who exposed a colonial atrocity of epic proportions.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 79. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 12, 2014.

When Affirmative Action Was White : Meet America's first black collegians, who faced a system that explicitly favored the white elite.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 80. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 19, 2014.

The Black Roots of Memorial Day : How three runaway slaves created the momentum toward emancipation.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 81. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, May 26, 2014.

Was History's Richest Person Black? : Meet Mansa Musa, the Malian king whose gold-plated legend beats all others.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 82. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 2, 2014.

Was the Author of The Three Musketeers a Black Man? : You may already know the answer, but here's why it matters. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 83. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 9, 2014.

Did a Zulu King Massacre the British Army? : Recounting the time a South African chief was outgunned, but not outfoxed.   Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 84.   Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 16, 2014.

What Was Freedom Summer? : A new documentary reminds us of an old fight, with contemporary relevance.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 85. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 23, 2014.

Who Was the Unsung Hero of the 1964 Civil Rights Act? : Debating whether MLK or LBJ deserves more credit slights people like Clarence Mitchell Jr.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 86. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, June 30, 2014.

African Slaves Were the 1st to Celebrate Ramadan in America : As Islam becomes the second-most-practiced faith in the U.S., it is important to remember that Ramadan was first celebrated in this country by slaves who brought their faith traditions from West Africa. Article by Khaled A. Beydoun, July 3, 2014.

True or False: There Are No Black People in Argentina : Many Argentinians would say it's true. Yet history tells a different tale. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 87. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 13, 2014.

Did Black Slaves Revolt in Iraq? : The Revolt of the Zanj was a very different kind of operation for freedom in Iraq.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 88. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 21, 2014.

Were There Black Pirates? : Meet the buccaneers whom Hollywood never would have cast. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 89. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, July 28, 2014.

Who Was the 1st Black Rhodes Scholar? Also the dean of the Harlem Renaissance; he's only now being laid to rest. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 90. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 8, 2014.

In Whose Garden Did the Harlem Renaissance Grow? : How segregation, soil and poetic talent nurtured a movement.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 91. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 15, 2014.

Did Lincoln Want to Ship Black People to Africa? : The Great Emancipator's original solution for America’s race problem. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 92. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 22, 2014.

Who Were the 1st Black Federal Court Judges? : The most famous, Justice Thurgood Marshall, came out of an impressive field of talent.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 93. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, September 29, 2014.

Which Black Man Was Responsible for Burying Bodies at Gettysburg?? : Learn about his heroism before and after the Civil War battle, as well as a famous descendant.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 94. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 6, 2014.

Why Did Malcolm X Go to Oxford? : An invitation to defend extremism set the international stage for a legendary battle.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 95. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 13, 2014.

Did a Black Man Invent Crest Toothpaste? : ;Plus: What a P&G chemist and an Underground Railroad hero have in common.  Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 96. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 20, 2014.

Which Black Actor Was Paid to Be White? : He was a true cinematic chameleon back when Hollywood rarely cast across the color line. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 97. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, October 27, 2014.

Which Boxing Champ Was "Unforgivably Black"? : His boxing supremacy caused riots, and his love life scandalized a nation. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 98. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 3, 2014.

Who Were the Great Black Historians? : Meet the people to whom all black—and American—history buffs owe a great debt. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 99. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 10, 2014.

Who Was Joel A. Rogers? : In our series closer, we come back to the greatest popularizer of black-history facts. Amazing Fact About the Negro No. 100. Article by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. appearing in the Root, November 17, 2014.

David W. Blight, "The First Decoration Day", Zinn Education Project: Teaching a People's History.  May 1, 1865, Charleston, S.C., 2011.

Black History Links

Dorothy Dandridge: A 1st for the Academy Awards. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, February 23, 2015. She was the first African American, male or female, to be Oscar-nominated for a leading role, but sadly, her career and life had a tragic ending.

50 Years After His Assassination, Malcolm X's Message Still Calls Us to Seek Justice. By: Peniel E. Joseph, The Root, February 9, 2015. A half-century later, Malcolm remains one of the most important intellectuals, organizers and revolutionaries that black America has ever produced.

