Connect with us


iuAfrican Americans have always valued education for purposes of personal empowerment, racial uplift, and communal liberation. Here is a timeline of African American history that lists some important milestones.

1619: First enslaved Africans arrive in Virginia.

1799: John Chavis, a Presbyterian minister and teacher, is the first black person on record to attend an American college or university. There is no record of his receiving a degree from what is now Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. (click)

1804: Middlebury College awards an honorary master’s degree to Lemuel Haynes, an African American who fought in the Revolutionary War. (click)

1837: Institute for Colored Youth founded by Richard Humphreys; later became Cheyney University.

1854: Ashmun Institute, the first school of higher learning for young black men, founded by John Miller Dickey and his wife, Sarah Emlen Cresson; later (1866) renamed Lincoln University (Pa.) after President Abraham Lincoln.

1856: Wilberforce University, the first black school of higher learning owned and operated by African Americans, founded by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Its president, Daniel A. Payne, became the first African American Uniiversity president in the country.

1865: Congress establishes the Freedmen’s Bureau to protect the rights of newly emancipated blacks (March). The Civil War ends (April 9). Lincoln is assassinated (April 14). The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Tennessee by ex-Confederates (May). Slavery in the United States is effectively ended when 250,000 slaves in Texas finally receive the news that the Civil War had ended two months earlier (June 19). Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, prohibiting slavery (Dec. 6). Black codes are passed by Southern states, drastically restricting the rights of newly freed Africans.

1869: Howard University’s law school becomes the country’s first black law school.

1876: Meharry Medical College, the first black medical school in the U.S., founded by the Freedman’s Aid Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

1877: George Washington Henderson, a student at the University of Vermont, is the first black student elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society.

1881: Spelman College, the first college for black women in the U.S., founded by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles.

1881: Booker T. Washington founds the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute in Alabama. The school became one of the leading schools of higher learning for African Americans, and stressed the practical application of knowledge. In 1896, George Washington Carver began teaching there as director of the department of agricultural research, gaining an international reputation for his agricultural advances.

1886: After teaching in Macon, SavannahMilledgeville, and Augusta for ten years, Lucy Craft Laney opened a school in 1883 in the basement of Christ Presbyterian Church in Augusta. The Haines Normal and Industrial Institute was chartered by the state of Georgia, making it one of the first black charter schools it possibly the first charter school in black history.

1890: About 64 black colleges are now enrolling students.

1897: Vassar College graduates its first black student, Anita Hemmings. Hemmings passed for white until she was outed a few weeks prior to graduation. The university expresses outrage at the deception but still grants her a degree.

1895: W.E.B. Du Bois earns his Ph.D. in history from Harvard, the first black to do so at Harvard.

1900: More than 2,000 blacks have earned higher education degrees by this time, approximately 390 from white colleges and universities.

1900: There are now 78 black colleges and universities in the United States.

1904: The Kentucky legislature passes the Day Law, prohibiting interracial education. As a result, Berea College shuts its doors to blacks for nearly half a century. The college establishes Lincoln Institute for black students.

1906: The first fraternity for black college men, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, is founded at Cornell University.

1908: The first sorority for black college women, Alpha Kappa Alpha, is founded at Howard University.

1912: Carter G. Woodson becomes the second black in the U.S. to earn a doctorate in history. His Ph.D. is from Harvard. He goes on to found the Journal of Negro History in 1916 and inaugurates Negro History Week in 1926.

1921: Amherst College graduate Charles Hamilton Houston becomes the first black editor on the Harvard Law Review.

1921: Jasper Alston Atkins becomes the first black editor on the Yale Law Review.

1922: William Leo Hansberry teaches the first course in African civilization at an American university, at Howard University.

1925: Clara Burrill Bruce becomes the African-American editor in chief on the Boston University Law Review.

1932: At this time there are 117 historically black institutions of higher education, 36 public and 81 private. Seventy-four are affiliated with religious organizations. Five are devoted to graduate level education.

1932: E. Franklin Frazier, credited with building Howard University’s sociology department, publishes The Free Negro Family.

