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Timeline: Early Days & Slavery (1400s - 1865)
Early Days & Slavery The Amistad Mutiny
Building Democracy
Civil Rights Era
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1400
Freedwoman Sojourner Truth, a compelling speaker for abolitionism, gives her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech in Akron, Ohio.

1400
Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is an immediate bestseller and helps turn public opinion against the Fugitive Slave Act and slavery itself.

NPR Learn More: Uncle Tom's Cabin Reconsidered
From The Tavis Smiley Show

PBS Learn More: Slave Narratives and Uncle Tom's Cabin
From Africans in America

1857
In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court decides that African Americans are not citizens of the U.S., and that Congress has no power to restrict slavery in any federal territory. This meant that a slave who made it to a free state would still be considered a slave.

NPR Learn More: What Dred Scott Meant for African Americans
From The Tavis Smiley Show

PBS Learn More: Dred Scott's fight for freedom
From Africans in America

1400
Harriet Wilson publishes Our Nig; Or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, the first novel by an African American woman. The novel will be republished over a century later by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

1861
The Civil War begins when the Confederates attack Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina. The war, fought over the issue of slavery, will rage for another four years. The Union's victory will mean the end of slavery in the U.S.

PBS Learn More: The Civil War
From Africans in America

1400
President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation legally frees all slaves in the Confederacy.

NPR Learn More: June-teenth Declared "African American Independence Day"
From Morning Edition

PBS Learn More: The Emancipation Proclamation
From Africans in America

1400
The Union's 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first African American regular army regiment, assaults Fort Wagner in Charleston, South Carolina, losing half its men. The event is memorialized in the 1989 movie Glory. By the war's end, nearly 180,000 African American men will have served in the Union army. Some also served in the Confederate army - both freedmen and conscripted slaves.

NPR Learn More: Morgan Freeman Discusses the 54th Mass. Regiment
From The Tavis Smiley Show

PBS Learn More: African American Soldiers
From The Time of the Lincolns

1400
Eight African American infantry regiments fight on the Union side in the Battle of Port Hudson, attacking heroically despite heavy losses to withering Confederate fire.

PBS Learn More: African American Soldiers
From The Time of the Lincolns

1864
Captured African American Union troops are massacred in cold blood after Confederates take the Union-held Fort Pillow in Tennessee.

NPR Learn More: Discussion of Like Men of War
From Weekend Edition

PBS Learn More: African American Soldiers
From The Time of the Lincolns

1400
Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery, and establishes the Freedmen's Bureau to assist former slaves. This is the beginning of the Reconstruction era.

PBS Learn More: The Civil War and Emancipation
From Africans in America

1400
Union Gen. William T. Sherman issues a field order setting aside 40-acre plots of land --"40 acres and a mule" --in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida for African Americans to settle.

1400
All-white legislatures in the former Confederate states pass the so-called "Black Codes," sharply curtailing African Americans' freedom and virtually re-enslaving them.



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