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Black History Month : Important Events and People

Important Historical Figures

Martin Luther King Jr.

American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the Civil Rights Movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968.

Rosa Parks

American activist in the civil rights movement best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott.

Muhammad Ali

American professional boxer, activist, entertainer and philanthropist

Frederick Douglass

American social reformer, abolitionist, orator, writer, and statesman

W. E. B. Du Bois

American sociologist, socialist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan-Africanist, author, writer and editor.

IHF pt2

Jackie Robinson

American professional baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball (MLB) in the modern era.

Harriet Tubman

American abolitionist and political activist.

Sojourner Truth

 American abolitionist and women's rights activist

Langston Hughes

American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri

Maya Angelou

American poet, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

IHF pt.3

Thurgood Marshall

 American lawyer and civil rights activist who served as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States from October 1967 until October 1991

Ruby Bridges

She was the first African-American child to desegregate the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in Louisiana during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis on November 14, 1960.

Aretha Franklin

American singer, songwriter, actress, pianist, and civil rights activist.

Jimi Hendrix

American musician, singer, and songwriter.

Mae C. Jemison

American engineer, physician, and first black woman to travel into space

IHF pt.4

Jessie Owen

American track and field athlete and four-time gold medalist in the 1936 Olympic Games.

Malcolm X

African American Muslim minister and human rights activist who was a popular figure during the civil rights movement.

Stevie Wonder

 American singer, songwriter, musician and record producer

Jessie Jackson

American political activist, Baptist minister, and politician.

Michael Jackson

American singer, songwriter, and dancer. Dubbed the "King of Pop", he is regarded as one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century.

IHF pt.5

Oprah Winfrey

 American talk show host, television producer, actress, author, and philanthropist.

Serena Williams

 American professional tennis player and former world No. 1 in women's single tennis.

Michael Jordan

American businessman and former professional basketball player.


 American rapper, songwriter, record executive, businessman, and record producer. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential hip-hop artists in history, and often cited as one of the greatest rappers of all time.

Barack Obama

American politician and attorney who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African-American president of the United States.


Important Historical Events

First Slaves are Brought to Jamestown, VA, 1619

Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770

Declaration of Independence, 1776

Revolutionary War, 1775-1782

U.S. Constitution Adopted, 1789

  • Slaves counted as three-fifths of a person for means of representation

Slave Revolt in Louisiana, 1811

Nat Turner Slave Revolt, 1831

Frederick Douglass, 1818-1895

Harriet Tubman, c.1820–March 10, 1913

Sojourner Truth, Electrifies Women's Rights Conference, 1851

  • Freedwoman Sojourner Truth, a compelling speaker for abolitionism, gives her famous "Ain't I a Woman" speech in Akron, Ohio

Last Known Slave Ship Arrives in United States, 1859

The Emancipation Proclamation, 1862 & 1863

  • President Abraham Lincoln issued the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation in the midst of the Civil War, announcing on September 22, 1862, that if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states would be free

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Abolition of Slavery (1865)

1866 Civil Rights Act

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1866 granted citizenship and the same rights enjoyed by white citizens to all male persons in the United States "without distinction of race or color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude."

14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Civil Rights (July 9, 1868)

15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Voting Rights (1870)

First Jim Crow Segregation Law Passed, 1871

Civil Rights Act of 1875

  • “That all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal and enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement; subject only to the conditions and limitations established by law, and applicable alike to citizens of every race and color, regardless of any previous condition of servitude.”

Civil Rights Cases, 1883

  • “On the whole, we are of opinion that no countenance of authority for the passage of the law in question can be found in either the thirteenth or fourteenth amendment of the constitution; and no other ground of authority for its passage being suggested, it must necessarily be declared void, at least so far as its operation in the several states is concerned.” (overturns the Civil Rights Act of 1875)

First Poll Tax Passed, 1890

Plessy v. Ferguson (May 18, 1896)

  • "equal but separate accommodations for the white and colored races."

Black National Anthem, 1900

  • On November 1, 1900, brothers James Weldon Johnson, author, educator and general secretary of the NAACP (1920-1930), and John Rosamond Johnson composed the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing", commonly referred to as the black national anthem

Chicago Defender, Chicago's First African American Newspaper, Launched in 1903

NAACP Established (1909)

Great Migration Begins, 1910-1920

  • Looking for better opportunities, massive numbers of African Americans move north to seek employment in factories. Trend won't slow down until 1960s, and may start to reverse in the 2000s

World War I, 1918

19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, 1920

  • "The rights of vote shall not be denied or abridged...on account of sex."

Executive Order 9808: First President's Committee on Civil Rights Established (1946)

Executive Order 9981: Desegregation of the Armed Forces (1948)

Brown v Board of Education (May 17, 1954)

  • In this milestone decision, the Supreme Court ruled that separating children in public schools on the basis of race was unconstitutional

Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, December 1955

  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a civil rights protest during which African Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest segregated seating. (Source:

Desegregation of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas (1957)

Civil Rights Act Passes Congress (1957)

Greensboro Woolworth Sit-In, 1960

  • The Greensboro sit-in was a civil rights protest that started in 1960, when young African American students staged a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and refused to leave after being denied service. (Source:

Wilma Rudolph, First African American and American Woman to Win 3 Gold Medals in a singly Olympics, September 11, 1960.

Birmingham Campaign and Church Bombing, 1963

Equal Pay Act of 1963

  • Prohibits sex-based pay differentials on jobs

August 28, 1963: Martin Luther King Jr. Delivers "I Have a Dream" in Washington, D.C.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

Malcolm X Assassinated, 1965

Bloody Sunday, 1965

  • On March 7, 1965, when then-25-year-old activist John Lewis led over 600 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama and faced brutal attacks by oncoming state troopers, footage of the violence collectively shocked the nation and galvanized the fight against racial injustice. (Source:

Voting Rights Act of 1965

  • It outlawed the discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting

1965 Executive Order 11246

Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated, 1968

Guion Bluford

  • First African-American Astronaut in Space, 1983

Vanessa Williams

  • First African-American Miss America, 1983

Civil Rights Act of 1991

Mae C. Jemison

  • First Female African-American Astronaut in Space, 1992

Colin Powell, 2001

  • First African American U.S. Secretary of State

Oprah Winfrey, 2003

  • First African American Female Billionaire, February 27, 2003

Condoleezza Rice, 2005

  • First African American Woman Secretary of State

Obama Election, 2008, and Presidency, 2009-2016

The Black Lives Matter Formed in 2013 

Black Lives Matter Marches of 2020