Racial Equality; key historical events

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Martin Luther King

Klu Klux Klan



Slavery; authorisation, abolition, and slave rebellions – see Appendix 1


25/11/2015, The first Asian woman to become a High Court Judge in Britain, Mrs Cheena-Grubb, 49, from Derby, was sworn in. There were now 22 female High Court Judges, compared with just 10 in 2005.

24/11/2014, In Missouri, the Prosecutor’s Office announced it would not pres charges against a policeman, Mr Wilson, for shooting dead a Black teenager, Michael Brown (see 9/8/2014). Several nights rioting followed.

9/8/2014, A Black man, Mr Brown, was shot dead by a White policeman, Mr Darren Wilson, in the suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, USA. Several nights of racial-based rioting followed.

3/8/2009, Bolivia became the first country in South America to grant self-government to its indigenous peoples.

24/10/2005, Rosa Parks, who in 1955 refused to give up her bus seat to a White passenger, so starting the civil rights movement, died aged 92.

27/9/2005, Michaelle Jean, born in Haiti, became the 27th Governor-General of Canada, the first Black person to hold that position.

24/6/2004, In Thetford, Norfolk, a mob of 200 local youths laid siege to the Portuguese run Red Lion pub, hurling paving slabs and other missiles. 40 Portuguese workers and their families were trapped inside for two hours until police could bring in sufficient reinforcements to quell the disturbance. Eight people were injured, and ten people subsequently arrested. The event was initially linked to Portugal having beaten the English football team out of the Euro 2004 tournament. However there was also a strong racist element, with the town having suffered major job losses to its agricultural food processing industries and local wages being depressed.

27/9/2001. The UK Home Secretary, David Blunkett, condemned as offensive remarks by the Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi had said that Western civilisation was superior to Islamic society.

7/6/1991, Bill Morris became the General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, the first Black leader of a UK trade union.

2/1/1991, Sharon Pratt Dixon was sworn in as Mayor of Washington DC, becoming the first Black woman to lead such a major US city.

24/11/1990, White extremists attacked 300 Black children in a park in Louis Trichardt.

8/11/1989, In Virginia, Douglas Wilder became the first Black Governor in the USA.

6/11/1989, David Dinkins became the first African-American mayor of New York City.

5/5/1988, In the US, Eugene Antonio became the country’s first Black Roman Catholic Archbishop.

2/1/1987. The traditional golliwogs in Enid Blyton’s Noddy books were replaced by neutral gnomes to remove any taint of racism.

30/4/1985, Britain’s first Black bishop, Wilfrid Wood, was appointed.

12/4/1983. Chicago got its first Black mayor.

27/8/1981. Moira Stuart was appointed the BBC’s first Black female newsreader.

27/6/1979, Brian Weber lost a reverse discrimination case against his union (US Supreme Court, United Steel Workers v Weber), which had recruited Black and White workers in equal numbers to a training programme, although White workers outnumbered Black ones.

1978, The case of Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. A Whute engineering graduate, Alan Bakke, had applied to the American University of California (Davis) Medical School, but was not offered a place, despite his having higher qualifications than most of the Black students admitted. Of the 100 places available, 16 were reserved for Black students. The US Supreme Court ruled that, although the University had violated the 14th Amendment and Bakke had suffered discrimination, and was entitled to a place, it was nevertheless reasonable for the University to consider racial background in admittance decisions. This rather confused decision opened the way to further cases over ‘reverse discrimmination’.

8/6/1977. In Britain the Commission for Racial Equality began work. In 1996 it registered 1,750 calls for assistance with racial discrimination and handled 142 court cases in this area. In 1997 asimilar Commission was established in Northern Ireland.

1973, In the UK, the TUC changed its traditional pro-immigration-control stance and became very much anti-racist and pro-equal-opportunity,

26/11/1972, The Race Relations Act became UK law; employers were now not allowed to discriminate on grounds of race.

9/8/1970. Police and Black protestors clashed in Notting Hill, London.

12/5/1970. 12 Black protestors died in race riots in Georgia, USA.

10/6/1969, James Earl Ray was sentenced to 99 years in Memphis, Tennessee, for the murder of Martin Luther King in April 1968.

9/4/1969, Sikh bus drivers in Wolverhampton won the right to wear turbans.

10/3/1969, James Ray Earl pleaded guilty to the murder of civil rights leader Martin Luther King. He was sentenced to 99 years.

1/1/1969. Sir Learie Constantine became Britain’s first Black peer.

26/11/1968, In Britain the1968 Race Relations Act was passed, banning racial discrimination in emnployment and housing. However contravening the Act was still not a criminal offence; cases were solved through a conciliation procedure.

