1864: In April 1864, Forrest and his men captured Fort Pillow, located north of Memphis, Tennessee on the
Mississippi River. The fort contained 262 African and 295 white soldiers. It was afterwards claimed that most of these soldiers
were killed after they surrendered. After the war an official investigation discovered evidence that "the Confederates were
guilty of atrocities which included murdering most of the garrison while it surrendered, burying Negro soldiers alive and
setting fire to tents containing Federal wounded." After the war Forrest helped establish the Ku Klux Klan and became its
first Grand Wizard in May 1867.
1848: The Free Soil Party, a minor but influential political party opposed to the extension of slavery into the western territories,
nominates former U.S. President Martin Van Buren to head its ticket.
1850: Speaking on behalf of the Abolitionist movement, Sojourner Truth travels throughout the Midwest, developing a reputation
for personal magnetism and drawing large crowds.
1854: Author Frances E.W. Harper's most popular verse collection, Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, is published,
containing the antislavery poem "Bury Me in a Free Land".
1855: John Mercer Langston, a former slave, is elected clerk of Brownheim Township in Ohio. He is the first black
to win an elective political office in the United States.
1866: With the complicity of local civilian authorities and police, rioting whites kill 35 black citizens of New Orleans
and wound more than 100, leading to increased support for vigorous Reconstruction policies.
1870: The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church is organized, four years after the first efforts among black members of
the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, to develop an independent church.
1870: Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi takes the former seat of Jefferson Davis in the U.S. Senate, becoming the only black
in the U.S. Congress and the first elected to the Senate.
1883: Inventor Jan Ernst Matzleiger patents his shoe-lasting machine that shapes the upper portioin of shoes. His invention
wins swift acceptance and soon supplants hand methods of production.
1887: Journalist T. Thomas Fortune begins editing the New York Age. His well-known editorials defend the civil rights of blacks
and condemn racial discrimination.
1896: Mary Church Terrell becomes the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, working for educational
and social reform and an end to racial discrimination.
1864: President Lincoln refuses to sign the Wade-Davis bill, which requires greater assurance of loyalty to the Union from
white citizens and reconstructed governments.
1865: The Civil War ends on April 26, after the surrender of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and J.E. Johnson
1847: Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the son of free blacks in Virginia, is elected the first president of Liberia.
In 1849 he secures British recognition of Liberia as a sovereign nation.
1850: Harriet Tubman returns to Maryland to guide members of her family to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
Later helping more than 300 slaves to escape, she comes to be known as the"Moses of her people".
1850: Congress passes a series of compromise measures affecting Caifornia, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, and the District
of Columbia in an effort to maintain an even balance between free and slave states.
1853: Episcopalian minister Alexander Crummell becomes a missionary and teacher in Liberia, advocating a program of religious
conversion and economic and social development.
1856: Members of Methodist Episcopal Church found Wilberforce University. After the university is closed during
the Civil War, it is bought and reopened by the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
1865: Congress establishes the U.S. Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands to aid four million black Americans
transition from slavery to freedom
1867: Howard University, a predominantly black university, is founded in Washington, D.C. It is named
for General Oliver Otis Howard, head of the post-civil War Freedman's Bureau
1872: John R. Lynch, speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives is elected to the U.S. Congress.
1887: Florida A&M University is founded as the State Normal (teacher training) School for Colored Students.
1892: The office of the Memphis Free Speech are destroyed following editorials of part-owner Ida B. Wells denouncing the lynching
of three of her friends.
1896: Paul Laurence Dunbar, acclaimed as "the poet laureate of the Negro race", publishes Lyrics of Lowly LIfe,
containing some of the finest verses of his Oak and Ivy and Majors and Minors.
1840: The Liberty Party holds its first national convention in Albany, N.Y. In opposition to fellow Abolitionist William Lloyd
Garrison, members believe in political action to further anti-slavery goals.
1843: In a speech at the national convention of free people of color, Henry Highland Garnet, Abolitionist
and clergyman, calls upon slaves to murder their masters.
1847: Frederick Douglass begins publication of the North Star, an antislavery newspaper, contributing to his break with white
Abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of The Liberator.
1853: William Wells Brown, a former slave, Abolitionist, historian, and physician, publishes Clotel, the first
novel by a black American.
1866: The states of the former Confederacy pass "black codes" laws to replace the social controls removed by the Emancipation
Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment.
1866: The U.S. Army forms black cavalry and infantry regiments. Serving in the West from 1867 to 1896 and fighting Indians
on the frontier, they are nicknamed "buffalo soldiers" by the Indians.
1870: Joseph Hayne Rainey is the first black elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. This congressman from
South Carolina will enjoy the longest tenure of any black during Reconstruction.
1877: Reconstruction ends as the last Federal troops are withdrawn. Southern conservatives regain control of their state
governments through fraud, violence, and intimidation.
1881: Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama is founded on July 4 with Booker T. Washington as the school's first
1895: Cornetist Buddy Bolden, semi-legendary founding father of jazz, leads a band in New Orleans.
1895: A merger of three major black Baptist conventions leads to the formation of the National Baptist Convention, U.S.A.,
Inc., in Atlanta, Ga.
1895: At the Atlanta Exposition, educator Booker T. Washington delivers his "Atlanta Compromise"
speech, stressing the importance of vocational education for blacks over social equality or political office.
Believing African-Americans to be the descendants of the "lost tribe of Israel", Prophet William S. Crowdy founds the Church
of God and Saints of Christ.
1899: Composer and pianist Scott Joplin publishes "The Maple Leaf Rag", one of the most important and popular compositions
during the era of ragtime, precursor to jazz.