Emancipation and American Public Discourse from 1865: A Chronology

Emancipation and Public Discourse from 1865

This chronology links persons and events from American emancipation movements from the Civil War to the present. Its purpose as a tool is to demonstrate the interrelation of these movements. Primary focus is given to movements that advance emancipatory rhetorical strategies, including Labor, Civil Rights, Anti-War and Womens Rights. To date this chronology is weakest on Gay Rights and the American Indian Movement; contributions in these areas are especially welcome. External links prefer other Wiki Commons articles, unless there is a clearly superior, authoritative proprietary or government source.

Civil War to Spanish American War


Lincoln Assassinated; Andrew Johnson becomes President.


The Molly Maguires, a secret society of Irish mine workers, terrorize the coal region of Schuylkill County, PA.


The Knights of Labor founded as a secret society. Ulysses S. Grant, Rep., becomes President.


The Panic of 1873 initiates the Long Depression (1873-1879).


The Civil Rights Act of 1875  barred discrimination against Negroes in public accommodations and conveyances.


The Great Railroad Strike. Founding of the Socialist Labor Party , begun in 1876 as the Workingmen’s Party of America and changed its name to the Socialist Labor Party of America in 1877. Rutherford B. Hayes, Rep., becomes President. The last federal troops are withdrawn from States formerly in secession, marking the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the Jim Crow era.


Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School founded. International Working People’s Association (Black International) founded. “Chicago Idea”: One Big Union. Manifesto of Chicago Socialist Revolutionary Club written by Johann Most. Chester Arthur succeeds James Garfield as President.


The Civil Rights Act of 1875 ruled unconstitutional by an 8-1 majority in  Civil Rights Cases, 109 U. S. 3 (1883).


The Haymarket Riot. August Spies, Address to the Court. American Federation of Labor founded by Samuel Gompers.


Mississippi passed its poll tax and literacy law, largely disenfranchising its colored population. NWSA (National Woman Suffrage Association) and AWSA (American Woman Suffrage Association) merged to form NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association).


World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago brings together many features of the Progressive mode of discourse. 1892 marks the peak year for lynchings  in the United States.  Ida B. Wells publishes  Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.  Financial Panic of 1893.  American Railway Union formed with  Eugene Debs as its president.


Successful American Railway Union strike against the Great Northern Railroad. Pullman strike.  Eugene Debs was convicted of obstructing the US Mail for his role in the Pullman strike, the Union was suppressed and many of its members blacklisted. While jailed in Woodstock IL for 6 months, Debs converted to Socialism.


Booker T. Washington delivers his Atlanta Exposition Address.


Plessy v. Ferguson ruled legal segregation constitutional, under the “separate but equal” doctrine.   Eugene Debs supported William Jennings Bryan in the 1896 campaign.


William McKinley, president. Social Democracy of America formed from remnants of American Railway Union in 1897. Becomes  Social Democratic Party of America in 1898.

Spanish American War to World War I


Spanish American War results in annexation of Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico. Wilmington, NC Race Riot, November 10, 1898. End of black majority rule in Wilmington. Similar white race riots suppressed Negro suffrage around the country in the 1880s.


Formation of  International Ladies Garment Workers Union .


Dissidents from the  Socialist Labor Party merge with the  Social Democratic Party of America to form the  Socialist Party of America. William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist, Leon Czolgosz. VP Theodore Roosevelt became President.


Emmaline and Christabel Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in London, marking the rise of militant suffragism.


Eugene Debs campaigned for President for the Socialist Party of America.


Niagara Movement founded by  W. E. B. DuBois.   Industrial Workers of the World founded.  Eugene Debs speaks at the Founding Convention of the Industrial Workers of the World.


DuBois delivers his Niagara Movement Address.


Debs campaigns as Socialist. Suffragists begin open-air soapbox campaigns.  Race riot in Springfield, Ill in 1908 leads to the Lincoln Emancipation Conference , when a group of activists and intellectuals made plans that led to the founding of the  National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


Triangle Factory Fire, March 26, New York. 146 dead due to locked doors and dangerous conditions in upper story tenement factory.


Debs campaigns as Socialist; receives 6% (897,011 votes); most successful Socialist campaign in U.S. history. Woodrow Wilson elected President. Alice Paul organizes the Congressional Union within NAWSA. The Progressive Party (T. Roosevelt) endorses woman suffrage.


National Woman’s Party formed by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns.


August of 1914, World War I commences in Europe.


Marcus GarveyUniversal Negro Improvement AssociationNational Woman’s Party founded by militants Alice Paul and Lucy Burns. Trained in London by the Pankhursts, they broke with NAWSA over their conciliatory tactics and state rather than federal orientation. In the same year, Carrie Chapman Catt, newly elected president of NAWSA, repudiated the states right platform and announced a “winning plan” for a federal amendment.

World War I to World War II


American enters World War I; Congress passed the Espionage Act to control opposition to World War I; Bolshevik  October Revolution in Russia.


Eugene Debs, Canton Ohio speech, defending Socialists jailed under the  Sedition Act, which consisted of amendments to the Espionage Act of 1917.  Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court on sentencing.  Treaty of Versailles ends World War One.