5/11/1968 The first Black woman was elected to the US House of Representatives.

12/8/1968. Race riots in Watts, Los Angeles.

4/4/1968. Martin Luther King, 39, was assassinated, shot dead by James Earl Ray on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He was on a trip to support striking sanitation workers in Memphis. The funeral was attended by Jacqueline Kennedy. White and Black were briefly united in anger, and there were riots in hundreds of towns across America. Martin Luther King had campaigned on civil rights for Black people, and was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1964.

23/8/1967, Race riots in Detroit.      

23/7/1967, Riots broke out in Detroit after police raided a ‘blind pig’, an unlicensed bar, in the 12th street area of Detroit. In 5 days of disorder, 43 people were killed and 467 injured. 7,200 were arrested and almost 3,000 buildings burnt or looted. The US Army had to go in with tanks and machine guns. The root cause of the riots was credit discrimination by banks against addresses in districts that were mainly Black.

15/6/1967. Race riots shook New Jersey, USA, following the arrest of a black taxi driver for a traffic offence. The riots lasted for four nights 1,600 people were arrested, 1,100 were injured, and 22 died.

7/2/1967, In Britain the Far Right anti-immigration National Front party was formed. It was founded by A.K.Chesterton, cousin of the famous author.

1966, The Black Panther Party was founded by two Black people from Oakland California; Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The aim of the Party was to secure better economic and civil rights for Black people in the USA.

8/11/1966. Edward Brooke became the USA’s first black senator.

31/7/1966, In the US, there were race riots in Chicago, New York, and Cleveland.

20/7/1966. Racial unrest continued in Brooklyn, New York, resulting in the fatal stabbing of an 11 year old boy. There were other racial tensions across the USA.

16/7/1966. Race riots in Chicago caused Governor Kerner to call out 3,000 men from the Illinois National Guard who supplemented 900 police facing 5,000 rioters.

14/3/1966, Britain’s first Asian policeman, Muhammad Yusuf, was sworn in to the Coventry force

22/1/1966, Martin Luther King moved to a tenement flat in a deprived part ofChicago to draw attention to Black urban poverty.

1965, In the UK, the first Race Relations Act was passed. Modelled on US civil rights legislation, it outlawed racial segregation in public places.

6/12/1965.. The Governor of California received a report on the necessity of stimulating employment and education among the Black population as a means of avoiding race riots.

19/10/1965, In the USA, the Un-American Activities Committee of the House of Representatives began a public hearing on the Klu Klux Klan.

11/8/1965, Race riots in the Watts area of Los Angeles, USA. A local Black woman, Marquette Fry, was arrested by White police officers on suspicion of drunk-driving and then beaten up. Over the next two nights rioting in the predominantly Black area spread to involve some 130 square kilometres, with cars and shops being looted and burnt. On 13/8/1965 2,000 national Guardsmen arrived to support the thousands of police in enforcing an 8.pm curfew for the next three nights. The riots saw the deaths of 34 people, mostly Black civilians shot by National Guards or police.

6/8/1965, US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, outlawing racial discrimination in voting procedures.

31/5/1965. Within a day of moving into a semi detached house on a Staffordshire housing estate a Jamaican family was approached by the resident’ association with an offer to buy them out. ‘We are not against coloured people’ said the chairman, ‘but we are concerned about maintaining the value of our house.

15/3/1965. Doctor Martin Luther King led a Freedom March in Selma, Alabama, in defiance of a court ban. State police stopped the procession with tear gas.

7/3/1965, US State Troopers and police attacked some 600 Civil Rights marchers with clubs, whips, and tear gas on the Selma Freedom March from Selma, Alabama, to the State capital, Alabama. 17 marchers were hospitalised and scores more injured.

21/2/1965. American Black leader Malcolm X was shot dead whilst addressing a meeting in New York. He was shot 15 times at point-blank range by three gunmen, and was dead on arrival at hospital. Born on 19/5/1925 in Nebraska, Malcolm X was the son of a Baptist minister, Earl Little, who was a supporter of the Black Nationalist leader Marcus Garvey. Little received death threats and in 1931 his body was found, mutilated. Malcolm dropped out of school and by 1942 was involved in the criminal gangs of Harlem, New York. He was imprisoned for burglary in 1946 and in the same year converted to an Islamic sect led by Elijah Mohammed. Malcolm changed his surname to X because he viewed Little as a slave name. Out on parole in 1952, Malcolm preached for the sect, supporting Black separatism and violence. He made a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 and then changed his views to supporting all races. He founded the Organisation of Afro-American Unity and toured many countries before he was assassinated.

14/10/1964. Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize.

2/8/1964, US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act 1964.

2/7/1964. President Johnson of the USA signed the Civil Rights Bill prohibiting racial discrimination.

