January 1. Ashmum Institute, the precursor of Lincoln University, was chartered at Oxford, Pennsylvania.
March 6. The Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court denied that blacks were citizens of the United States and denied the power of Congress to restrict slavery in any federal territory.
August 23. James Stone of Ohio enlisted to become the first black to fight for the Union during the Civil War. He was very light skinned and was married to a white woman. His racial identity was revealed after his death in 1862.
July 17. Congress allowed the enlistment of blacks in the Union Army. Some black units precede this date, but they were disbanded as unofficial. Some 186,000 blacks served; of these 38,000 died.
January 1. The Emancipation Proclamation freed all slaves in states in rebellion against the United States.
December 18. The Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery, was passed by Congress.
Edward G. Walker and Charles L. Mitchell were the first blacks to sit in an American legislature, that of Massachusetts.
July 6. The South Carolina House became the first and only legislature to have a black majority, 87 blacks to 40 whites. Whites did continue to control the Senate and became a majority in the House in 1874.
July 28. The Fourteenth Amendment was passed. It made blacks citizens of the United States.
March 30. The Fifteenth Amendment, which outlawed the denial of the right to vote, was ratified.
March 1. Congress passed a Civil Rights Bill which banned discrimination in places of public accommodation. The Supreme Court overturned the bill in 1883.
Tennessee passed a law requiring segregation in railroad cars. By 1907 all Southern states had passed similar laws.
September 18. Booker T. Washington delivered the "Atlanta Compromise" speech at the Cotton States International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia.
May 18. In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court give legal backing to the concept of separate but equal public facilities for blacks.