Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it marks the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
The celebration is still sponsored by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. In 1976, the Association expanded the celebration from one week to a month-long event.
Timeline of Black Political History
The U.S Constitution states that Congress may not ban the slave trade until 1808.
Congress bans the importation of slaves from Africa.
The Missouri Compromise bans slavery north of the southern boundary of Missouri.
Nat Turner, an enslaved African-American preacher, leads a slave uprising in Southampton County, Virginia. The militia quells the rebellion; Turner is hanged; and Virginia tightens its slave laws.
Frederick Douglass launches his abolitionist newspaper.
Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, one of the most influential anti-slavery publications.
Congress passes the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and renewing tensions between anti- and pro-slavery political factions.
In the Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and that Congress did not have the right to ban slavery. Three of the justices also held that a black “whose ancestors were … sold as slaves” was not entitled to the rights of a federal citizen and therefore had no standing in court.
President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring "that all persons held as slaves" within the Confederate states "are, and henceforward shall be free."
- 1865, June 19:
Slavery in the United States finally ends when 250,000 slaves in Texas are informed that the Civil War had ended two months earlier.
- 1865, December 6:
The 13th Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting slavery.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution defines citizenship as individuals born or naturalized in the United States, including those born as slaves. This nullifies the Dred Scott decision.
Howard University's law school becomes the country's first black law school.
- 1870, February 3:
The 15th Amendment was passed, granting blacks the right to vote.
- 1870 February 1870:
The first black U.S. senator, Hiram R. Revels (1822-1901), took the oath of office.
In Plessy v. Ferguson, the Supreme Court rules that racial segregation is constitutional.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is founded in New York.
Jackie Robinson breaks Major League Baseball's color barrier when he signs a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers.
President Harry S. Truman issues an executive order integrating the U.S. armed forces.
- 1954, May 17:
In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS, the U.S Supreme Court declares that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional.
Martin Luther King, Charles K. Steele, and Fred L. Shuttlesworth found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights group.
- 1964, July 2:
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. It prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin.
- 1968, April 4:
Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, TN.
- 1968, April 11:
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
- 1978, June 28:
In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action.
- 2008, November 4:
Barack Obama becomes the first bi-racial American to be elected president of the United States.