1/2/1964. The mayor of Notasulga, Alabama, turned away six black pupils from an all white school.

15/9/1963, During race violence in the US, an African-American church in Birmingham, Alabama, was blown up.

4/9/1963, Desegregation riots in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

2/9/1963, George Wallace, Governor of Alabama, halted integration of Black and White students by surrounding Tuskegee High School with state troopers. See 15/5/1972.

28/8/1963. Black civil rights leader Martin Luther King made his famous speech, “I have a dream…” to a rally of 200,000 people in Washington DC, demonstrating for civil rights for Blacks. On 4/9/1963 there were desegregation riots at Birmingham, Alabama.

27/8/1963, Du Bois, fighter for Black equality (born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 23/2/1868), died in Accra, Ghana. He founded the Niagara Movement, an association of Black intellectuals, in 1905, which became part of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) in 1909. Du Bois also participated on the conferences that led to the founding of the United Nations, moving to Ghana in 1961.

12/6/1963, Civil Rights lawyer Medgar Evers was murdered by White  segregationists in Mississippi.

11/6/1963, George C Wallace, Governor of Alabama, barred the path of two Black students, James A Hood and Vivian J Malone, who were attempting to enrol at the University of Alabama.

10/5/1963, African-Americans were finally allowed to use the shops and public services in Birmingham, Alabama, after the ‘Birmingham Campaign’ led by Martin Luther King.

2/4/1963, A Black Civil Rights campaign began in the USA.

18/11/1962. Birmingham Corporation, UK,  revoked a ban on turbaned Sikhs working as bus conductors and drivers.

1/10/1962. The first Black student attended classes at Mississippi University, and 200 were arrested in subsequent riots. James Howard Meredith arrived at university with a large guard of 170 federal marshals. After White rioting, gunfire erupted in the evening, with two killed and over 50 injured, including a French journalist. Under armed guard for his entire period of study, Meredith obtained his degree. However four years later he was shot dead by an armed White man in ambush, in June 1966 on a civil rights march in Mississippi.

25/5/1961, Klu Klux Klan marchers clashed with civil rights ‘Freedom Riders’ in Montgomery, Alabama.

8/11/1960, Former Massachusetts Attorney-General Edward Brooke became the first Black Senator in the US. He was born in Washington DC in 1919.

13/9/1960, In Washington, D.C., charges were filed against a Tennessee bank and 27 individuals said to have used economic pressure to prevent black people from voting.

25/4/1960, Race riots in Mississippi, ten Blacks were shot dead. Extremist Whites in the State disliked the 1954 US Supreme Court ruling that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional.                                                                                                                                                                                                    

10/4/1960. The US Senate passed the Civil Rights Bill.

6/2/1960, A bomb attack was made on the house of Carlotta Watts, one of five Black children who had been admitted to the Little Rock High School 5 months earlier.

2/2/1960. Black protestors began a lunch-counter sit-in campaign in the USA. They were protesting against racial segregation at the local Woolworth’s canteen, also at other ‘Whites-only’ restaurants in Sumter, South Carolina. Black citizens also organised ‘Freedom rides’ on buses that were segregated for Whites only.

10/11/1959. The UN condemned apartheid and racism.

12/8/1959, Parents and children rioted in Arkansas over racial segregation in schools.

25/5/1959, The US Supreme Court ruled that Alabama’s ban on boxing matches between Black and White contestants was unconstitutional.

24/5/1959, Empire day was renamed Commonwealth Day.

12/9/1958. The Governor of Arkansas closed all High Schools in Little Rock.

8/9/1958. Race riots in Notting Hill, London. White youths attacked five Black people, leading to 150 arrests and gang fights involving up to 2,000 people.

31/8/1958, Fighting between Black and White youths in Notting Hill, London.

25/9/1957, 1,000 US armed paratroopers turned out to protect 9 Black schoolchildren who were taking their places at the all-White Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. This followed a US Supreme Court ruling that segregated schools contravened the 14th Amendment. However Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus flouted the court ruling and deployed armed National Guardsmen to bar the Black children, whilst a White mob shouted ‘Niggers go home’. President Eisenhower intervened and the Guardsmen were withdrawn, but a White mob remained. In an unprecedented move, Eisenhower removed control of the National Guard from Faubus and sent in the 101st Airborne Division to protect the Black schoolchildren, to the fury of southern Governors.

13/6/1957. US Vice-President Richard Nixon and civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King discussed how to enforce the racial desegregation of the southern states of the USA. The Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, said he would never permit racial integration of his schools and would use state militia to stop Black students entering White facilities. On 25/9/1957 an angry crowd of 1,500 White demonstrators watched as 1,000 US armed National Guardsmen, bayonets drawn, enforce the arrival of nine black students at the Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Seven protesters were arrested as one demonstrator tried to grab a guardsman’s rifle; some shouted ‘go home, niggers!’

