The “Modern” Civil Rights Movement dates, arguably, back to a cool December day in 1955 when a tired Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man.
There are many important dates in Black History that occurred long before that historic day in Birmingham, Alabama.
Some are reasons to be proud. Many others are reasons to pause and reflect on how we can do better in treating our fellow humans.
All should be remembered as well as the hundreds of others not listed here.
25 Important Dates in American Black History
- August 20, 1619 -Twenty Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, aboard a Dutch ship. They were the first Black people to be forcibly settled as involuntary laborers in the North American British Colonies.
- 1641 – Massachusetts was the first colony to legalize slavery by statute.
- September 13, 1663 – The first documented attempt at a rebellion by slaves took place in Gloucester County, Virginia.
- February 18, 1688 –The Quakers of Germantown, Pennsylvania, passed the first formal antislavery resolution.
- April 7, 1712 – A slave insurrection occurred in New York City, resulting in the execution of 21 African Americans.
- April 19, 1775 – Free blacks fight with the Minutemen in the initial skirmishes of the Revolutionary War at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts
- December 31, 1777 – George Washington reversed previous policy and allowed the recruitment of blacks as soldiers. Some 5,000 would participate on the American side before the end of the Revolution.
- July 13, 1787 – The Continental Congress forbade slavery in the region northwest of the Ohio River by the Northwest Ordinance.
- September. 1787 – The Constitution of the United States allowed a male slave to count as three-fifths of a man in determining representation in the House of Representatives.
- February 12, 1793 – Congress passes the first Fugitive Slave Law.
- March 14, 1793 – Eli Whitney obtained a patent for his cotton gin, a device that paved the way for the massive expansion of slavery in the South.
- January 1, 1808 – The federal law prohibiting the importation of African slaves went into effect. It was largely ignored.
- August 21-22, 1831 – The Nat Turner revolt ran its course in Southampton County, Virginia.
- July 1839 – The slaves carried on the Spanish ship, Amistad, took over the vessel and sailed it to Montauk on Long Island. They eventually won their freedom in a case taken to the Supreme Court.
- July 1849 – Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery. She would return South at least twenty times, leading over 300 slaves to freedom.
- March 6, 1857 – The Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court denied that Black people were citizens of the United States and denied the power of Congress to restrict slavery in any federal territory.
- July 17, 1862 – Congress allowed the enlistment of blacks in the Union Army. Some black units precede this date, but they were disbanded as unofficial. Some 186,000 blacks served; of these 38,000 died.
- January 1, 1863 – The Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in states in rebellion against the United States.
- December 18, 1865 – The Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery, passed by Congress.
- July 28, 1868 – The Fourteenth Amendment passed. It made Black people citizens of the United States.
- March 30, 1870 – The Fifteenth Amendment, which outlawed the denial of the right to vote, ratified.
- July 11-13, 1905 – W. E. B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter were among the leaders of the meeting from which sprung the Niagara Movement, the forerunner of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (NAACP)
- 1952 – After keeping statistics for 71 years, Tuskegee, Alabama reported that this was the first year with no lynchings.
- May 17, 1954 – In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court completed overturning legal school segregation at all levels in a case argued by future Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.
- December 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks refused to change seats in a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. On December 5 blacks began a boycott of the bus system which continued until shortly after December 13, 1956, when the United States Supreme Court outlawed bus segregation in the city.