Black History Facts

Black History Facts

Black history is the portion of American history that specifically discusses the African-American or Black American ethnic groups in the United States. Most African Americans are the descendants of captive Africans held in the United States (or British controlled territories that would become the United States) from 1555 to 1865. See the fact file below for more information about black history.

  • In 1619, the first African slaves arrived in Virginia. These people were taken from their homeland against their will.
  • In 1787, slavery is made illegal in the Northwest Territory, but the U.S Constitution states that Congress may not ban the slave trade until 1808.
  • In 1793, Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin greatly increased the need for slave labor.
  • In 1793, a federal fugitive slave law is enacted, providing for the return slaves who had escaped and crossed state lines.
  • In 1808, Congress bans the importation of slaves from Africa.
  • In 1820, the Missouri Compromise bans slavery north of the southern boundary of Missouri.
  • In 1849, Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery and becomes one of the most effective and celebrated leaders of the Underground Railroad.
  • In 1857, the Dred Scott case holds that Congress does not have the right to ban slavery in states and, furthermore, that slaves are not citizens.
  • In 1863, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring “that all persons held as slaves” within the Confederate states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” Then in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified, giving blacks the right to vote.
  • John F. Kennedy was president during the 1960’s Civil Rights Movement. He helped pass laws to make sure all black Americans could vote and get a good education. These laws ended segregation in schools, jobs, restaurants, and theaters. Dr. Martin Luther King and many other leaders worked very hard to advance the civil rights movement. These efforts will continue until black people have the same rights and advantages as all other citizens. Today, all of the hard work has provided the foundation for the citizens of the United States to elects the first black president, Barack Obama.

Download the free Black History ‘Who am I?’ worksheet