The Civil Rights Act of 1866 affirmed the rights of all citizens regardless of race or “previous condition of slavery,” but failed to protect African Americans from violence, exploitation, segregation, and discrimination. Visit sites of resistance.Less
Building on 19th-century activism, African Americans at the turn of the 20th century continued the struggle for civil rights. This timeline explores 20th-century milestones, watershed events, and the work of numerous organizations, legislators, educators, protestors, and organizers that ushered in civil rights reform. Lessons learned from their work reveal the civil rights strategies and victories that help inform present-day efforts to achieve equality.
1900-1929 Flight from the South Begins The Great Migration of southern African Americans to northern industrial towns gets underway. Most are fleeing racial violence and seeking economic opportunities. Millions will have migrated North and West by the 1960s. A sculpture at the entrance to the historically African American neighborhood of Bronzeville depicts a man carrying his belongings while wearing a suit made of the worn out soles of shoes, reflecting the journey of millions of others.
1905 The Niagara Movement Plants New Seed In Ontario, Canada, W. E. B. Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter help found the Niagara Movement, the forerunner to the NAACP. The group holds its first public meeting at Storer College at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, where abolitionist John Brown led a rebellion.
1909 The NAACP Becomes a Force for Change African American and white activists establish the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to secure voting rights, equal access to education and employment, and due process under the law. One year later, the NAACP creates Crisis magazine to report national and international news and publish creative works by African American writers.
September 29, 1910 The League Provides Refuge in the North The National Urban League is founded in New York City as the League on Urban Conditions Among Negroes. It is created to help African Americans find jobs, housing, and healthcare after migrating to large cities.
1913 Ida B. Wells-Barnett Advocates the Vote for Women Anti-lynching activist and suffragist Ida B. Wells-Barnett organizes the Chicago-based Alpha Suffrage Club, the first African American suffrage club in Illinois. The club advocates for African American women’s right to vote.
1915 NAACP Protests "The Birth of a Nation" The NAACP protests D. W. Griffith’s film The Birth of a Nation, which President Woodrow Wilson screens at the White House. Based on Thomas Dixon’s book The Clansman, the film portrays Reconstruction as a tragedy, depicts racist stereotypes of African Americans, and leads to a surge in Ku Klux Klan membership across the country. (Protests at the Republic Theater in New York City.)
1919 Red Summer Wreaks Havoc on African Americans Whites commit violence against African American individuals and communities in the nationwide “Red Summer” riots that leave more than 100 people dead. White resentment resulting from African Americans migrating from the South, working in new industries, securing better housing, and demanding more rights after service in WWI leads to explosive violence. Veterans from Bronzeville enter the National Guard Amory to procur weapons for selfdefense.
1925 Union Warns “Fight or Be Slaves” A. Philip Randolph and African American employees of the Pullman Company organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Harlem, New York. It is the first successful African American trade union. Their slogan becomes “Fight or Be Slaves.”
1931 The Scottsboro Nine Sentenced to Death Nine African American teenagers are accused of raping two white women in Scottsboro, Alabama. They are tried, quickly convicted, and all but one are sentenced to death. The "Scottsboro Nine" case attracts national attention and will help fuel the Civil Rights Movement.