The criteria for selection for this timeline has to do with identifying those elements that had to be in place
before there could be a Southern Freedom Movement.
1619 First slaves brought to 13 colonies
1790, Quaker petition to U.S. Congress to end slave trade is tabled after debate
1817, blacks begin to create abolitionist organizations in response the founding of the American Colonization Society (white abolitionists and slaveholders who wanted to resettle freed blacks outside the U.S.)
1827, the first African-American owned and operated newspaper, FreedomÕs Journal, published weekly
1829, publication of David WalkerÕs Appeal
1830, First National Negro Convention (8 more conventions convened from 1830-50)
1831, Nat TurnerÕs Rebellion
1847, Frederick Douglass started his own newspaper, The North Star.
1861 – 1865, Civil War
1864, New Orleans Tribune, first black daily newspaper in the United States
1865, 13th Amendment ends slavery
1866, founding of the KKK and passing of black codes by southern state legislatures
1867, Reconstruction begins – federal protection of black civil rights in the south
1868, 14th Amendment defines citizenship and establishes equal protection and due process for all citizens.
1870, 15th Amendment clarifies that black men have the right to vote
1875, Civil Rights Act guaranteed that everyone was entitled to the same treatment in "public accommodations" (i.e. inns, public conveyances, theaters, and other places of public amusement).
1877, Reconstruction Ends – withdrawal of federal troops from South as part of compromise between Democrats and Republicans which settled the controversial 1876 Presidential election. What follows for the rest of the century is the systematic violent elimination of black leaders and black disenfranchisement with the simultaneously creation of apartheid through segregation laws (called Jim Crow).
1883, Supreme Court declares Civil Rights Act of 1875 is unconstitutional.
1892, after the lynching of her three friends, Ida B. Wells writes an editorial in Memphis Free Speech defining lynching as a tactic used to intimidate blacks into subservience and to punish successful blacks, thus maintaining white supremacy by terrorism. She also tells blacks to flee west, thousands go to Kansas.
1895, WellsÕ Red Record published, a detailed chronicling of lynchings that proves her 1892 editorial thesis.
1896, Plessy v Ferguson -- Supreme Court establishes segregation as constitutional (arguing separate okay if ÒequalÓ). The decision essentially justifies the reality that had been created through terror and violence since the end of Reconstruction in 1877.
1903, In The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Dubois (editor of the NAACPÕs The Crisis) excoriates Booker T. WashingtonÕs acceptance of segregation and second class citizenship and challenges black activists to accept nothing short of absolute equality.
1906, Atlanta, Georgia, race riot provoked by false newspaper reports of attacks on white women (which followed to performance of Thomas DixonÕs The Clansman, the play that was the basis for D.W. Griffiths Birth of a Nation in 1915.)
1908, Springfield, Illinois, race riot leads to the founding of the NAACP in 1910. William Walling wrote an article about the riot that was read by Mary White Ovington. The two met and agreed to call a meeting in 1909 that was attended mostly by white progressives. NAACP was, at the start, a primarily a white led and white funded organization (Dubois its only black officer). Wells left the NAACP later on believing it to be too conservative.
1910, over 275 black newspapers were being published in cities throughout the United States, reaching a cumulative circulation of half a million readers.
1910, 90% of blacks in south are sharecroppers
1911, NAACP launches anti-lynching campaign
1913, WW I and the great migration
1914 Marcus Garvey establishes the Universal Negro Improvement Association, a Pan African organization
1915, release of DW GriffithÕs The Birth Of A Nation. Movie mythologizes KKK as defenders of white Christian womanhood against pagan black male rapists. Inspires white newspapers to print false reports of black rapes that inspire whites to attack, brutalize and murder black citizens.
1916, James Weldon Johnson became the first black field secretary of the NAACP. He begins campaign to establish NAACP chapters in the South in order Òto awaken black America to a sense of its rights.Ó
1919, black WW I vets returning from Europe provide local leadership to grassroots organizing efforts. Many lynched for their efforts.
1925, Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters established. First black labor union provides a conduit for black news to travel throughout the nation.
1930, NAACP commission study by Nathan Margold, his report becomes the basis for the NAACPÕs Legal Defense Fund (est. 1939) strategy for overturning Plessy (not to attack segregation as unconstitutional, but to demonstrate that in practice segregation offered unequal facilities to blacks.)
1932, Myles Horton establishes the Highlander Folk School (educating and training organizers)
1941, ÒI Will OvercomeÓ is brought to the picket line by black members of the Food, Tobacco, and Agricultural Workers Union in Charleston, South Carolina.
1942, establishment of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), pacifists employing non-violent tactics in support of civil rights.
1944, in Smith v. Allwright, the Supreme Court declared the white primary unconstitutional
1945, black World War II veterans return home providing key leadership to local civil rights organizations in the South.
1946, in Morgan v. Virginia, the Supreme Court declared segregated seating on interstate bus lines unconstitutional
1946, Montgomery (Alabama) WomenÕs Political Council established (becomes key organization in organizing the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955).
1947, publication of John Hope FranklinÕs From Slavery to Freedom.
