Reconstruction and Industrialization (1865-1889)
Click on the words highlighted in brown for more information.
1866 February - The New Freedmen's Bureau bill is introduced in Congress. The legislation proposes to give the Bureau the power to try those accused of denying African Americans their rights. President Johnson vetoes the bill.
1866 April - Congress passes a Civil Rights Act over a veto by President Johnson. The law guarantees citizenship and "full and equal benefits of all laws" to African Americans. Reconstruction of the South begins.
1866 May - First Ku Klux Klan chapter is organized in Tennessee, with the goal of preserving white supremacy in the South. Activity quickly spreads across the South, from Virginia to Texas.
1868 The Washita Massacre. The 7th Calvary, under the command of Lt. Col. George A. Custer, attacks the village of Southern Cheyenne Peace Chief Black Kettle. Thirty Cheyenne, mostly women and children, are killed.
1868 The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified. It grants citizenship to all persons born in the United States and guarantees equal protection under the law.
1868 Alabama introduces a segregated school system.
1870 The Fifteenth Amendment is ratified, giving all adult males the right to vote.
1870 The Piegan Massacre. In Montana, 200 Piegan Indians - elderly, women and children - are killed by calvary troops in a U.S. raid on the wrong camp. A cover-up conspiracy quickly ensues.
1870 Hiram R. Revels, a Republican, becomes the first African American to sit in the Senate from Mississippi.
1870 Richard T. Greener becomes the first African American to graduate from Harvard University.
1875 The Civil Rights Act passes. It promises equal access to public accommodations.
NOTE: In spite of these efforts, the tide of events was running against the effort to secure full civil equality for the ex-slaves. In state after state in the South, the conservative white leadership of the Democratic Party regained control of the political machinery. Through a process of legislation and intimidation, they eliminated African American participation in the political process and instituted a policy of racial segregation. After 1877, support for civil rights from the Congressional and Executive Branches of government waned and African Americans turned to the courts to fight for and secure their civil rights.
1875 Tennessee adopts the first "Jim Crow" segregation law in the South. Other states soon follow.
1876 Battle of Little Bighorn. 263 soldiers of the 7th Calvary are decisively defeated by several thousand Lakota, Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors.
1876 Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is established.
1877 The federal commitment to civil right enforcement ends.
1878 In Pittsylvania County, Virginia, African American citizens are denied the right to serve as grand and petit jurors. This action by Judge J.D. Coles, then serving in the courthouse, results in the case of Ex parte Virginia. The case demonstrates that as a result of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the Federal government has a qualified but potentially effective power to protect the rights of American citizens. Ex parte Virginia represents one of the few victories for African Americans in the federal courts in the generation after 1865.
1879 Carlisle Indian School is established in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior. This is the first of many such schools specifically designed for the forced acculturation of American Indians.
1882 The Chinese-Exclusion Act. Fueled by anti-Chinese sentiment, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 prohibits the immigration and naturalization of Chinese immigrants in the United States for ten years.
1882 Violette Johnson is the first African American woman lawyer permitted to present a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.
1883 U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Civil Rights Act of 1875.
1887 The Dawes Act. Ostensibly designed to acculturate American Indians, it results in the loss of tribal lands through sales to non-Indians.
Did You Know?
The national strategy to use the courts to challenge segregation in public education began with the NAACP under the leadership of attorney Charles Hamilton Houston in the 1930’s.--Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site More...