Black America

Urban Migration + Civil Rights Initiatives

Mrs. Tran's 5th Period APUSH - Natalia Mushegian

A timeline of significant people and events concerning black America in the period 0f 1860-1920s

The period from 1863, when Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation, before WWII is not the period most associated with civil rights movements - that, of course, is attributed to the mid-20th century. However, this was a time of great change, a time when the African-American population left the work of the South to move North and West and when a movement towards recognition and rights began.

Emancipation Proclamation - 1863


The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by Lincoln, freed slaves in those areas which were still fighting the Union.


The Proclamation was a definite assurance by the Union that they were now fighting "for" the freedom of African-Americans, but it also seemed like it was suggesting not that slavery was immoral, but that slavery by those who were disloyal to the Union was prohibited (Zinn 192).

13th Amendment and 14th Amendment - 1865 and 1868


The 13th Amendment officially abolished slavery in the United States. The 14th Amendment overthrew the Dred Scott decision and stated that all persons born or naturalized in the United States were citizens.


This, more than the Emancipation Proclamation, started the difficult process of acceptance into society for African-Americans. Now they were free, and they were citizens, but this was a false freedom. Many were trapped in systems like sharecropping without any social mobility, and faced great discrimination in the South.

15th Amendment and Civil Rights Act - 1870 and 1875


The 15th Amendment guaranteed voting rights to males of any race, and the Civil Rights Act was intended to prohibit discrimination towards black Americans in public spaces.


Neither of these measure was effective. The 15th Amendment was evaded by Jim Crow laws and measures like the poll tax and literacy tests, and the Ku Klux Klan worked for discrimination even if it was illegal. Not only was the Civil Rights Act not enforced; it was found unconstitutional in 1883.

Exoduster Movement - 1877


The Exoduster movement was the first organized migration out of the South - not to the North, but to the Midwest. Organized by Benjamin Singleton, it held a promise of cheap land and a start outside of the South and was advertised as shown above.


Singleton was a kind of early civil rights activist in his insistence that black Americans be able to create their own success. He recognized that the South did not provide the environment for this, and may have facilitated later movement in the Great Migration by setting an example.

Atlanta Compromise, Niagara Movement - 1895 and 1905


In 1895, the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta invited Booker T. Washington to speak. Ten years later, W.E.B. Du Bois, John Hope, and others met on the Canadian side of Niagara falls to discuss racial issues.


Washington advocated the “cast down your bucket” theory in his speech - to gradually gain rights and to work with what was currently available without political activism. Du Bois called this speech the “Atlanta Compromise," casting it in a conciliatory light, and instead focused on promoting higher education and vocational training for black Americans.

(For more opinions on the approach to civil rights, see timeline for 1914)

Springfield Race Riots, Foundation of NAACP - 1908 and 1909


In 1908, mobs rioted at not being allowed to lynch two black prisoners in the city of Springfield, Illinois. In 1909, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded.


The race riots proved the necessity for an organization that could advocate on behalf of issues of racial significance. It was founded by a biracial group and grew to become the largest and most significant organization for black rights.

1910s-1930s - The Great Migration


The Great Migration was the massive movement of black Americans out of the South and into Northern cities, as well as out of agricultural and into industrial jobs.


In the North, African-Americans did not face the same discrimination as in the South, but it was still a time of slow progress. The American Federation of Labor, other unions and businesses themselves continued to discriminate against black workers. Only the IWW, a group considered very radical by many, accepted black workers. Urban reforms did not directly target African-Americans, and especially did not target those still struggling in the South - Congress couldn't even pass anti-lynching legislation!

Universal Negro Improvement and Conservation Association and African Communities League - 1914


In 1914, Marcus Garvey founded this (lengthily titled) organization, and revealed another aspect of the civil rights movement in doing so.


Garvey, a Jamaican who then applied his ideas to the US, advocated for much of the same as the other major civil rights workers: education, assistance to the poor, etc. However, he had a very unique perspective in his attitude towards this. He agreed with the ideals of racial segregation propagated by the KKK, and was a separatist with his Back to Africa movement. The difference between this idea and those of Du Bois and Washington shows just how many directions civil rights could take, and how many people were involved and had opinions; it was by no means an isolated movement.

The Harlem Renaissance

Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit
"Incident" Countee Cullen CLASSIC Harlem Renaissance poem GREAT VOICE
In the 1920s, the Harlem neighborhood of New York featured a great rise of arts and culture based on the African-American community that greatly influenced society as a whole. The “Jazz Age” was ushered in through Harlem, and poets like Langston Hughes or singers like Billie Holiday became well-known and popular. Harlem Renaissance artists spoke up about issues of injustice, as shown in the above two videos, and created a strong and united black culture that allowed for further pride and fervor for creating equality.


Alridge, Derrick P. "Atlanta Compromise Speech." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 10 January 2014. Web. 22 April 2014.

"Billie Holiday - Strange Fruit." YouTube. YouTube, 25 Nov. 2006. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.

"Black America: Early 20th Century Urban Migration and Civil Rights Initiatives (1862-1930)." Teaching American History. University of Nebraska Omaha, n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.

Black Migration -- Exoduster Movement. Digital image. MIT Open Courseware. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.

Black Migration -- Exoduster Movement, 1878. Digital image. MIT Open Courseware. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.

Carpenter, Francis B. First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation of President Lincoln. 1864. United States Capitol, n.p.

“Countee Cullen." YouTube. YouTube, 05 July 2013. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.

Excerpt from Robert A. Hill, ed. The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Volume I, 1826 - August 1919. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983.

Exoduster Advertisement. Digital image. National Park Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.

NAACP Logo. Digital image. BlackPast. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <NAACP Logo>.

Niagara Movement (Organization). Niagara Movement declaration of principles, 1905. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries

""Or Does It Explode?"" A People's History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. N. pag. Print.

"Slavery Without Submission, Emancipation without Freedom." A People's History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. N. pag. Print.

"The Socialist Challenge." A People's History of the United States. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010. N. pag. Print.

Washington, Booker T. "Atlanta Compromise." Cotton States and International Exposition. Atlanta. 18 Sept. 1895. History Matters - GMU. Web. 22 Apr. 2014. <>.