Select a time period to view events from that time, ordered from earliest to latest. Read more to dive into the details of each event.

Download the PDF

View References

1861-1968

Viewing Historical Background Events OnlyClear

  • 1861

    Southern states secede and create the Confederate States of America.

    News announces that South Carolina secedes from the Union
  • 1861-1865

    The Civil War takes place and ends with the surrender of the South and formal end to slavery.

    General Robert E. Lee surrenders at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia
  • 1861-1900

    The first colleges for African Americans were established largely through the efforts of black churches with the support of the American Missionary Association and the Freedmen’s Bureau. The second Morrill Act of 1890 required states—especially former confederate states—to provide land-grants for institutions for black students if admission was not allowed elsewhere. As a result, many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were founded. Between 1861-1900, more than 90 institutions of higher learning were established, among them Shaw University, Morehouse College, and Hampton University.

    Medical dormitory at Shaw University, the first HBCU in the Southern United States
  • 1863-1877

    In the Reconstruction Era, the end of slavery gives way to sharecropping. Cotton continues to be a major crop for the South.

  • 1867

    The Southern Education Fund (formerly the Peabody Education Fund) is established to aid in the education of the South, namely newly freed African American slaves.

  • 1870s-1960's

    Jim Crow laws are passed in the South which codify racial segregation and limit access to voting, education, and jobs for many Black Southerners.

    Drinking fountain at the Halifax County Courthouse in North Carolina
  • 1912-1932

    In 1912, Booker T. Washington joined forces with philanthropist Julius Rosenwald to build rural schools for African American children across the segregated south. That partnership resulted in more than 5,300 schools, vocational shops, and teacher’s homes across 15 Southern states from 1912-1932.

    Booker T. Washington
  • 1916-1970

    The Great Migration sees the movement of more than 6 million African Americans in the South to Northern cities.

  • 1945

    The agarian economy, especially cotton farms, begin to decline as manufacturing and other industries begin to grow in the "New South."

  • 1954-1968

    The Civil Rights Movement brings dramatic social and political change to the country as African Americans seek to secure legal rights and fight segregation and Jim Crow laws in the South.

  • 1961

    The Voter Education Project (VEP) was a discreet civil rights agency that funded African American voter registration campaigns throughout the South. Supported by civil rights leaders, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials, and philanthropists, the VEP operated within the Southern Regional Council (SRC) to finance local movements and collect data on black disfranchisement.

  • 1963

    The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the Birmingham campaign help build momentum that ultmately leads to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Demonstrators at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
  • 1965

    The Selma to Montgomery marches demonstrate the desire of African American citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote, in defiance of segregationist repression. Part of a broader voting rights movement throughout the American South, the marches contributed to passage year of the Voting Rights Act.

    Abernathy children on the front lines in the march from Selma to Montgomery
  • 1965

    The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

    Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr at the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
  • 1966-1972

    It is estimated that a million and a half African Americans registered to vote in this period. In 1965, the South has fewer than 100 black elected officials; by 1972, the region has 873 black officeholders.

  • 1967

    In the Loving case, the Supreme Court strikes down Virgina's law against interracial marriage.

    Richard and Mildred Loving with their family (bottom); Protesters against interracial marriage (top)
  • 1968

    Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated.

  • 1968

    Despite legislation promoting desegregation and civil rights, a 1968 survey found that eighty-three percent of whites said they preferred a system with no integration.