13/11/1956, The US Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation on buses was illegal.

5/3/1956, The US Supreme Court upheld a ban on racial segregation in schools and universities.

1/3/1956. The University of Alabama expelled its first Black student. Autherine Lucy had been suspended ‘for her own safety’ after attacks by an angry White mob. The US Federal Court ruled that she must be re-admitted.

5/12/1955, Martin Luther King was elected leader of the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement which had started following the arrest of Rosa Parks on 1/12/1955.

1/12/1955, In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her front of bus seat for a White man and move to the rear of the bus. On 4/12/1955 she was fined US$ 14. A boycott of Montgomery City Lines buses began by the Afro-American population, costing 65% of pre-boycott revenue. The bus company had to end seat discrimination and hire Afro-American drivers, an outcome hailed as the start of the Black Rights movement in the USA.

8/3/1955, In West Bromwich, Birmingham, UK, bus drivers re-imposed a colour bar, which had already led to strikes.

7/1/1955, Marian Anderson became the first African-American to appear in the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Verdi’s Masked Ball.

17/5/1954, The US Supreme Court, in the case of Brown v The Board of Education,  unanimously  outlawed racial segregation in school as unconstitutional. The principle of ‘separate but equal’ facilities for Black and White pupils was struck down. This ruling was to be extended to all areas of public life.

8/6/1953, The US Supreme Court ruled that restaurants in the District of Columbia could not refuse to serve African-Americans.

12/1/1948. A law school in Oklahoma was ordered to admit a Black student.

1942, The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) was founded in the USA.  It was involved in campaigns against racial segregation on public transport and in increasing the registration of Black voters in the US South.

26/6/1938, James Weldon Johnson, Black civil rights leader, died.

15/1/1929, US civil rights leader Martin Luther King was born in Atlanta, Georgia, son of a Baptist pastor.

22/9/1927. Sierra Leone abolished domestic slavery.

8/8/1925. The first national congress of the Klu Klux Klan opened in Washington, with a big Klan march.

27/6/1925, Michael Dummett, British campaigner for racial equality, was born (died 2011).

19/5/1925, Malcolm X, US militant Black civil rights leader, was born in Omaha, Nebraska, as Malcolm Little.

6/2/1924. The USA granted full citizenship to American Indians.

30/6/1923. The Klu Klux Klan claimed to have a million members. Founded after Black slaves gained freedom in the American Civil War, it has gradually widened its targets to include Jews, Catholics, even foreigners; in fact anyone who is not Protestant and White. It was disbanded in 1869 but revived in 1915, under its ‘imperial wizard’, a dentist called Hiram Evans.

11/9/1921, The Klu Klux Klan took control of a university faculty in Atlants, Georgia, for the purposes of teaching ‘Americanism’.

27/7/1919. Large scale race riots in Chicago. Violent interracial clashes resulted in 38 dead, 537 injured, and 1,000 rendered homless. The spark for these riots had been a trivial incident when a Black person swam into a part of Lake Michigan that White people had claimed as ‘their’ preserve.

13/1/1919. Satyendra Prasano Sinha became the first Indian peer of Britain and so the first Indian member of the House of Lords.

2/7/1916. Hundreds died in race riots in St Louis, USA.

4/12/1915. The US state of Georgia officially recognised the Klu Klux Klan.

25/11/1915, The White supremacist society Klu Klux Klan was revived at Stone Mountain, Georgia, by Colonel William Simmons. The original Klan, from Greek kuklos = circle, was formed as a secret Confederate Army. Its ‘night riders’ in their hooded costumes terrorised Blacks. The new Klan also opposed Catholics, Jews, immigration, birth control, the repeal of Prohibition, pacifism and Darwinism, as well as Black people.

14/11/1915, Death of Booker T Washington, first principal of the Tuskegee Institute (Alabama) for Blacks.

10/11/1913, In Battersea, London, Britain’s first Black mayor was elected.

4/2/1913, Rosa Parks was born in Tuskegee, Alabama, USA.

1/5/1910, The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) was launched. It was an organisation of African-American Liberals; it published Crisis, edited by W E B Du Bois.

22/6/1908, Six Black people accused of murder were lynched in the USA.

8/4/1908. In the US, President Roosevelt issued an injunction allowing Black people to use the same train carriages as Whites in the South.

7/1/1905, The US Senate approved the first government appointment of a Black man, as head of South Carolina Customs Services.

