Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

This Far by Faith

Journeys

Timelines

People

About the Series
Discussions

1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA
1776-1866: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR
Next Timeline
1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
Timeline: 1776-1865
1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues




1776: DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE SIGNED back to top

The Declaration of Independence

On July 4, the Continental Congress ratifies the Declaration of Independence. It declares: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It does not, however, abolish slavery. Until the passage of the 13th Amendment 91 years later, the issue of slavery is left to individual states to legislate. The following year Vermont becomes the first state to abolish slavery.

1784: METHODISTS DENOUNCE SLAVERY back to top

At the conference of Methodist Episcopal Churches in America, under the leadership of Bishop John Wesley, the church denounces slavery and asks its members to free their slaves within 12 months. The regulations are defeated and suspended the following year.

1787: U.S. CONSTITUTION ADOPTED back to top

On September 17, 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention vote to adopt the Constitution of the United States of America. As part of the "Great Compromise" between northern and southern states, the Constitution counts a slave as 3/5 of a free man, effectively boosting the representation of southern states in Congress. It delays the prohibition of the slave trade, and upholds the right of slaveholders to reclaim escaped slaves.

1787: FREE AFRICAN SOCIETY FOUNDED back to top

Richard Allen

Richard Allen and Absalom Jones establish the Free African Society, the first black mutual aid association in Philadelphia. Although non-denominational at its inception, the Free African Society is the first step toward the establishment of an independent black church. Richard Allen goes on to establish the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the first major black religious institution in America.

1793: COTTON GIN INVENTED back to top

On March 14, Eli Whitney receives a patent for the cotton gin. The invention transforms cotton into a profitable crop, and reinvents the economy of the cotton-growing states in the South. Suddenly, southern states need an unprecedented number of slaves to keep pace with cotton production. The slave population almost triples in size between 1790 and 1830.

1800s: SECOND GREAT AWAKENING back to top

The Second Great Awakening begins. Presbyterians, Baptists and Methodists win African-American converts by the thousands. Its message of equality before God lends credence to the Abolitionist movement and leads to a coalition between black and white abolitionists.

1804: HAITIAN INDEPENDENCE DECLARED back to top

Slaves in Haiti, under the leadership of Toussaint L'Ouverture, revolt, kill their masters, and ultimately drive out the French to establish the first independent black republic in the Western hemisphere. Their actions strike fear into the hearts of slaveholders in the United States and inspire the enslaved. The Haitian revolution leads to an exodus of mixed race people, mostly Catholic, to the Louisiana territories and to the eastern shore of Maryland. Vodoun takes a foothold on the mainland.

1816: A.M.E. CHURCH FOUNDED back to top

Richard Allen invites black Methodist church leaders from around the country to meet in Philadelphia to discuss forming a united African Methodist Church. Delegates vote to organize the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) with Allen as the founding bishop. Today, the A.M.E. Church boasts over 1 million members in the U.S. and abroad.

1821: BLACK EMIGRATION TO LIBERIA BEGINS back to top


The American Colonization Society establishes the Black Republic of Liberia in West Africa. Founded four years earlier by Robert Finley, a white Presbyterian clergyman, the American Colonization Society and its mission to resettle free American blacks in Africa is opposed by the A.M.E. Church.

1822: DENMARK VESEY'S REVOLT back to top

Court document from Vesey trial declaring Vesey's son — Sandy Vesey — guilty.

Denmark Vesey, a 51-year old carpenter and former slave in Charleston, South Carolina, plans a violent revolt to set his people free. Thousands of Charleston blacks are involved, including many members of the First A.M.E. church. The rebellion unravels when slaves confess the plan to their masters. After a brief trial, Vesey and his allies are hanged, and Charleston authorities tear down the African Church.

1829: FIRST BLACK CATHOLIC NUN COMMUNITY back to top

Four free black women - refugees from Haiti: Elizabeth Lange, Marie Balas, Rosine Boegue, and Almeide Duchemin Maxis, establish the nation's first permanent community of black Catholic nuns in Baltimore, Maryland. It is called the Oblate Sisters of Providence, and receives Papal recognition in 1831.