1936: The Maryland Court of Appeals rules that the University of Maryland Law School must admit black applicant Donald Gaines Murray after previously denying him admission based on his race.

1938: Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada is decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling required the state to either allow Lloyd Lionel Gaines to attend the University of Missouri School of Law or create another school that would provide the same education for him. In response, the university builds a black law school. Three months after the ruling, Lloyd Gaines left his apartment to buy some postage stamps. He was never seen again.

1941: Lucille Bluford v. the University of Missouri is decided by the Missouri State Supreme Court. The university is ordered to admit Bluford to its journalism school only if the historically black Lincoln University does not admit her. As a result, Lincoln creates a journalism program.

1944: The United Negro College Fund is established to raise money for private historically black colleges. Frederick Douglass Patterson is the founder.

1946: Alain LeRoy Locke becomes the first black to lead the American Association for Adult Education.

1947: John Leroy Howard, Arthur Jewell Wilson Jr., and James Everett Ward are the first black students to graduate from Princeton University. Princeton is the last Ivy League institution to admit black students.

1948: Edwin D. Driver joins the sociology department at the University of Massachusetts. Ruby Pernell is hired at the University of Minnesota. It appears that they are the first black faculty members hired by any state flagship university in the twentieth century.

1950: In Sweatt v. Painter the University of Texas School of Law is ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to admit Heman Marion Sweatt. Sweatt enrolls but eventually drops out of the University of Texas School of Law after receiving poor grades.

1950: The Supreme Court rules in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education that black students admitted to the previously all-white graduate institution must not be segregated within the institution and must receive equal treatment in all aspects of the education process.

1950: Kentucky’s Day Law is amended to allow black and white students above high school level to be educated together. Berea College is the first in the state to readmit black students.

1954: In the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., the Supreme Court rules unanimously that segregation in public schools in unconstitutional.

1954: In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that racial segregation in schools is unconstitutional.

1956: Autherine Lucy is the first African American to enroll at the University of Alabama. After riots engulfed the campus, she is expelled for “her own safety.”

1957: President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends federal troops to ensure integration of the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. The Little Rock Nine were the first black students to attend the school.

1960: Black and white students form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), dedicated to working against segregation and discrimination.

1961: The term “affirmative action” is coined by Hobart T. Taylor Jr., a black Texas lawyer, who edits President Kennedy’s Executive Order 10925, which created the Presidential Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

1961: Riots and protests by white students greet the University of Georgia’s first black students, Charlayne Hunter and Hamilton Holmes, when they arrive on campus to register. Hunter and Holmes are suspended until court orders allow their return.

1962: Riots erupt at the University of Mississippi when James Meredith arrives as the school’s first black student. Federal troops and U.S. marshals are sent in by President Kennedy to ensure Meredith’s entry. Two people are killed in the rioting on the Ole Miss campus.

1963: President Kennedy sends troops to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa to ease the admission of its first two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. Despite Governor George Wallace physically blocking their way, Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes.

1968: San Francisco State University becomes the first four-year college to establish a black studies department. Students at Howard University stage a sit-in in the school’s administrative offices to demand a more black-oriented curriculum. Boston University administration building is shut down by a student sit-in demanding a black history major and better treatment for black students.

1969: The Ford Foundation gives $1 million to Morgan State University, Howard University, and Yale University to help prepare faculty members to teach courses in African American studies.

1969: Armed black students at Cornell University demand an African-American studies program. The “Willard Straight Hall Takeover of 1969” evolved into larger arguments over equality. Administration officials gave in to the students’ demands. Pictures of the armed students exiting the building grace the covers of major magazines and newspapers.

1970: Yale University Corporation has its first elected black woman, Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund.

1974: Eight states, mainly in the South, submit plans to desegregate their state universities. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare accepts plans from Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Plans from Mississippi are rejected and Louisiana is sued for not presenting a plan.

1975: Marva Collins, a veteran teacher in the Chicago Public Schools, opened Westside Preparatory School. During the first year, Marva took in learning disabled, problem children and even one child who had been labeled by Chicago public school authorities as borderline retarded. At the end of the first year, every child scored at least five grades higher proving that the previous labels placed on these children were misguided.

