First National Negro Convention convenes in Philadelphia


Nat Turner leads approximately 70 fellow slaves in a major slave rebellion in Southampton, Virginia; some 60 whites are killed before several state forces suppress the uprising; Turner and his followers are hanged; Thomas R. Gray edits and publishes The Confessions of Nat Turner


Abolitionists led by William Lloyd Garrison form the New England Anti-Slavery Society in Boston; Garrison expands this organization into the American Anti-Slavery Societythe following year


David Ruggles opens the first black bookstore and publishing company in New York City; he publishes the abolitionist pamphlet The “Extinguisher” Extinguished


Free African Americans form a vigilance committee to assist fugitive slaves in New York City


Alexander Twilight wins a seat on the Vermont legislature, thereby becoming the first African American elected to a public office

Disenfranchisement of blacks continues: Arkansas (1836); Michigan (1837); Pennsylvania (1838); Texas (1845); Iowa (1846); New Jersey (1847); Wisconsin (1848); Minnesota (1858)


First Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women meets in New York City; African Americans comprise 10 percent of membership


David Ruggles edits and publishes the Mirror of Liberty, the first African American periodical in New York City


John G. Birney organizes the Liberty Party, the first U.S. antislavery political party, in Warsaw, New York


Total African American population reaches 2,873,648


African American orator, writer, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivers his first antislavery speech in Nantucket, Massachusetts


African American evangelist Sojourner Truth begins her abolitionist work

Henry Highland Garnet delivers his famous “Call to Rebellion” speech, advocating armed resistance against slavery, at the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, New York


Macon Allen, the first African American admitted to the bar, starts law practice in Massachusetts

Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, the first of three autobiographies


Frederick Douglass, Martin R. Delany, and William C. Nell publish the North Star, an influential antislavery newspaper


Antislavery politicians organize the Free Soil Party to oppose the extension of slavery into western territories


Harriet Tubman escapes slavery in Maryland; later, using the Underground Railroad— a hidden network of people, places, and modes of transportation used to provide fugitive slaves safe passage to the North and Canada—she returns to the South 19 times to convey 300 slaves to freedom


Compromise of 1850 admits California into the Union as a free state but also toughens the 1793 Fugitive Slave Act, granting federal officials authority to apprehend and return runaway slaves who escape to free states and paying a reward for these services

Lucy Stanton Sessions becomes the first African American woman to graduate from a four-year college, Oberlin College in Ohio


Brazil outlaws the slave trade


Publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s sentimental antislavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin arouses sympathy for the abolitionist cause; it sells over 300,000 copies in the first year


Rev. James A Healy becomes the first African American ordained a Catholic priest, at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France; later, Healy becomes the first black Catholic bishop


U.S. Supreme Court rules in Dred Scott v. Sanford that Scott cannot sue for his freedom while in a free state with his master, for a slave is the property of his or her slaveholder; this ruling denies citizenship to African Americans and extends the jurisdiction of slave-state laws to include the Northern states


Abraham Lincoln gains national recognition as an antislavery candidate during his unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate


Harriet Wilson publishes the first African American novel,Our Nig, or Sketches from the Life of a Freed Black

Militant white abolitionist John Brown, with a band of black and white rebels, unsuccessfully raids a federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia; Brown and others are hanged

Credit: sparknotes