Escaped slave Crispus Attucks dies in the Boston Massacre. He is one of the first men to be killed in the cause of American independence.
Phillis Wheatley gains notoriety in Europe and America for her "Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral."
Vermont becomes the first state to abolish slavery.
Richard Allen becomes the first ordained black minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Slaves revolt on the Spanish slave ship Amistad. They are arrested in the Long Island Sound, but the United States Supreme Court later rules that they are free.
Frederick Douglass begins publication of the North Star, an antislavery newspaper.
William Wells Brown publishes the first novel by a black American, "Clotel."
John Mercer Langston is elected clerk of Brownhelm Township in Ohio. He is the first black to win an elective political office in the United States.
Future U.S. Congressman Robert Smalls leads the capture of a Confederate armed frigate in Charleston harbor.
The U.S. Army forms black cavalry and infantry regiments. Serving in the West from 1867 to 1896, they are nicknamed "buffalo soldiers."
Howard University, a predominantly black university, is founded in Washington, D.C.
Joseph Hayne Rainey is the first black elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi becomes the first black person elected to the Senate.
Mary Church Terrell becomes the first president of the National Association of Colored Women, working for educational and social reform and an end to racial discrimination.
Booker T. Washington dines with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. The dinner meeting is criticized by many whites.
W.E.B. Du Bois publishes "The Souls of Black Folk."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is formed.
Aviator Bessie Coleman stages the first public flight by an African-American woman.
Claude McKay publishes "Home to Harlem," the first fictional work by an African-American to reach the best-seller lists.
Benjamin Oliver Davis, Sr., becomes the first black colonel in the U.S. Army. He later oversees race relations and the morale of black soldiers in World War II and becomes the first black general in 1940.
Track-and-field athlete Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. His victories derail Adolf Hitler's desire to demonstrate Aryan supremacy.
Singer Marian Anderson performs at the Lincoln Memorial before an audience of 75,000 after the Daughters of the American Revolution refuse to allow her to sing at Constitution Hall.
The all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron of the U.S. Army Air Corps, later known as the Tuskegee Airmen, is formed.
Jackie Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black baseball player in the major leagues.
Ralph Bunche is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as United Nations mediator in the Arab-Israeli dispute in Palestine.
Gwendolyn Brooks is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry for "Annie Allen," becoming the first African-American writer to win the award.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public schools violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.
Rosa Parks, secretary of the Montgomery, Ala., chapter of the NAACP, sparks the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56 by refusing to surrender her seat when ordered by a local bus driver.
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is established by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower orders federal troops into Little Rock, Ark., after unsuccessfully trying to persuade Governor Orval Faubus to give up efforts to block desegregation at Central High.
"Raisin in the Sun," by Lorraine Hansberry, becomes the first drama by a black woman to be produced on Broadway.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., writes "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."
The Civil Rights Movement reaches its climax with a march on Washington, D.C. Passage of the Civil Rights Act is demanded.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law, giving federal law enforcement agencies the power to prevent racial discrimination in employment, voting, and the use of public facilities.
The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., is awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in Oslo, Norway.
Bill Russell becomes the first black coach of a major professional sports team in the United States.
Shirley Chisholm becomes the first black American woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress.
Baseball player Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run, breaking Babe Ruth's record.
Tennis player Arthur Ashe wins the singles title at Wimbledon, becoming the first black winner of a major men's singles championship.
Alex Haley's "Roots: The Saga of an American Family" becomes one of the most popular shows in the history of American television.
Colin Powell is confirmed as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, making him the first black officer to hold the highest military post in the United States.
Mae Jemison becomes the first African-American woman astronaut, orbiting Earth in the space shuttle Endeavor.
Carol Moseley-Braun becomes the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
Poet Rita Dove is chosen as poet laureate of the United States.
Colin L. Powell is sworn in as Secretary of State.
Condoleezza Rice is sworn in as the first black woman Secretary of State.