Marie Laveaux: The Vodou Priestess Who Kept New Orleans Under Her Spell. By: Steven J. Niven, The Root, February 17, 2015. Once considered one of the most powerful women in New Orleans, Laveaux wielded influence over politicians and high society.

Cigar-Smoking, Gun-Toting Mary Fields Carried Montana's Mail. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, February 16, 2015. They Did It First: She was a legend in Montana, a former slave and nursemaid, who was tough enough to do so-called men’s work.

That Time Carter G. Woodson Hired Langston Hughes for His 1st Real Job. By: Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root, February 12, 2015. A little-known connection between two leading figures in African-American history ends with a discovery by Langston Hughes that he’s not cut out for a 9-to-5 life.

Blues Singer Gladys Bentley Broke Ground With Marriage to a Woman in 1931. By: Steven J. Niven, The Root, February 11, 2015 Tormented as a child, Bentley found a home with gay and lesbian artists of the Harlem Renaissance but struggled her whole life with her identity and “heart-twisting existence.”

Yes, A Different World Is a Moment in Black History. By: Danielle C. Belton, The Root, February 11, 2015. My Black History: History is alive, and that means the events of yesterday and today are part of the black-history spectrum. In this series, our writers tell us what historical events they have experienced in their lifetimes.

Carol Taylor's 1st Flight Made History for African Americans. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, February 9, 2015.. They Did It First: Carol Taylor was a nurse, consumer activist and civil rights crusader but is best-known for breaking the color barrier in the sky.

A Black Whaling Captain Escaped Prejudice at Sea. By: Steven J. Niven, The Root, February 5, 2015. The whaling industry was popular with African Americans in the late 19th century, and William T. Shorey was a prominent ship captain who rose quickly through the ranks.

John Hope Franklin: A Life of Firsts and Flowers. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, February 2, 2015. They Did It First: The history of African Americans in this country is a history of “firsts,” so The Root is celebrating the men and women who blazed a trail and forged a legacy of being the first in their field.

Yes, There Were Black Confederates. Here's Why. By: John Stauffer, The Root, January 20, 2015. Evidence points to who they were and what their motivations were for fighting on the side of slave owners.

Who Was the 1st Black Female Ph.D.? By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, March 30, 2015. - They Did It First: Three women are actually credited with being the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. in the U.S.

4 Feet Tall, in Men’s Clothing, She Was an Artistic Genius in 19th-Century Italy. By Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 26, 2015 - A tiny woman, Edmonia Lewis built inspiring and relevant sculptures, some of which still live in the Smithsonian.

Why White Guests Clamored to Check In to Edwin Berry's Hotel. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, March 23, 2015. - They Did It First: In the late 1800s, Edwin C. Berry built one of the most elegant hotels in the country and refused to turn away black guests, often angering his elite white clientele.

Dr. Ben, One of the Last ‘People’s Scholars’ of Harlem, Joins the Ancestors. By: Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root, March 20, 2015. - The activist and educator Yosef ben-Jochannan, a founding scholar of Africana studies, died this week.</p>

Mary Bowser: A Brave Black Spy in the Confederate White House. By: Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 19, 2015. - Smart, cunning and fearless, Mary Bowser outsmarted Jefferson Davis and his wife for years and delivered secrets to the Union army.

The 1st Successful American-Born Magician Was a Black Man. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, March 16, 2015. - They Did It First: A magician, ventriloquist and illusionist, Richard Potter made history when he took the stage to perform his dazzling act.

A Cane River Tale: From Slave to Free Woman to Slave Owner. By: Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 10, 2015. - Marie-Thérèse Coincoin from Natchitoches Parish, La., began life as a laborer but lived to bequeath wealth and slaves to her many children.

The Contradictions of #Selma50. By: Kirsten West Savali, The Root, March 9, 2015 - The contradictory emotions that Selma, Ala., evokes—joy, anger, pride, pain, hope and resignation—were what made the #Selma50 weekend so necessary. But as inspiring as it was, the time has come to climb down from the shoulders of history and continue moving the country forward.

What a Slave-Reparations Claim Has to Do With Harvard Law School. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, March 9, 2015 - They Did It First: A prominent Massachusetts slaveholder left a fortune to Harvard University, and it has been a subject of controversy for many years.

