From bondage to White House: African-American history

January 18th, 2009 - 11:10 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 18 (DPA) The Jan 20 inauguration of Barack Obama as president marks a historic breakthrough in 400 years of African-American history. The milestones:1619: The first blacks arrive in the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia, probably as indentured servants.

1700s: Slavery gains hold in the South, particularly colonies with large tobacco plantations. Few slaves are held in the North. Slave codes are applied to non-Christian servants “imported” into the country and legally make them property, not human beings.

1775-83: War of Independence. Both free blacks and slaves serve on both sides in the war.

1787 Constitutional Convention: 13 US states deadlock over slavery until a compromise which counted each slave as three-fifths of a person for both taxes and representation in Congress.

1794: Eli Whitney receives a patent on the cotton gin to mechanise seed removal, making industrial cultivation possible, spreading the cotton economy across the deep South and cementing slavery.

1854: The Kansas-Nebraska Act allows each new territory to determine the question of slavery, heightening political tension between North and South. Bloody unrest between pro and anti-slavery forces smoulders in Kansas 1854-58.

1857: In a lawsuit by Dred Scott, a slave seeking emancipation after living with his owner in free states, the Supreme Court finds that slaves taken into free states remain property of their owners.

November 1860: Abraham Lincoln, nominee of the new, abolitionist Republican Party, wins the presidency. Before Lincoln takes office in March 1861, Southerners form a Confederate government and start a secession that eventually includes 11 states.

1861-65: The American Civil War rages between Lincoln’s Union and the Confederacy. The South is ruined, and a combined 620,000 are dead on both sides.

Jan 1, 1863: President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation takes effect, declaring slaves free in Confederate states and marking the symbolic end of slavery.

April 14, 1865: Five days after the end of the Civil War, Lincoln is fatally wounded by an assassin during a play in Washington.

Dec 6, 1865: The 13th amendment to the US constitution is adopted, banning “involuntary servitude”.

1868: The 14th amendment makes former slaves full citizens and nullifies the Dred Scott case. The amendment guarantees due process and equal protection under law and forbids states from denying citizenship rights.

1870: The 15th amendment guarantees citizens the right to vote regardless of “race, colour, or previous condition of servitude”.

1877: Reconstruction era ends, removing the last Northern military control. Blacks are increasingly denied the vote and basic civil rights in Southern states and terrorised by white secret societies, most infamously the Ku Klux Klan.

1896: The Supreme Court rules in Plessy vs Ferguson that state-sanctioned “separate but equal” racial segregation does not violate constitutional protections. Former slave states implement so-called Jim Crow laws to separate public services such as schools and transportation. Racial intimidation, lynchings and broader violence spread.

1909: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded.

1910-50: An estimated five million African-Americans move from the South to the North, Midwest and West, seeking employment, education and more equal opportunity.

1921: Race riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, believed to be the deadliest in US history, leaves at least 76 dead, with some estimates as high as 800.

July 1948: After 125,000 African-Americans served overseas in World War II, President Harry S. Truman orders US military integration.

1954: In Brown vs Board of Education, a case from Topeka, Kansas, the Supreme Court declares racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, overturning the 1896 Plessy decision that had opened the door for the Jim Crow system.

1955: Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama, refuses to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger. A successful, yearlong boycott ensues by the African-American community, led by a local minister, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

1963: Amid a growing civil-rights movement, King addresses an unprecedented rally of 250,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, declaring, “I Have a Dream”.

1964: After lengthy battles in Congress, President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, the broadest federal civil-rights law in nearly a century, to ban discrimination in public services and employment.

March 1965: Police attack peaceful civil-rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, an event remembered as “Bloody Sunday”.

August 1965: The Voting Rights Act is passed by Congress to eliminate barriers used to prevent eligible voters from exercising their rights.

1967: Thurgood Marshall, NAACP attorney in the 1954 Brown case, is named to the US Supreme Court as the first African-American justice.

April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, 39, is slain by gunman James Earl Ray. One week later, the 1968 Fair Housing Act becomes law, banning housing discrimination.

1984: African-American minister and social activist Jesse Jackson finishes second for the Democratic Party’s nomination. Jackson makes a similar run in 1988 but falls short again.

Jan 20, 2009: Barack Hussein Obama, the Hawaii-born son of a white woman and a Kenyan student, is to be sworn in as the 44th president of the US.

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