7/8/1904, Ralph Johnson Bunche, who became the first Black person to hold an important position at the US State Department, was born. He helped found the United Nations and won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the 1949 Arab-Israeli truce.

6/2/1904. Maryland disenfranchised Black voters.

2/1/1903. President Roosevelt closed a Post Office in Missouri for refusing to employ a Black postmistress.

28/10/1901, Race riots in America over the Presidential dinner on 21/10/1901. The event was condemned by racist Whites as ‘a breach of etiquette’. In 1900 Mr Washington had formed the ‘National Negro Business League’ to promote entrepreneurialism amongst Black people.

16/10/1901, A Black teacher, Booker T Washington, dined with President Roosevelt at the White House.  See 28/10/1901.

1898, Louisiana amended its jury system to disenfranchise Black jurors. Having required unanimous verdicts in jury cases since the State’s inception, Louisiana now ruled that 10:2 majority verdicts were permissible. This was so that if twoBlack jurors were on a jury, their verdict could be discounted.

1896, The US Supreme Court ruled that facilities for Whites and non-Whites could be segregated if they were ‘equal’.

6/7/1892, Dadabhai Naoroji became Britain’s first non-White MP. He was elected Liberal representative for Central Finsbury, London, by a majority of 3 votes over his Unionist rival

1887, The USA passed the Dawes Allotment Act. It was an attempt to assimilate the American Indians into the US economy by giving them each a free 160 acres of farmland and farm equipment.

1885, Anti-Chinese migrant violence broke out in Rock Springs, Wyoming. 28 Chinese were murdered.

1/3/1875. The US Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, giving equal rights to all races in transport, theatres, inns, and juries.

17/6/1871, James Weldon Johnson, Black civil rights leader, was born in Jacksonville, Florida.

20/4/1871, In the US, the Klu Klux Klan Act outlawed paramilitary organisations such as the Klu Klux Klan.

12/12/1870. Joseph H Rainey became the first Black member of the House of Representatives in the USA. The Reverend Hiram H Revels became the first Black member of the Senate in February 1871.

3/2/1870, In the US, the Fifteenth Amendment gave every US citizen, regardless of race, the right to vote.

27/2/1869. The US passed the 15th Amendment, entitling all southern Black citizens to vote. No State could be admitted to the Union without ratifying this amendment. However poll tax and literacy qualifications could still be used to debar Black people from voting, and the Klu Klux Klan intimidated many Black people from claiming their rights.

9/7/1868, The US passed the Fourteenth Amendment, during the period of ‘reconstruction’ following the conclusion of the Civil War. It guaranteed equality before the law for Blacks and Whites alike, specifically including ex-slaves here, and prohibited any State from ‘abridging their privileges’ or  denying them ‘equal protection of the laws’. However, due to the fact that corporations are also ‘persons’ before the law, the 14th Amendment began to be used for purposes it was not intended for. The 14th Amendment was used to shield companies from government regulation, and even, before the 1950s, to justify racial discrimination because it contained the words ‘separate but equal’. Later, in the 1980s, it was still being used to block so-called ‘positive discrimination in favour of racial minorities.

10/5/1866, The American Equal Rights Association was founded.

24/4/1866, The Klu Klux Klan was formed by White Supremacists, in reaction to US President Andrew Johnson’s programme of reconstruction following the American Civil War, which included enlarging the civil rights of the Black population.

24/12/1865, The Klu Klux Klan was founded in the US by six men in Pulaski, Tennessee.

29/6/1864, Samuel Crowther, Bishop of Niger, became the first Black Church of England Bishop.

22/8/1848, Mathieu Louisi became the first Black MP to sit in a European Parliament when he was elected representative for Guadeloupe to the French Parliament. His maiden speech in November calling for more harmonious relations between the races was met with disapproval, and he lost his seat at the next election.

30/10/1503, Queen Isabella of Spain banned violence against native tribes.


Appendix 1 - Slavery; authorisation, abolition, and slave rebellions

Abolition/prohibition of slavery.

Slave rebellions.

Authorisation / practice of slavery.


2017, The International Labour Organisation estimated that 40 million people worldwide were currently subjected to modern slavery. Of these, 25 million were subject to forced labour and 15 million were trapped in forced marriages.

2007, Mauritania banned slavery (for the third time). At this time there were an estimated 600,000 slaves in the country. However the first prosecution for slavery in Mauritania was not brought iuntil April 2011; all five defendants were acquitted.

1962, Slavery was officially abolished in Saudi Arabia.

1/1/1928, Nearly 250,000 domestic slaves in the British Protectorate of Sierra Leone were freed by decree of 1927.

10/3/1913, Harriet Tubman, who led many US slaves to freedom in the 1850s, died in Auburn, New York.

10/3/1910. China abolished slavery.