Selma’s Heroic Marchers Remember ‘Bloody Sunday’ of 1965. By: Lottie L. Joiner, the Root, March 7, 2015 - Fifty years after risking their lives for the right to vote, Selma, Ala.’s heroes share their reflections on “Bloody Sunday” with The Root.

5 Things You Should Know About Selma. By: The Root Staff, The Root, March 6, 2015 - As the nation marks the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march, here are some facts about the movement that led to the Voting Rights Act.

Before Venus and Serena, There Were the Peters Sisters. By: Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 4, 2015 - Margaret and Roumania Peters were an unbeatable pair in the Jim Crow tennis era of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.

Cathay Williams: She Pretended to Be a Man to Enlist as a Buffalo Soldier. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, March 2, 2015 - They Did It First: Despite a doctor’s examination, Cathay Williams served in the U.S. Army as a man until her ultimate discharge for medical disability.

How Black America Rallied to Stop the Racist Film The Birth of a Nation. By: E.R. Shipp, The Root, March 1, 2015 - One hundred years ago, the film that glorified the Ku Klux Klan and championed white supremacy was targeted by fledgling civil rights organizations and black media.

Recognizing the Household Workers on the Front Lines of Protest in Montgomery, Ala., 1955. By: Premilla Nadasen, the Root, Nov. 23 2015. During the Montgomery Bus Boycott, African-American women who worked as domestic workers did more than stay home. They raised money, organized and helped mobilize the protest movement.

A Rare, Firsthand Account of an African Muslim Enslaved in Brazil. By Steven J. Niven, The Root, Oct. 26, 2015. Captured and stolen from Benin, Mahommah Gardo Baquaqua eventually found freedom in the United States, but he always dreamed of his African home.

The Life of Grace Lee Boggs, a Leader in the Black Power Movement  By Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root, October 6, 2015  : How a Chinese woman became one of the most well-known revolutionaries of the mid-20th century.

Is This the End of the 2nd Reconstruction? By: Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Root, Oct. 2, 2015. We see an assault on the hard-fought gains of the civil rights movement, as well as the violence against black bodies. Our response must be to declare that black lives matter.

Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith: Once the Grande Dame of Paris’ Nightclub Scene. By:   A girl from West Virginia with flaming red hair and big dreams escaped segregated America and made herself a star in Europe.

Unbroken Spirits: Black Family Legends About Rebellious Forebears. By: Henry Louis Gates Jr., The Root, Sept. 11 2015. Tracing Your Roots: Seems like most black families have a legend of an ancestor who bucked the system in some way. Here are our three favorite columns about spirited kin.

Before Emmett Till’s Death, Willie James Howard, 15, Was Murdered in Fla.  By: Tonyaa Weathersbee, The Root, Aug. 29 2015  :  In 1944 an innocent flirtation with a white girl cost Willie James Howard his life and set off a campaign for justice.

Julian Bond’s ‘Comic’ Stance on the Vietnam War By: Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root,  Aug. 17 2015.  : Civil rights activist, organizer, speaker ... and comic book author? Yes, Julian Bond created a comic book to express his displeasure with the war in Vietnam.

The Courageous 5 Who Made History in Selma   By: Sherrel W. Stewar, The Root,  Aug. 6 2015. :  Years after the Voting Rights Act became law, five African-American men were elected to the Selma, Ala., City Council.

The Defiant One: Why You Should Know Civil Rights Icon Gloria Richardson. By: Phillip Jackson, The Root, July 7, 2015. : More than 50 years ago, the activist and pioneer stood up to the National Guard and became an inspiration to a generation of activists.

Some of the Most Significant Modern-Day Attacks on Black Churches. By: Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele, The Root, June 19, 2015. : It got so bad in the 1990s that federal legislation was enacted to punish racist arsonists more severely.

Juneteenth: 150 Years Ago, Black America Got Its Own Independence Day. By: Laura Saunders Egodigwe, the Root, June 19, 2015. : What better way to celebrate the start of summer than marking the day when the last slaves in the nation gained their freedom?

Why the Black Church Has Always Mattered. By: Peniel E. Joseph, The Root, June 19, 2015. : The black church’s radical humanism harbored a fierce resistance to slavery, a love of freedom, and a thirst for citizenship and equality.