1831: NAT TURNER'S REBELLION back to top

Nat Turner leads a two-day rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia. Turner claims the spirit of the Old Testament called on him to deliver his people. Joined by over 60 men, Turner kills around 60 whites and destroys 15 homesteads. Over 3000 armed whites set out to end the rebellion, killing many innocent blacks along the way. Turner remains at large for two months, until he is captured, tried, and hanged. As a result of the insurgency, many southern states forbid blacks to preach.

1834: HENRY MCNEAL TURNER BORN back to top

Henry McNeal Turner is born of free parents in Newberry Court House, South Carolina. He goes on to become the first chaplain of U.S. Colored Troops fighting for the Union and a leader in the A.M.E. for 50 years.

1838: PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH SPLITS OVER SLAVERY back to top

Divided by the issue of slavery, the Presbyterian Church splits along regional lines. The southern and northern branches of the church remain apart until 1983.

1839: CATHOLIC CHURCH OPPOSES SLAVERY back to top

Pope Gregory XVI condemns slavery.

1844: METHODIST CHURCH SPLITS OVER SLAVERY back to top

The Methodist church splits into Northern and Southern congregations after argument over whether members should be allowed to own slaves.

1846: FREDERICK DOUGLASS' NARRATIVE PUBLISHED back to top

The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, a leading black abolitionist, publishes the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave. Douglass had been born into slavery in 1818 in Maryland. He escapes 20 years later, and begins a lifetime of speaking and writing to promote abolition and improved social and economic conditions for African-Americans.

1848: BAPTISTS SPLIT OVER SLAVERY back to top

1850: SOJOURNER TRUTH'S NARRATIVE PUBLISHED back to top

Born into slavery in 1797 in Kingston, New York, Sojourner Truth, known then as Isabella, is taught that slavery is part of God's natural order. Isabella accepts this until the age of 30, when she hears the voice of God instructing her to set out on her own as a free woman. In 1843, Isabella takes the name Sojourner Truth, and travels the country preaching abolition, women's suffrage, and the Gospel. She rises to national prominence, meeting with Presidents Lincoln and Grant. Her memoirs, dictated to Olive Gilbert, are published in 1850 as The Narrative of Sojourner Truth: A Northern Slave.

1861: CIVIL WAR BEGINS back to top

"Union is Dissolved" poster

Rising conflict among northern and southern states over slavery the Civil War. Black enlistment is initially rebuffed by the Union army, because of concerns that their participation will weaken Northern support for the war. Black politicians like Frederick Douglass, joined by pastors like Henry McNeal Turner, lobby passionately for black enlistment: "We ask you to modify your laws, that we may enlist — that full scope may be given to the patriotic feelings burning in the colored man's breast."

1863: EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION ISSUED back to top

The Emancipation Proclamation

President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in rebellious states. Four months later, black soldiers are allowed to join the fight. More than 180,000 African-Americans serve in the Union army. Two years later, the 13th amendment to the Constitution outlaws slavery or involuntary servitude except as punishment for a crime.

Back to Journey 1850: Sojourner Truth's Narrative Published 1822: Denmark Vesey's Revolt 1821: Black Emigration to Liberia Begins 1784: Methodists Denounce Slavery 1787: Free African Society Founded 1776: Declaration of Independence Signed 1793: Cotton Gin Invented 1804: Haitian Independence Declared 1834: Henry McNeal Turner Born 1831: Nat Turner's Rebellion 1839: Catholic Church Opposes Slavery 1848: Baptists Split Over Slavery 1844: Methodist Church Splits Over Slavery 1863: Emancipation Proclamation Issued 1861: Civil War Begins 1846: Frederick Douglass' Narrative Published 1838: Presbyterian Church Splits Over Slavery 1829: First Black Catholic Nun Community 1816: A.M.E. Church Founded 1800's: Second Great Awakening 1787: U.S. Constitution Adopted