The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Jim Crow Era 1860–1899


After the election of antislavery president Abraham Lincoln, South Carolina secedes from the Union, followed by Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, to form the Confederate States of America


Civil War begins when Confederates fire on Union forces at Fort Sumter, South Carolina


Congress bans slavery in Washington, D.C., and the territories and passes the Second Confiscation Act, which grants freedom to slaves whose masters support the Confederacy

A group of African Americans confer with President Abraham Lincoln, who voices support for voluntary emigration of African Americans to Africa and Central America


Emancipation Proclamation frees all slaves in Confederate-held territories

Black troops of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment charge Fort Wagner in South Carolina

Wilberforce University in Ohio (founded in 1856) becomes the first college run by African American educators when Bishop Daniel Payne purchases the school for the A.M.E. Church; he serves as the university’s first president


Congress repeals all Fugitive Slave laws and grants black Union troops pay equal to that of white troops


Civil War ends with the defeat of the South

Congress ratifies the Thirteenth Amendment to abolish slavery in the U.S.

Congress establishes the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide assistance to refugees and newly emancipated blacks

Establishment of major black colleges and universities:Atlanta University, Shaw University, and Virginia Union University (1865); Fisk University and Howard University (1866); Talladega College and Morgan State University (1867)


Congress passes the Southern Homestead Act, which opens public lands in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Florida to settlers regardless of race

Civil Rights Act grants African Americans full U.S. citizenship

Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups begin terrorist campaigns against blacks and white Republicans


Congress passes the First Reconstruction Act, which divides former Confederate states into five military districts under the command of army generals, requires districts to hold new elections for state offices, and grants voting rights for male citizens regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude; enforcement of the act gives African Americans the majority vote in most Southern states


Congress ratifies the Fourteenth Amendment, which grants full civil liberties to African Americans


Congress ratifies the Fifteenth Amendment, which grants voting rights regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”; it does not extend this right to women

Hiram Rhoades Revels of Mississippi becomes the first African American elected to the U.S. Senate; subsequent African Americans to be elected to Congress include Joseph H. Rainey (R-SC), Robert Brown Elliot (R-SC), Alonzo J.Ransier (R-SC), Benjamin S. Turner (R-AL), Robert C. DeLarge (R-SC), Josiah T.Walls (R-FL), Jefferson F. Long (R-GA)


Fisk Jubilee Singers tour throughout the United States and Europe and popularize black spiritual music


Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback becomes the first African American to serve as a state governor (interim governor of Louisiana)


Civil Rights Act prohibits racial discrimination in employment and establishes the right of African Americans to serve on juries


Edward Alexander Boucher becomes the first African American to receive a doctorate degree, in physics from Yale University


President Rutherford B. Hayes removes all federal troops from Louisiana and South Carolina as Reconstructioncomes to an end; by 1878, African American Republican governors are ousted and African Americans disenfranchised via technicalities or newly enacted voting hurdles; the number of African American representatives in Congress drops dramatically by 1881


First migration of blacks, fleeing racial oppression in the South, to Kansas


Tennessee enacts the first of many Jim Crow laws to enforce racial segregation in the South; this first law mandates segregation on railroad cars

Booker T. Washington founds the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama


Approximately 50 African Americans are lynched across the U.S.; the number rises steadily for years afterward


George Washington Williams publishes his History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880


Cuban Giants become the first African American professional baseball team


Knights of Labor, the farmers, craft, and factory workers’ union, reaches peak membership of 700,000; of these, 60,000 to 90,000 are African American


Princess-Regent Isabel abolishes slavery in Brazil


Frederick Douglass serves as U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti


Daniel Hale Williams establishes Chicago’s Provident Hospital, the first hospital staffed and operated by African Americans; in 1893, Williams performs the world’s first open-heart surgery


Baltimore’s Afro-Americanpublication is founded


Congress repeals the Enforcement Act, making it easier for states to disenfranchise black voters


Booker T. Washington delivers his Atlanta Compromisespeech, which calls on African Americans to accept segregation in return for economic advancement


U.S. Supreme Court rules in Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” facilities are constitutional; this ruling enables proliferation of Jim Crow laws


W.E.B. Du Bois and Rev. Alexander Crummell establish the American Negro Academy, the first institution to promote African American literature, science, and art; writer, educator, and black women’s rights activist Anna Julia Cooper is the only woman elected to membership


John Merrick and associates found the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, setting off a boom of black-owned businesses in Durham, North Carolina


National Afro-American Council calls for a day of fasting to protest lynchings and racial massacres