Why Memorial Day Has Special Significance for African Americans. By: Theodore R. Johnson III, The Root, May 25, 2015. : They have long been overrepresented in the military, serving and dying for a country that has not always celebrated their freedom or rewarded their sacrifice.

Malcolm X Matters: Icon’s Words Still Ring True. By: Kirsten West Savali, The Root, May 19, 2015. : Malcolm X, born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925, in Omaha, Neb., would have been 90 years old today.

A Bloody History of Police Brutality in Baltimore. By: Nick Alexandrov, The Root, May 4, 2015. : When the media say that violence erupted among rioters last week, they need to check their history. Violence erupted in Baltimore at least a century ago at the hands of police.

10 Landmark Cases That Show How the NAACP LDF Reshaped Racial Justice.  By: Erin E. Evans, The Root, April 28 2015.   The Root looks back at the court rulings that defined its legacy.

George McJunkin : How a Black Man’s Archaeological Discovery Changed History.  By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, April 27 2015. They Did It First: A New Mexico cowboy, McJunkin made a discovery that ultimately established a timeline for human existence in North America.

Before Dyson and West: Remembering Black Luminaries’ ‘Rap Battles’. By: Todd Steven Burroughs, the Root, April 21, 2015. : The public nature of the dustup between Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West has a long history in black America.

Who Was the 1st Black Prima Ballerina at the Met? By: Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, April 20, 2015. They Did It First: An extraordinarily gifted dancer, Janet Collins was a groundbreaking artist of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, who dazzled Broadway and made history on the Metropolitan Opera stage.

Who Was the 1st Black Woman to Play Professional Baseball?   By Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Julie Wolf, The Root, April 13, 2015. : They Did It First: Toni Stone was in a league all her own, replacing the great Henry Aaron on the Negro Leagues’ Indianapolis squad when he moved up to the majors.

MLK’s Radicalism Speaks to Contemporary Protests. By: Peniel E. Joseph, The Root, April 4, 2015. : On this anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination, we look to his speeches of 1967 and 1968, when he attacked America’s militarism, materialism and racism.

For 1st Time Ever, a Black Santa Comes to Mall of America in Minnesota.  By Monique Judge, The Root, December 1, 2016 :  Larry Jefferson is the first black Santa in the mall’s 24-year history.  Jefferson said that children are rarely fazed at meeting a black Santa.  “What they see most of time is this red suit and candy,” Jefferson said. “Santa represents a good spirit. I’m just a messenger to bring hope, love and peace to girls and boys. Anybody can be Santa; it’s what’s in your heart.”

Sojourner Truth Was Enslaved by Family of Rutgers’ 1st President.  The Root, November 24, 2016.  Like many other colleges that are now being forced to atone for their past transgressions against people of color (Georgetown’s sale of slaves to save the college, UT Austin and its fawning relationship with Jefferson DavisYale and its buildings named for slaveholders), Rutgers University is also soberly looking at its not-so-pristine history. In a recently released book, Scarlet and Black, Volume 1: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History, Rutgers, founded in 1766, owns up to the fact that the university’s founders were slave owners, and Native Americans were displaced as land was transferred to the college. USA Today also reports the eight-month research project revealed that that abolitionist and women’s-rights activist Sojourner Truth and her parents were owned by the family of Rutgers’ first president, Jacob Hardenbergh.

President Obama's Take on Kaepernick's Anthem Protest (YouTube).  September 28, 2016.

Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Won't Stand for the National Anthem (YouTube).  August 29, 2016.

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusal to stand for the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner sheds light on national anthem and Francis Scott Key.  Almost no one seems to be aware that even if the U.S. were a perfect country today, it would be bizarre to expect African-American players to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Why? Because it literally celebrates the murder of African-Americans.  Source Jon Schwartz, "Colin Kaepernick Is Righter Than You Know: The National Anthem Is a Celebration of Slavery,  The Intercept, August 28, 2016.

Star-Spangled Bigotry: The Hidden Racist History of the National Anthem.  By Jason Johnson, The Root, July 4, 2016 :  Most people don’t know there’s more than one verse to the national anthem, and it’s the third that’s a doozy. Jason Johnson

Emancipation Day: The End of Slavery in the Capital of a Free Nation. By David Fiske, Tthe Root, April 15, 2016. : Normally celebrated on April 16, its anniversary in 1862, this year’s Emancipation Day is April 15.