1947, Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) organizes Journey of Reconciliation (forerunner of Freedom Rides). Bayard Rustin is one of the 8 bus riders.
1947, white union members attended a workshop at the Highlander Folk School and were asked by Zilphia Horton if they knew any new songs. The volunteered ÒI Will Overcome.Ó It gets changed to ÒWe Shall OvercomeÓ and Pete Seeger learns it and takes it out around the country.
1948, Bayard Rustin travels to India to study Ghandian nonviolent resistance strategies.
1950 – 1955, Korean War, McCarthy hearings and the darkest days of the Cold War.
l954, in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court unanimously overturns Plessy. Highlander began holding workshops to discuss implementation of school integration in the South.
l954, White Citizens Council (white collar Klan) formed to organize against any attempts to use the Brown decision to integrate the South.
l954, Esau Jenkins attends Highlander session and sought HortonÕs advice about literacy training. Bernice Robinson teaches the first Citizenship School on Johns Island, S.C.
1955, Bandung Conference: leaders of 29 African and Asian countries meet in Indonesia, launching the Third World movement in defense of people of color around the globe.
1955, (August 31) Emmett TillÕs body recovered from Tallahatchie River, near Money, MS. TillÕs mother insists on open casket and pictures of brutalized body gets national press.
--1955 was a new time
--new because the U.S. was in the midst of fighting a "cold war" and embarrassed by the soviet argument that the US was hypocritical in arguing that it was fighting for freedom for all peoples
--new because colonized people of color were organizing internationally and successfully against white colonialism and American blacks could see themselves as part of this struggle
-- new because the 1954 Brown decision raised the hopes of all Afro Americans that they could leverage the federal government to protect black civil rights
-- new because WW II black veterans had returned to their communities committed to continue the fight for democracy at home, and they had experience in leadership and the vision, from Europe, that it was possible for whites to accept blacks as equals.
--new because black leaders had begun to return from India where they had learned the philosophy and strategies behind the successful implementation of nonviolent direct action, and were in a position to start teaching those in the U.S. how to do it.
and not so new
--black press was in place to reinforce new feelings and ideas of the new time.
--Randolph's Sleeping Car Porters could carry the new news to every corner of the South, North and West
--James Weldon Johnson's "southern empire" of local NAACP chapters were in place to absorb the swelling numbers of blacks who wanted to take on the system.
-- Highlander existed as a place where white and black leaders could go and work together to develop strategies and tactics; a place to go to be inspired and taught by those who had been fighting for years.
l955 (December 1), Rosa ParkÕs arrest provides opportunity. Montgomery Improvement Association formed (with 26 year old Martin Luther King, Jr. as head) and engineers a 13-month bus boycott ended in 1956 (November 13) by Browder v Gayle (the Supreme Court declared racial segregation on AlabamaÕs public transportation unconstitutional). During the Boycott, King develops his first understanding of how to adapt GandhiÕs direct non-violent resistance strategies to the American South.
1957, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) formed
1957, Nine black teenagers integrate Little Rock, Arkansas, High School. International complaint forces Eisenhower to send in the 101rst Airborne.
1957, Civil Rights Act established a voting-referee system and created the Civil Rights Commission to investigate issues regarding race relations.
l958, the SCLC held mass meetings in twenty-two Southern cities to launch its Crusade for Citizenship.
1959, Robert Williams, head of Monroe, N.C., chapter of NAACP and WWII vet is suspended by NAACP for arming and training activists to defend themselves against the KKK.
1960, College students throughout the upper South stage sit –ins leading to the formation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
1960, Civil Rights Act established federal inspection of local voter registration polls and introduced penalties for anyone who obstructed someone's attempt to register to vote or actually vote.
1961 CORE organizes first Freedom Ride from Washington, DC to New Orleans to test Boynton v Virginia (1960). After first Ride was stopped in Jackson, MS (riders arrested), CORE, SNCC and SCLC created Freedom Riders Coordinating Committee to keep freedom riders arriving in Jackson MS to fill the jails. Freedom Riders were radicalized by their experience giving the movement committed leadership for the coming years. The examples of the Freedom Riders emboldened many rural blacks to join the movement, providing the base of support for MS Freedom Summer and the Selma to Montgomery March.
1962, Robert Williams publishes ÒNegro with GunsÓ
1962, Congress of Federated Organizations (COFO) made up of the NAACP, CORE, SCLC, SNCC) created to coordinate organizing in Mississippi. But voter registration efforts fail to get traction in Mississippi.
1964, the Deacons for Defense and Justice is first organized in Jonesboro, Louisiana.
1964 COFO implements the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project that succeeds in breaking down apartheid in Mississippi by ending its isolation from the rest of the U.S.
1964, Civil Rights Act outlawed racial segregation in schools, public places, and employment
1965, March from Selma to Montgomery. Disagreements between SNCC and SCLC over strategy lead SNCC leaders to use the march to recruit people for the Lowndes County Freedom Democratic Party. They choose the black panther as their symbol.
1966, The Black Panther Party for Self Defense is formed in Oakland, CA.