1978: The Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke upheld the constitutionality of affirmative action, but imposed limitations on it to ensure that providing greater opportunities for minorities did not come at the expense of the rights of the majority (June 28). Read more: African-American History Timeline (Civil Rights Movement, Facts, Events, Leaders) |

1988: Bill and Camille Cosby make the largest contribution from a family donor to any black college when they donate $20 million to Spelman College.

1992: In United States v. Fordice, the Supreme Court orders 19 states to take immediate action to desegregate their public higher education systems.

1994: A desegregation plan is imposed on the state of Louisiana by a federal judge. Plan calls on the state to increase academic program offerings at historically black Southern University and to upgrade facilities at Southern campuses in Baton Rouge, Shreveport, and New Orleans. Plan also calls for increase in white students at Southern University and the number of black students at Louisiana State University.

1994: Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the Benjamin Banneker Scholarship Program at the University of Maryland is unconstitutional because the state-sponsored program is limited to black students.

1995: Ward Connerly, an African American and regent of the University of California, pushes through a ban abolishing all racial preferences in admissions to the university. Ban takes effect for graduate programs in 1997 and for undergraduates in 1998.

1996: In Hopwood v. State of Texas, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the University of Texas School of Law cannot consider race as a factor in its admissions decisions. Ruling has the effect of law in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. As a result of the ruling, Texas attorney general suspends race-sensitive admissions at all state-operated institutions of higher education.

1996: California’s Proposition 209 is passed by California voters, banning the use of race in admissions to state universities. As a result, the number of black freshmen accepted at the University of California at Berkeley is down 57 percent in 1998, the first year the ban goes into effect.

1997: In an effort to offset the effects of the Hopwood decision outlawing race-sensitive admissions, the Texas state legislature passes a law that automatically qualifies the top 10 percent of all high school graduating classes for admission to the University of Texas. By 2001, blacks are 3.5 percent of the entering class, up from 2.5 percent in 1997.

1998: Proposition 200 is approved by Washington State voters, banning racial preferences in admissions decisions at public universities. One year later, black applicants to the University of Washington are down 17 percent.

1998: Federal judge in Ohio rules that minority set-aside program at Cuyahoga Community College is unconstitutional. Ruling warns college trustees that they may be personally liable if they continue to practice racial preferences.

1999: Fearing lawsuits, the state of Oklahoma eliminates college scholarships earmarked for black and other minority students.

1999: Florida governor Jeb Bush issues an executive order banning the consideration of race in admissions at state universities in Florida. The One Florida plan also contains a provision so that any Florida students graduating in the top 20 percent of their high school class will be automatically qualified for admission to Florida state universities.

1999: After threats of litigation, the University of Virginia admissions office ends a six-year-old scoring system that gave two bonus points (on a scale of eight) to black applicants. As a result, black enrollment in the freshman class drops from 11.2 percent in 1999 to 9.9 percent in 2004.

2001: Affirmative action admissions program at the University of Georgia is ruled unconstitutional by the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The next year black applicants drop by 20 percent. The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states, including their public colleges and universities, cannot be sued for policies that may have a discriminatory effect. The ruling requires plaintiffs to show a deliberate attempt to discriminate against blacks or other minorities.

2002: State attorney general Jerry Kilgore of Virginia sends a memo to the presidents of state-operated colleges and universities urging them to give as little consideration to race as possible in the admission process to avoid potential legal challenges.

2003: In Gratz v. Bollinger, the U.S. Supreme Court outlaws the race-sensitive admissions policy at the University of Michigan that used a numerical formula which gave extra points to black applicants. But in the companion case Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court upholds an affirmative action program at the University of Michigan Law School, thus affirming the 1978 Bakke ruling that race can still be considered in admissions decisions. The Court says that only “narrowly tailored” affirmative action plans will be acceptable and hinted that in 25 years’ time, such race-sensitive admissions plans should no longer be necessary.

2005: Bush administration changes the formula for Pell Grant eligibility. About 89,000 low-income students will no longer receive a Pell Grant.