That Time Jackie Robinson Was a Columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier.   By Todd Steven Burroughs, The Root, April 4, 2016. : When Jackie Robinson hit the baseball majors, it became the mission of the Negro press to keep him and his fans safe, and his very own column was part of the strategy.

Motherwit: Onnie Lee Logan’s 4 Decades as a Midwife in Alabama.   By: Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 28, 2016. : Hidden History: With a belief that her hands were guided by God, Onnie Lee Logan was a much praised and honored granny midwife for four decades in Alabama.

How NASA’s Katherine Johnson Had the Right Stuff to Win the Space Race. By Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 21 2016. : Hidden History: Her extraordinary math skills made Katherine Johnson an invaluable part of the team that sent American astronauts into space and ultimately to the moon.

Queen of the Courts: How Ora Washington Helped Philly ‘Forget the Depression’ . By Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 14 2016. : Hidden History: A tennis star and basketball legend, Washington dominated the black tennis world and paved the way for the present-day stars of the WNBA.

100 Years of Perpetual Occupation: Woodrow Wilson’s Legacy in Haiti. By Westenley Alcenat, The Root, March 12 2016. : Admirers of Woodrow Wilson overlook his crimes against the Haitian people a century ago.

Ona Judge Staines: She Challenged George Washington and Won Her Freedom Hidden History.   By Steven J. Niven, The Root, March 7 2016. Bold, brave and determined, the woman then known as Ona Judge was the only slave to ever escape from the President’s House in Philadelphia.

Proud and Free in Spanish Fla.: Juan Bautista Whitten Led a Black Militia.   By Steven J. Niven, The Root, Feb. 29, 2016. Hidden History: Alongside his wife, María Rafaela Whitten, Juan Bautista Whitten escaped slavery to establish himself in Florida as a skilled craftsman and valued soldier.

Cornelius Johnson and a Forgotten US Protest Against Hitler at the 1936 Olympics. By Steven J. Niven, The Root, Feb. 24, 2016. Hidden History: Berlin 1936 will forever be remembered as Jesse Owens’ Olympics, but it was another set of Olympians, led by Cornelius Johnson, whose personal protest against Hitler has long been ignored.

The Stono Slave Rebellion Was Nearly Erased From US History Books. By Steven J. Niven, The Root, Feb. 22 2016 . Hidden History: Led with military skill by Angolan-born fighters, the Stono Rebellion was the bloodiest slave revolt in colonial North America, but few have heard the story.

Once a Slave, Then a Soldier in a Battle for Freedom and His Family. By Steven J. Niven, The Root, Feb. 15, 2016. Hidden History: Through the writings of Spotswood Rice and his daughter Mary Bell, historians have pieced together an extraordinary tale of resilience, courage and ultimately triumph for an African-American family in the late 1800s. Once a Slave, Then a Soldier in a Battle for Freedom and His Family.

Judge Jane Bolin Battled Institutional Racism in NYC Courts for Decades. By Julie Wolf, Feb. 18, 2016 . Hidden History: An unsung champion for the rights of African Americans, Bolin had a legacy of “firsts,” including becoming the first African-American female judge in the United States.

Ralph Bunche: A Diplomat Who Would Not Negotiate on Race. By Steven J. Niven, The Root, February 8, 2016. Hidden History: Perhaps the toughest choice the career diplomat ever had to make pitted his career against his pride as an African-American man.

Black American Influence in London: An Overlooked History. By Linn Washington Jr., The Root, February 2, 2016. Six notable Black American historic figures who are commemorated and celebrated in London for their influence.

Jan Rodrigues: The 1st Black Man to Set Foot on the Island of Manhattan. By Steven J. Niven, the Root, Feb. 1, 2016. Hidden History: The story of the first African descendant who was also the first Hispanic American and first Dominican settler in New York’s Manhattan.

"At one time black folk in Detroit had their own Powerball".  Ken Coleman, Michigan Chronicle, January 29, 2016. For more than 20 years, John W. Roxborough and Everett I. Watson lived the high life as two of Paradise Valley’s most powerful men and all that came with it.

