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Timeline: Building Democracy (1866 - 1955)
Early Days & Slavery A segregated school in the early 1900s.
Building Democracy
Civil Rights Era
Modern Times

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World-famous agricultural researcher George Washington Carver accepts an appointment at the Tuskegee Institute. Carver's research in farming techniques helps to revolutionize farming in America.

Paul Lawrence Dunbar, known as the "poet laureate of the Negro race," publishes Lyrics of a Lowly Life, which contains some of his best and most famous verse.

Robert "Bob" Cole produces "A Trip to Coontown," the first full-length musical written, directed, performed, and produced by African Americans, on Broadway.

Louisiana tries to disenfranchise its African Americans by passing a "grandfather clause" limiting the right to vote to anyone whose fathers and grandfathers were qualified on January 1, 1867. (No African Americans had the right to vote at that time.)

Pianist and composer Scott Joplin publishes "The Maple Leaf Rag," a major hit that helps popularize ragtime music.

African American social scientist, critic and public intellectual W. E. B. Du Bois publishes The Souls Of Black Folk, which presents the "color line" as the major problem of the 20th century. In 1905 he will help found the Niagara Movement, demanding full equality for African Americans.

NPR Learn More: The Legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois
From Talk of the Nation
Sarah Breedlove MacWilliams, better known as Madam C. J. Walker, starts an African American hair-care business in Denver and eventually becomes America's first self-made woman millionaire.

Robert S. Abbott begins publishing The Chicago Defender, Chicago's first African American newspaper. Within a decade, it is one of the country's most influential African American weekly papers.

PBS Learn More: The Chicago Defender Newspaper Bio
From The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded by a group of African American and white activists, including W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois is the only one of the seven African American activists to serve on the NAACP board.

NPR Learn More: Interview with NAACP President Kwesi Mfume
From The Tavis Smiley Show

PBS Learn More: 1995 Newsmaker Interview with Kweisi Mfume
From The Online NewsHour

Black explorer Matthew Henson reaches the North Pole along with Admiral Robert Peary. They are the first men known to have reached the North Pole.

NPR Learn More: Profile of Matthew Henson
From Morning Edition
The Great Migration of southern African Americans to northern industrial towns gets underway. Millions of African Americans will have migrated North by the 1960s.

The National Urban League is founded to help the many African Americans who are migrating to the cities find jobs and housing.

NPR Learn More: State of Black America 2001
From All Things Considered
W. C. Handy, the so-called "Father of the Blues," publishes his song "Memphis Blues," which becomes a huge hit.

PBS Learn More: Tennessee Blues and Gospel
From River of Song

Black nationalist Marcus Garvey founds the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica, advocating black economic and political independence and the founding of a new homeland in Africa. The UNIA soon moves to the U.S.

PBS Learn More: Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind
From American Experience

Forty African Americans and eight whites are killed in race riots in East St. Louis, Ill., stirred up by white resentment of African Americans working in wartime industry

PBS Learn More: Marcus Garvey Speech on the East Saint Louis Riots
From American Experience

Organized by the NAACP, thousands of African Americans march down New York City's Fifth Avenue to protest racial violence and discrimination.

During the so-called "Red Summer," scores of race riots across the country leave at least 100 people dead. These are again sparked by white resentment of African Americans working in industry, and their large-scale migration from South to North.

Oscar Micheaux, a pioneering director-producer of "race movies," produces his first film, The Homesteader, based on his novel.

PBS Learn More: Screening of Oscar Micheaux's Body and Soul
From Weekend Edition

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