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Black History Month Library Guide

In honor of Black History Month this Research Guide will show what is available at the San Diego Mesa College library and other community resources. People of all backgrounds and colors can learn from the content in this guide.

A brief History

Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by  African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month. Other countries around the world, including Canada and the United Kingdom, also devote a month to celebrating Black history.

Notable Timelines in Black History


  • 1619     Twenty Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, aboard a Dutch ship. They were the first blacks to be forcibly settled as indentured servants and involuntary laborers in the North American British Colonies.
  • 1739    The Cato revolt, also known as the Stono Rebellion, was the first serious disturbance among slaves. After killing more than 25 whites, most of the rebels, led by a slave named Cato, were rounded up as they tried to escape to Florida. More than 30 blacks were executed as participants.
  • 1777      George Washington reversed previous policy and allowed the recruitment of Blacks as soldiers. Some 5,000 would participate on the American side before the end of the Revolution.
  • 1857      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.
  • 1865       13th Amendment, the abolition of slavery was passed by Congress.
  • 1868       14th Amendment was passed extending liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to former slaves.
  • 1896    In Plessy vs. Ferguson, the Supreme Court upheld a Louisiana state law that allowed "equal, but separate accommodations for white and colored races."
  • 1918         The First Pan-African Congress met in Paris, France, under the guidance of W. E. B. Du Bois.
  • 1947         Jackie Robinson became the first Black major league baseball player. 
  • 1955         Rosa Parks refused to change seats in a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. On December 5 blacks began a boycott of the bus system which continued until shortly after December 13, 1956, when the United States Supreme Court outlawed bus segregation in the city.
  • 1964        Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public places, and made employment discrimination illegal. The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. 
  • 1965      Voting Rights Act prohibited discriminatory voting practices adopted in many southern states after the Civil War, including literacy tests as a prerequisite to voting. Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem by members of the Nation of Islam.
  • 1969      The Supreme Court ruled that racial segregation in schools had to end at once and that unitary school systems were required.
  • 2008     Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States and the first Black U.S. president. In his acceptance speech in Chicago's Grant Park later that evening, Obama said, "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
  • 2021       Kamala Harris was elected the vice president of the United States and the first Black and Asian American female vice president. 


Reference: This timeline was copied from The Davenport University Libraries Black History Month Library Guide