2/7/1890. In Brussels, an International Convention for Suppression of the African Slave Trade was signed.

1888, Charles Martial Allemand Lavigerie (1825-92), Archbishop of Algiers from 1884, founded the Anti Slavery Society.

13/5/1888. Slavery was abolished in Brazil despite heavy opposition from the landowners. Brazil had agreed to abolish the slave trade, under pressure from Britain, in 1831, but this trade did not cease completely in Brazil until 1853. In the 1860s there was pressure to abolish all slavery in Brazil, and in 1871 the Brazilian parliament passed a law that all children of slave mothers were free. In 1884 Cearas and Amazonas freed their slaves, and in 1885 all Brazilian slaves aged over 65 were freed. Complete emancipation without compensation to landowners was decreed on 13/5/1888 and about 700,000 slaves valued at £40 million were freed.

7/10/1886, Spain abolished slavery in Cuba.

5/6/1879, The slave markets in Zanzibar were closed by Sultan Bargash Sayyid, under pressure from the British.

24/5/1879, William Lloyd Harrison, American campaigner for abolition of slavery and for women’s suffrage, died in New York.

22/3/1873, Slavery was abolished in Puerto Rico.

18/12/1865. Slavery was officially abolished in the USA with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, signed on 1/2/1865. See 16/6/1858. The slave trade to the United States had been prohibited in 1807 but slavery continued in the southern States as the cotton trade grew. The publication of Harriet Beecher’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852 convinced many of the evils of slavery but Northerners were still reluctant to back a full abolitionist policy. But they did not wish to se slavery spread from the South either and this led to the American Civil War of 1861-65 after the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. Slaves were freed in areas joining the Northern side and in all areas after the 13th Amendment was passed.

See USA for American Civil War 1861-65

3/3/1865. The USA established the Bureau of Freed Slaves, offering them education, medical care, and financial assistance.

1/7/1863, Slavery ceased in the Dutch West Indies.

2/12/1859, John Brown, American anti-slavery campaigner, was hanged for treason at Charlestown, West Virginia. In 1856 Brown and his sons murdered five pro-slavery settlers in a raid on Kansas. He wanted to found a republic in the Appalachians for runaway slaves and abolitionists. On 16/10/1859 Brown and 21 armed men attacked Harpers Ferry, seized the federal arsenal and occupied the town. Federal troops under General Lee recaptured the town; wounding Brown and killing 10 of his men. In the north of the USA Brown was hailed as a martyr but the south saw him as a traitor.

16/10/1859, John Brown, American slavery abolitionist, with 21 followers, seized the US armoury at Harper’s Ferry.  He was later hanged for this, see 2/12/1859.

6/3/1857, The United States Supreme Court, in the Dredd Scott Decision, decreed seven to two that 1) it was unconstitutional for Congress to outlaw slavery in the United States, and 2) that no slave could claim US citizenship. Dredd Scott was a slave ‘owned’ by Elizabeth Blow of Missouri (a slave State), who was subsequently sold to John Emerson, an army surgeon who took Scott to the free State of Illinois, and later to Wisconsin Territory, where slavery was outlawed by the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In 1838 Emerson took Scott back to Missouri. Scott was in fact set free by his Abolitionist ‘owners’. The Dredd Scott Decision only served to inflame the slave/Abolitionist dispute further and probably hastened on the US Civil War.

9/3/1841. The rebel slaves who seized their Spanish ship, the Amistad, on route between 2 Cuban ports in 1840, killed the captain and most of the 52-strong crew, and sailed it to Connecticut were freed by the US Supreme Court this day. The Spanish authorities had demanded the slaves be extradited to Spain. The slaves then planned to raise money to return to Africa.

9/4/1839, The liberation of slaves in Jamaica was posing severe problems for the landowners, many of whom had treated their slaves brutally.

1/8/1834, Slavery was abolished in all British colonies. £20 million was paid as compensation to former slave owners.  This was a victory for the Anti-Slavery League, formed in 1823, and their Parliamentary leader, Thomas Fowell Buxton. It also completed the work of William Wilberforce; his anti-slavery Bill, to abolish the slave trade, incepted in 1789, was passed in 1807. This move gave impetus to the anti-slavery campaign in the USA.

In South Africa, 35,000 slaves were freed as slavery ended throughout the British Empire.

23/8/1833. London abolished slavery throughout the British Empire. The trade in slaves in Britain had been illegal since 1807. Other European countries slowly followed suit; France continued with the trade till 1819. Spain abolished it in 1820, getting £400,000 compensation from Britain. Portugal abolished the slave trade in 1830, and was paid £300,000 by Britain. Boer farmers in South Africa, facing a loss of this free labour, moved northwards to land outside British control. The Boers were aggrieved that whilst British slave owners in the West Indies received full compensation for the loss of their slaves, Dutch Boer farmers received only one fifth compensation.  Every slave in the British Empire was now nominally free, although to offset the sudden shortage of labour, field slaves were ‘apprenticed’ to their masters till 1840, and domestic slaves till 1838.