The First Red Scare, instigated by a plot to mail bombs to prominent US financiers and government officials, set off the Palmer Raids, in which Attorney General Mitchell Palmer arrested thousands of dissidents and eventually deported 556. Founding of the  Communist Party USARed Summer: Beginning in Texas, predominantly white race riots broke out across the country with the most violent occurring in Chicago and Washington DC, but also in Charleston, SC, Knoxville, TN, Omaha, NE and other places. In general they were the result of competition between blacks and whites over labor.


Nineteenth Amendment ratified giving women the right to vote. Eugene Debs, while in prison for sedition, runs for President and gains 919,000 votes.


Alice Paul drafts the Equal Rights Amendment, and the National Woman’s Party turns its attention to advocating its passage.


Stock Market crash inaugurates Great Depression. Communist Party USA under the influence of Stalinist policies, withdraws its support from other American socialist organizations.


Nation of Islam founded by Wallace Fard Muhammad.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected President.


A series of dust storms that characterized the high plains of the US as the “Dust Bowl” removed millions of tons of plowed top soil from the recently settled Great Plains, intensifying the effects of the Great Depression.


Elijah Muhammad advanced to leadership of Nation of Islam.

WWII to Vietnam


Dec. 8, Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan.


American Communists pursued common anti-Nazi interests with US and made wartime accommodations to capitalism. During this period their membership climbed to an all-time high of 60,000-80,000. However, as much as 30% turnover meant that at any one time there were many more former Communists than active Communists in the US.


Congress of Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) was organized as a Fellowship of Reconciliation taskforce.


U.S. Supreme Court in Morgan v. Virginia ruled that segregation of white and colored passengers is invalid for out of state passengers.


Members of CORE traveled through the Mid South in a “Journey of Reconciliation,” the first of many campaigns to end segregation of interstate bus travel.


Eleven leaders of Communist Party of the US were convicted of violating the Smith Act, which outlawed groups teaching and advocating the violent overthrow of the government.


Brown v. Board of Education rendered school segregation unconstitutional. Army-McCarthy Hearings end McCarthy’s red bashing career.

28 August

Emmett Till, aged 14, is lynched for allegedly whistling at a white girl in a grocery store in Money, MS. A photo of the open casket makes national and international news.

1 December

Rosa Parks’ action in refusing to give up her seat on a segregated bus provides catalyst for Montgomery bus boycott.


Little Rock Arkansas: Nine students attempted to attend a Little Rock public high school in accordance with the recent Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education. Governor Orval Faubus guarded the entrance against them using Arkansas National Guard. Responding to requests from Martin Luther King and the NAACP, President Eisenhower enforced the Supreme Court decision, deploying troops from the 101st Airborne and federalizing the Arkansas National Guard.

February 1

Four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University sat down at a Greensboro Woolworth’s lunch counter and refused to get up until they were served. The incident spread to repeated demonstrations by students and others across the south, leading to the formation of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee.

May 12

House Un-American Activities Committee conducted hearings in San Francisco City Hall. Demonstrators many of them students, denied admittance to the hearings were dispersed by police using anti-riot tactics. Repercussions from this demonstration contributed to the Berkeley Free Speech Movement.


John Fitzgerald Kennedy elected President. Inaugural Address.


CORE and SNCC began organizing Freedom Rides from Washington DC into Southern States.


Demonstrations were organized in Albany, GA targeting a broad front of segregation and voting rights ordinances, assisted first by SNCC volunteers and then by King. This time the opposition was also organized. The mixed results led to more precise target selection in civil rights initiatives.

June 12

A group convenes in Port Huron,MI, to draft the ”Port Huron Statement,” a document that became the manifesto of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). Authors included Robert Alan Haber, Tom Hayden, Michael Harrington, and Sharon Jeffries.


Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique. Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, Final Report.


SCLC Birmingham Campaign. Martin Luther King “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (April 16).


Medgar Evers Assasination (June 12)


March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (August 28).  Martin Luther King, “I Have a Dream.”


John F. Kennedy Assassination (November 22)

Vietnam to Present


Mississippi Voter Registration Project (Freedom Summer).


Malcolm X, “The Ballot or the Bullet” (April 3).  Trip to Mecca, April 13-May 21.


Johnson signs Civil Rights Act of 1964.


Gulf of Tonkin incident (August 2 & 4) justifies escalation of Vietnam War.

Democratic National Convention interrupted by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s challenge to the white Mississippi delegation (August 24-27).


Berkeley Free Speech Movement.


Assassination of Malcolm X by members of the Nation of Islam.


Anti-War March on Washington (April 17).


Watts riots in Los Angeles.


Stokely Carmichael becomes chair of SNCC and begins to espouse the doctrine of Black Power. National Organization for Women (NOW) organized.


1st issue of Ms. (July). Congress passes the ERA. Congress passes Title IX banning sex discrimination in federally assisted educational programs.


Members of Jane collective arrested. ”’Roe v. Wade”’ and Doe v. Bolton result in making abortion constitutional. First publication of ”Our Bodies, Our Selves. ”Mary Daly publishes ”Beyond God the Father.”
Heide, ”For the Revolution: Tomorrow is Now.”


First conference on “Women and the Environment.” Passage of Equal Credit Opportunity Act


Kathie Sarachild and Carol Hanisch publish ”Feminist Revolution,” attacking liberal feminism.”’ End of early radical feminism.”’ National Womens Health Network founded. Members of Rothman’s Feminist Womens Health Center arrested for practicing medicine without a license.