2005: Bush administration proposes to eliminate the Perkins loan program for low-income students. Congress rejects the proposal and funds the program.

2006: In Parents v. Seattle and Meredith v. Jeffersonaffirmative action suffers a setback when a bitterly divided court rules, 5 to 4, that programs in Seattle and Louisville, Ky., which tried to maintain diversity in schools by considering race when assigning students to schools, are unconstitutional.

2007: The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education surveyed the nation’s highest-ranked research universities, the most selective liberal arts colleges, and the 50 flagship state universities to determine their levels of black faculty. Mount Holyoke College had the highest percentage of black faculty of any of the 100 colleges and universities surveyed, with 9.7%. According to the U.S. Dept. of Education, the 2007 national average was 5.4%.

2007: The board of visitors of the University of Virginia issued a formal apology for the university’s use of slave labor in the period from 1819 to 1865.

2007: Caroline M. Hoxby, a highly regarded African-American economist, left Harvard University for Stanford University. Hoxby decided to make the move to Stanford after Harvard denied tenure to her husband Blair Hoxby, a scholar of the theater during the Renaissance period. Stanford offered both Hoxbys tenured positions.

2007: The U.S. Census Bureau reports that there are three times as many African Americans housed in prisons as there are blacks who live in college dormitories. The study found that in 2006 there were 846,735 African Americans incarcerated in adult correctional facilities in the United States. But there were only 270,018 African Americans who lived in college dormitories.

2008: The percentage of all 18- to 24-year-old African Americans enrolled in higher education increases to 32.6% from 21.2% in 1988.

2008: According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the year 2006 blacks earned 142,420 four-year bachelor’s degrees from American colleges and universities. The number of blacks earning bachelor’s degrees increased more than 4 percent from the previous year, 2005. In 2006 the number of African Americans earning bachelor’s degrees was the highest in this nation’s history. The figure was more than double the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by blacks in 1990.

2008: The U.S. Department of Education reports that blacks earned 6,223 professional degrees in 2006. They made up 7.1 percent of all professional degrees awarded in the United States that year. Included are degrees in medicine, law, dentistry, and several other fields. Since 1985 the number of blacks earning professional degrees each year has more than doubled.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, blacks have made striking progress over the past 20 years in increasing the number of master’s degrees earned. In 1985, 13,939 African Americans were awarded master’s degrees from U.S. universities. During the 2005-06 academic year this figure had more than quadrupled to nearly 59,000. The percentage of all master’s degrees earned by blacks increased from 5 percent in 1985 to 9.9 percent in 2006.

A new report by the Council of Graduate Schools finds that African Americans continue to make strong progress in enrollments in master’s and doctoral degree programs. The data shows that in 2007 there were 170,167 African Americans enrolled in graduate education in the United States. They made up 13 percent of all graduate students. This equals the black percentage of the U.S. population.

The progress has been steady and significant. From 1997 to 2007 black enrollments in graduate education have increased an average of 8 percent each year. This compares to an overall increase in graduate school enrollments of 2 percent a year. Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows total enrollments of 248,800 African Americans at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. Of this total, black women account for 62.2 percent of all African-American enrollments.

2009: Education Department reports that over 4.5 million living African Americans now have four-year college degrees. More than 100,000 living African Americans hold doctorates.

2010: Theodore Lamont Cross, the founder of The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education and author of the books Black Capitalism and The Black Power Imperative, dies at the age of 85.

2010: The National Science Foundation reports that in 2009, 2,221 Black Americans earned doctorates, an all-time high.

SOURCES: Milestones in African American Education (End of Segregation, 1st Law School) |

Key Events in Black Higher Education / JBHE Chronology of Major Landmarks in the Progress of African Americans in Higher Education

“African-American History Timeline (Civil Rights Movement, Facts, Events, Leaders) |” Infoplease. © 2000–2013 Pearson Education, publishing as Infoplease. 29 Nov. 2013 <;.

African-American History Timeline (Civil Rights Movement, Facts, Events, Leaders) |

Copyright © 2017 The Business Department, LLC.

%d bloggers like this: