Dr. Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), son of former slaves and a Harvard trained historian, believed that truth could not be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. His hopes to raise awareness of African American's contributions to civilization was realized when he and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now known as Association for the study of African American Life and History), conceived Negro History Week in 1925. The event was first celebrated during the second week in February 1926 coinciding with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Black history clubs sprang up; teachers demanded materials to instruct their pupils; and progressive whites, not just white scholars and philanthropists, stepped forward to endorse the effort.
By the time of Woodson's death in 1950, Negro History Week had become a central part of African American life and progress had been made in bringing more Americans to appreciate the celebration. At mid-century, mayors of cities nationwide issued proclamations noting Negro History Week. The Black Awakening of the 1960's dramatically expanded the consciousness of African Americans about the importance of black history, and the Civil Rights movement focused Americans of all color on the subject of the contributions of African Americans to our history and culture.
The celebration was expanded in 1976 during the bicentennial when President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history." That year, fifty years after the first celebration, the association held the first African American History Month. Since then each American president has issued African American History Month proclamations. ASALH continues to promote the study of Black History month all year.
1619 - Twenty Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, aboard a Dutch ship. They were the first blacks to be forcibly settled as involuntary laborers in the North American British Colonies.
1739 - The Cato revolt, also known as the Stono Rebellion, was the first serious disturbance among slaves. After killing more than 25 whites, most of the rebels, lead by a slave named Cato, were rounded up as they tried to escape to Florida. More than 30 blacks were executed as participants.
1777 - George Washington reversed previous policy and allowed the recruitment of blacks as soldiers. Roughly 5,000 would participate on the American side before the end of the Revolution.
1829 - The first National Negro Convention met in Philadelphia.
1857 - The Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court denied that blacks were citizens of the United States and denied the power of Congress to restrict slavery in any federal territory.
1865 - 13th Amendment, abolition of slavery, was passed by Congress.
1868 - 14th Amendment was passed extending liberties and rights granted by the Bill fo Rights to former slaves.
1896 - In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana state law that allowed for "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races."
1918 - The First Pan-African Congress met in Paris, France under the guidance of W. E. B. Du Bois.
1922-1929 - These are the years generally assigned to the Harlem Renaissance.
1947 - Jackie Robinson became the first black to play major league baseball.
1954 - In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court completed overturning legal school segregation at all levels.
1955 - Rosa Parks refused to change seats on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. On December 5 blacks began a boycott of the bus system. The boycott continued until shortly after December 13, 1956, when the United States Supreme Court outlawed bus segregation in the city.
1964 - Civil Rights Act 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.
1965 - Voting Rights Act outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting.
1965 - Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem by members of the Nation of Islam.
1968 - Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.
1969 - The Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools had to end at once and that unitary school systems were required.
2008 - Barack Obama is elected the 44th president of the United States and the first black U.S. president.
2021 - Senator Kamala Harris is sworn in as the first African American and first Asian American and first female vice president of the United States.