The Thibodaux Massacre Left 60 African-Americans Dead and Spelled the End of Unionized Farm Labor in the South for DecadesSmithsonian.Com, November 21, 2017. In 1887, African-American cane workers in Louisiana attempted to organize—and many paid with their lives

A war hero who was a stranger in his own land. John Blake, CNN, November 19, 2017.  Thomas J. Hudner Jr., a former Navy pilot who won the Medal of Honor for attempting to rescue a fellow pilot during the Korean War, died Monday. He was 93. Hudner talked with CNN last year about his remarkable friendship with the pilot, Jesse Leroy Brown, who was the Navy's first black aviator.

Missouri v. Celia, a Slave: She killed the white master raping her, then claimed self-defense.  Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, October 19, 2017.  In Missouri in 1855,  it was a crime “to take any woman unlawfully against her will and by force, menace or duress, compel her to be defiled,” allowing women to argue self-defense in resisting such assaults. Did that law apply to enslaved women?  Celia’s court-appointed defense lawyer argued that it did. He asked Circuit Court Judge William Hall to instruct the jury that a slave master had no right to rape a slave and that the slaying could be considered justifiable.  But the judge refused to give the jury those instructions.

The NFL couldn’t keep Colin Kaepernick off the field,  Adam Kilgore, Washington Post, September 26, 2017.  “One day, maybe my youngest, who is in second grade, is going to open up a history book and he’ll read about Colin,” Phil Sanchez, Colin Kaepernick’s high school guidance counselor, told Kent Babb this summer. “And it won’t have anything to do with throwing a touchdown.”  The notion of Kaepernick as an American historical figure was cemented this weekend. Among NFL players, the preferred method of protest — taking a knee — and the impetus to use the national anthem as a platform for expression traces back to Kaepernick. It was a momentous weekend, and it was shaped primarily by someone who wasn’t there. NFL teams may not have signed him to play quarterback this season, but they could not keep Kaepernick off the field.  Donald Trump prompted mass player protests during the national anthem with his caustic remarks Friday night and tweets all day Saturday. He left players with little choice but to respond, and many players took their cues from Kaepernick.

Vandals damage historical marker commemorating 1917 uprising by black soldiers. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, Sepember 8, 2017.

My mother was sold from me’: After slavery, the desperate search for loved ones in ‘last seen ads’ Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, September 7, 2017.  Ten months after the Civil War ended, an enslaved woman who had been ripped away from her children started looking for them.  Elizabeth Williams, who had been sold twice since she last saw her children, placed a heart-wrenching ad in a newspaper: “INFORMATION WANTED by a mother concerning her children,” Williams wrote March 17, 1866, in the Christian Recorder newspaper in Philadelphia. Her ad was one of thousands taken out by formerly enslaved people looking for lost relatives after the Civil War. Those ads are now being digitized in a project called “Last Seen: Finding Family After Slavery,” which is run by Villanova University’s graduate history program in collaboration with Philadelphia’s Mother Bethel AME Church.

Thurgood Marshall asked an ex-Klan member to help him make Supreme Court history. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, September 1, 2017.  Fifty years ago, Thurgood Marshall, the grandson of an enslaved man who had become one of the country’s most famous litigators, was about to be sworn in as the first African American justice on the Supreme Court. And Marshall wanted to take the constitutional oath of office from Hugo Black, a white associate justice who had once been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.  Although Black had once been a member of the Klan, “when he got into the court, he turned out to be one of the most liberal justices,” she said. And Justice Black and Justice Marshall became friends, serving together until Black’s retirement from the court on Sept. 17, 1971.

A surgeon experimented on slave women without anesthesia. Now his statues are under attack. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, August 29, 2017.  Amid demands to remove Confederate statues across the country, cries have grown louder to dismantle monuments to J. Marion Sims, the “father of gynecology,” a white 19th-century doctor who performed surgical experiments on enslaved black women without anesthesia.