3/8/1833, State funeral of William Wilberforce in Westminster Abbey.

29/7/1833, William Wilberforce, who had played a large role in abolishing the slave trade in 1807 and of abolishing slavery in the British Empire in 1833, died.

1832, The New England Anti-Slavery Society was founded in Boston, USA.

1/1/1832, Order was restored in Jamaica after the ‘Baptist War’ (‘Black Family War’). Trouble broke out on 27/12/1831 after Black slaves there believed their order for freedom had arrived from Britain but was being withheld by the landowners on Jamaica. 50,000 slaves rebelled, doing extensive damage to property and killing 15 White people. Harsh punishment was inflicted with some 1,000 Black slaves flogged and 100 shot or hung.

11/11/1831, Nat Turner, rebel slave, was hanged in Jerusalem, Virginia. Turner, 31-year-old and a convincing orator, became convinced that God had chosen him to lead slaves out of bondage. With 5 others he rose up, killed his master Joseph Turner and family on 21/8/1831, and led a growing band of rebel slaves who marched on Jerusalem, and by 23/8/1931 had slaughtered 57 White people. A local militia then hunted down Nat Turner,  crushing the revolt in the next 24 hours. Nat Turner was captured in October 1831, and 16 others were hanged with him.

21/8/1831. The radical Black preacher Nat Turner led a band of slaves from some large plantations, killing 57 Whites. Nat Turner was caught, and hanged on 11/11/1831.Extra security was imposed, with some slaves manacled at night.

1/1/1831, The first issue of the anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator was published. It had been started by William Lloyd Garrison, from Massachusetts.

15/9/1829, Slavery was abolished in Mexico.

11/6/1825, William Wilberforce made his last speech in the House of Commons.

24/4/1824, The United Provinces of Central America abolished slavery.

18/8/1823, A slave rebellion in Guyana. European militia put down the rebellion by 20/8/1763.

6/2/1820. The ship Mayflower of Liberia left New York for Liberia with 86 free Black people aboard.

7/4/1817. Some 200 slaves in Maryland rioted, attacking Whites.

28/12/1816. The Presbyterian clergyman Robert Finley established the American Colonisation Society, whose aim was to recolonise American Black slaves in Africa.

10/1/1811. A Black uprising in New Orleans was brutally put down. 66 Black people were either killed in the fighting or executed afterwards, and their heads strung up along the road to the plantation where the uprising began.

1/1/1808. The USA passed a law banning the import of slaves, but this was widely ignored.

25/3/1807. The UK Parliament passed the Bill for the abolition of the Slave Trade. This was the culmination of a 20-year campaign by William Wilberforce, the 47 year old MP for Yorkshire who took up the anti-slavery cause in 1787. Wilberforce moved the first anti-slavery Bill in May 1789, but was then defeated by the interests of landed gentry and the sugar cane industry.

2/3/1807, US Congress banned the import of slaves to America.

13/9/1806, English statesman Charles James Fox was taken ill and died at his London home, just as he was about to introduce a Bill to abolish slavery.

1804, Slavery was now abolished in the US States of Connecticut, Massachuisetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

20/5/1802. The French restored slavery to their colonies.

25/10/1800, Lord Macaulay, English Liberal MP, member of the Supreme Council of India 1834-38 and campaigner for the abolition of slavery, was born.

4/2/1794. France issued a decree abolishing slavery in its colonies. However Mauritius ignored this decree.

1793, The US enacted the first of the Fugitive Slave Laws, authorising judges, without a jury trial, to decide the status of a fugitive slave and return him to his ‘owner’. These laws were in fact so harsh they helped the Abolitionist’s cause.

1792, Denmark abolished the slave trade.

12/8/1791, African slaves in Santo Domingo, in the east of the island of Hispaniola, rebelled against plantation owners.

8/3/1790, The Revolutionary French Government, despite its motto of Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite, voted to keep slavery in its colonies.

1789, Jamaica had 211,000 slaves, up from 40,000 in 1689,

12/5/1789, William Wilberforce made his first speech with the House of Commons.

22/8/1788, The British settlement of Sierra Leone was founded, for the purpose of providing a home for freed slaves and homeless Africans from England.

30/10/1787, William Wilberforce first met with the London Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

22/5/1787, The London Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was founded by Thomas Clarkson.