The day President Reagan comforted a black family who had a KKK cross burned on its lawn. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, August 27, 2017.  President Reagan read the story about the cross burning in his morning Washington Post. A black family in College Park, Md., had just won a civil suit against a young Ku Klux Klan leader who had been convicted of terrorizing the family five years earlier.  Reagan’s deputy press secretary, Larry Speakes, said the president was jarred by what had happened to Phillip and Barbara Butler. “That was the first thing on his mind this morning,” Speakes told The Post on May 3, 1982. White House Chief of Staff James Baker and Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver walked into the Oval Office, and the first thing he said to them was, “ ‘I’ve read this story. I’d like to go see these people.’ ”

‘Detroit’ and the police brutality that left three black teens dead at the Algiers Motel. Deneen L. Brown, Washington Post, August 4, 2017.  Forty-three people died during the devastating riots that gripped Detroit in 1967. But it was the brutal deaths of three black teenagers — killed by police at the Algiers Motel — that garnered the most attention.  The slayings of Aubrey Pollard, 19; Fred Temple, 18; and Carl Cooper, 17, are now the subject of a critically acclaimed Hollywood movie. In “Detroit,” director Kathryn Bigelow “drills down into one of American history’s most egregious cases of abuse of police power, bringing it to life with visceral detail,” Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday said in her review. 

Althea Gibson’s amazing win at Wimbledon in 1957 paved the way for Venus and Serena.  DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post, July 14, 2017.  Sixty years ago this month, Althea Gibson became the first African American to win a championship at Wimbledon. With a powerful serve and an astonishing reach, Gibson dominated the court at the All-England club, defeating Darlene Hard in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2, despite 96-degree heat.  Gibson, who began playing tennis in Harlem as a child, had broken tennis’s color barrier. “At last! At last!” she shouted, before accepting the coveted trophy from Queen Elizabeth II.

The first woman to start a bank — a black woman — finally gets her due in the Confederacy’s capital.  DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post, July 4, 2017.  Maggie L. Walker started a newspaper. She was the first country’s first woman to found a bank. She was a humanitarian, a teacher, an icon of her community in 1920s Richmond.  She was also the daughter of a former slave.  Walker’s accomplishments in the face of racial oppression and segregation have never been honored in her hometown in the same way as the Confederate leaders whose statues are the focal point of downtown Richmond.

Life or death for black travelers’: How fear led to ‘The Negro Motorist Green-Book.  DeNeen L. Brown, Washington Post, June 1, 2017.  In the 1930s, the freedom of the open road beckoned, but for African Americans traveling in the Jim Crow era, highways could be fraught with peril.  Stopping at the wrong roadside diner could lead to discrimination and “embarrassments.” Running out of gas on a highway could lead to an encounter with the Ku Klux Klan. Making a bad turn into a “sundown town” — where African Americans were not permitted after dark — could lead to a lynching. Some of those towns constructed signs at their borders warning, “N—–, Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On You.”  “It was life or death for black travelers,” said Candacy Taylor, a Harvard fellow and cultural documentarian working on a project about what was first known as “The Negro Motorist Green-Book.”

You’ve got bad blood’: The horror of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment.  DeNeen L. Brown,  Washington Post, May 16, 2017.  In the fall of 1932, the fliers began appearing around Macon County, Ala., promising “colored people” special treatment for “bad blood.”  “Free Blood Test; Free Treatment, By County Health Department and Government Doctors,” the black and white signs said. “YOU MAY FEEL WELL AND STILL HAVE BAD BLOOD. COME AND BRING ALL YOUR FAMILY.”  Hundreds of men — all black and many of them poor — signed up. Some of the men thought they were being treated for rheumatism or bad stomachs. They were promised free meals, free physicals and free burial insurance.  What the signs never told them was they would become part of the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male,” a secret experiment conducted by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the progression of the deadly venereal disease — without treatment.

Hunting Down Runaway Slaves: The Cruel Ads of Andrew Jackson and "the Master Class",  DeNeen L. Brown,  Washington Post, May 1, 2017.  Stop the Runaway,” Andrew Jackson urged in an ad placed in the Tennessee Gazette in October 1804. The future president gave a detailed description: A “Mulatto Man Slave, about thirty years old, six feet and an inch high, stout made and active, talks sensible, stoops in his walk, and has a remarkable large foot, broad across the root of the toes — will pass for a free man …” Jackson, who would become the country’s seventh commander in chief in 1829, promised anyone who captured this “Mulatto Man Slave” a reward of $50, plus “reasonable” expenses paid.  Jackson added a line that some historians find particularly cruel.  It offered “ten dollars extra, for every hundred lashes any person will give him, to the amount of three hundred.”