29/11/1781, The slave ship Zong sighted land in the West Indies (see 6/9/1781). Collingwood, the ship’s Master, told his officers there was insufficient water for them and all the slaves on board. Dysentery had also plagued the ship on its voyage from Liverpool, killing 60 slaves and 7 crew. Collingwood said if the slaves died of thirst the ship’s owners would bear the loss but if they were thrown overboard the loss would be covered  under insurance as a legal jettison. The weakest 132 slaves were picked out; 54 were thrown overboard that day, 42 the next day, and a further 26 were handcuffed and thrown overboard a few days later. A further ten jumped overboard before they were thrown. On 22/12/1781 the Zong docked at Kingston, Jamaica; the remaining slaves were sold and Collingwood returned to England, and claimed £30 each for the 132 ‘jettisoned’ slaves. The insurers refused to pay, and the first trial ruled in favour of Collingwood, saying ‘it was the same as if horses had been thrown overboard’. The insurers appealed to the Court of Exchequer and Lord Mansfield, judge, ruled otherwise. He said that although the law supported Collingwood, a higher principle applied; distinguishing between ‘law’ and justice’ he ruled in this ‘shocking case’ against Collingwood. Mansfield’s ruling was the first in an English Court that a slave was not simply merchandise.

6/9/1781, The slave ship Zong left Liverpool, with Luke Collingwood as its Master, with 400 slaves and 17 crew, see 29/11/1781.

8/7/1777, Vermont became the first US State to adopt a constitution banning slavery.

14/4/1775. Benjamin Franklin and Dr Benjamin Rush formed the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held In Bondage – the first colonial anti-slavery group.

13/6/1774, Rhode Island became the first US State to ban the importation of slaves, and to free those already in the State.

1775, The Pennsylvania Society for promoting the Abolition of Slavery was formed. Benjamin Franklin was one of the founding members.

1770, The King of Dahomey (now Benin) was earning £250,000 a year from selling other Africans as alaves to European traders.

23/2/1763, Start of the Berbice Slave uprising in Guyana. At this time there were 3,833 Black slaves in the Berbice River area and only 346 White people, many of them women and children. The rebellion spread and it took the arrival of European gunboats on 13/5/1763 to quell the revolt. The Europeans suffered from dysentery but the Africans were disunited.

24/8/1759. William Wilberforce, anti-slavery campaigner, was born in Hull, the son of a merchant. He was the third of four children.

1739, Slave revolt in Jamaica. Also the Stono rebellion, slave revolt, in South Carolina.

29/5/1733, Canadians given the right to have Indians as slaves, and buy and sell them.

1727, In England, the Quakers demanded the abolition of slavery.

1712, Pennsylvania prohibited the import of slaves.

1690, There were now 40,000 slaves in Jamaica.

1688, The first recorded slavery abolitionist meeting took place in Germantown, Pennsylvania, where the Quakers declared that enslavement was a sin.

1684, Barbados had 46,000 slaves, up from 6,000 in 1645. Black people now outnumbered Europeans in Barbados by 2 to 1.

27/9/1672, In Britain, The Royal African Company was granted a monopoly of the African slave trade. A healthy slave could be bought in America for under £20, but the trade was still very profitable.

1661, Barbados drew up a code formally legalising the practise of slavery. Slaves were guaranteed one set of new clothes per year, but were not protected from bring killed or mutilated by their masters.

1592, Britain began a regular trade in slaves.

2/6/1537, A Papal Bull issued by Pope Paul III prohibited enslavement of American Indians, contrary to King Charles V’s policies. Paul excommunicated Catholic slave traders.

1526, The ruler of the Congo, Mbemba Nzinga, a convert to Christianity, complained to the monarch of Portugal that the Portuguese were effectively kidnapping large numbers of his subjects, to become slaves on the Brazilian sugar plantations. However the economic of sugar won out, and the number of sugar plantations manned by African slaves rose from 5 in 1550 to 350 in 1623.

1517, Spain began a regular trade in slaves.

27/12/1512. Spain enacted the Laws of Burgos, giving New World natives legal protection against abuse but authorising the slavery of Black people.

1502, The first slaves from Africa were taken to South America, to work the plantations.

7/6/1494, The Treaty of Tordesillas was signed. In 1493, Pope Alexander VI had set a line at 100 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands from north to south Pole; Spain had the rights to colonise west of this line, Portugal to the east. The 1494 Treaty moved this line a further 270 leagues to the west. This resulted in Portugal having possession of both Brazil and Africa; in turn this greatly facilitated the expansion of the slave trade, providing cheap labour for the sugar plantations.

457 BCE, Athens possessed some 75,000 to 150,000 slaves (25% to 35% of the total population). 20,000 of these slaves worked the silver mines at Laureion.


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