When Henrietta Lacks had cervical cancer, it was a ‘death sentence.’ Her cells would help change that.  DeNeen L. Brown,  Washington Post, April 22, 2017. 

Tracing His Roots, Georgetown Employee Learns University Sold His Ancestor.  Audra D. S. Burch.  New York Times.  March 24, 2017 : As a Georgetown employee, Jeremy Alexander watched as the university grappled with its haunted past: the sale of slaves in 1838 to help rescue it from financial ruin....   He listened as Georgetown’s president apologized for its sins and looked for ways to make amends. And Mr. Alexander observed, with wonder, some of the slave descendants when they visited the campus....  What he did not know at the time: He was one of them.

"7 Times Harriet Tubman Was a Badass Superhero".  Genetta M. Adams.  The Root, March 10, 2017. : Harriet Tubman is having a moment. Right now she is the “it” girl of history.

America’s always had black inventors – even when the patent system explicitly excluded themShontavia Johnson.  The Conservation, February 14, 2017. : American slaves couldn't hold property – including patents on their own inventions. But that didn't stop black Americans from innovating since the beginning of the country's history.

The story of Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield, America’s first black pop star.  Adam Gustafson.  The Conservation, February 6, 2017.  : In the 19th century, critics and audiences thought blacks were incapable of singing as well as their white, European counterparts. Greenfield forced them to reconcile their ears with their racism.

Blacks in Detroit 100 Years Ago,  Ken Coleman, Michigan Chronicle, January 6, 2017.  Imagine a time three years before radio and 30 years before television. Imagine buying a movie theater ticket for only a dime or a Hershey chocolate bar for only three pennies. The year was 1917. The place was Detroit’s black community.

James Tobin, "The Negro-Caucasian Club", University of Michigan Heritage Club.   Also see Oakley Johnson, “The Negro-Caucasian Club: A History,” Michigan Quarterly Review (Spring 1969).

Cleve R. Wootsen Jr., "Voters oust prosecutor accused of favoring Ferguson officer who killed Michael Brown", Washington Post, August 8, 2018.

"A siege. A bomb. 48 dogs. And the black commune that would not surrender", The Guardian, July 31, 2018. Forty years ago, Philadelphia erupted in one of the most dramatic shoot-outs of the black liberation struggle.  tells the surreal story of the Move 9 – and what happened to them next

Melissa Milewski.  "Justice in an Unjust World".  History Today, June 2018. : The untold story of African-Americans’ civil cases in the segregated South.

Sarah Laskow.  "The Forgotten Black Pioneers Who Settled the Midwest",  Atlas Obscura, June 14 2018. :Before the Civil War, free black settlements grew in the Northwest Territory.

The First (Documented) Black Woman to Serve in the U.S. Army.  Christina Avele Diossa, Atlas Obscura, February 28, 2018. Cathay Williams, who posed as a man in order to enlist in 1866, leaves a legacy that’s open to interpretation.

"Slavery is still America's burden".   Michelle Riley, Detroit Free Press, February 25, 2018.  : Slavery lives.  It is America’s burden that, like the building of our country, continues to be borne on the backs of African Americans more than anyone else.  America has spent more than a century and a half not dealing with the heinous institution that attempted to make beasts of men.  Note:  The burden : African Americans and the enduring impact of slavery / Rochelle Riley [editor] ; with a foreword by Nikole Hannah-Jones ; featuring essayists Mark Auslander [and 22 others]  Wayne State University Press, 2018 is now available in the MSU Libraries.

The Second Amendment Was Ratified to Preserve Slavery.  Thom Hartmann, Truthout, January 15, 2013; reposted February 23, 2108.  The real reason the Second Amendment was ratified, and why it says "State" instead of "Country" (the framers knew the difference -- see the 10th Amendment), was to preserve the slave patrol militias in the southern states, which was necessary to get Virginia's vote. Founders Patrick Henry, George Mason and James Madison were totally clear on that... and we all should be too.