Black History Timeline: 1890–1899

1890 to 1899

Booker T. Washington (1856-1915)
Seated portrait of American educator, economist, and industrialist Booker T. Washington (1856-1915).

Archive Photos / Getty Images

Like many decades before, the 1890s are filled with great achievements by African Americans as well as many injustices against them. Almost 30 years after the establishment of the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, African Americans such as Booker T. Washington establish and head schools. However, Black American men are losing their right to vote through grandfather clauses, poll taxes, and literacy exams.


Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts
Amherst College.

Daderot / Wikimedia Commons

William Henry Lewis and William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson become the first African American football players on a White college team. Williams was born in 1868 Berkeley, Virginia, to formerly enslaved parents, according to the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, which explains:

"At age 15, he enrolled in the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, an all-black school now known as Virginia State University. Lewis transferred to Amherst College (Mass.), where he joined William Tecumseh Sherman Jackson as the first African-Americans to play college football at a predominantly white college."

Lewis will play for three seasons at Amherst, serving as team captain in 1891, the NFF notes. After graduating, he will enter Harvard Law School, play for two seasons at that institution, and then go on to serve as an assistant coach at Harvard, leading the team to a 114–15–5 record from 1895 to 1906, including back-to-back national titles in 1898 and 1899, the NFF states.


Daniel Hale Williams
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, founder of Provident Hospital, pioneer in heart surgery.

Bettmann / Getty Images

Provident Hospital, the first Black American-owned hospital, is established by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who also becomes a pioneer in heart surgery. Jackson State University notes:

"Williams (had) graduated with an M.D. degree in 1883 at Chicago Medical College. Dr. Williams practiced medicine in Chicago at a time when there were only three other black physicians in Chicago. He also worked with the Equal Rights League, a black civil rights organization active during the Reconstruction era."


Portrait of Ida B. Wells, 1920
Portrait of Ida B. Wells, 1920. Chicago History Museum / Getty Images

In June: Opera soprano Sissieretta Jones becomes the first Black American to perform at Carnegie Hall. Jones will be "heralded as the greatest singer of her generation and a pioneer in the operatic tradition at a time when access to most classical concert halls in the U.S. was closed to black performers and patrons," according to PBS on its noted documentary show, "American Masters," adding that Jones also performs at the White House and overseas.

Ida B. Wells launches her anti-lynching campaign by publishing a pamphlet, "Southern Horrors: Lynch Laws and in All Its Phases." Wells also delivers a speech at Lyric Hall in New York. Wells' work as an anti-lynching activist is highlighted with the high number of lynchings—there are 230 reported—in 1892.

August 13: A Black American newspaper, The Baltimore Afro-American, is established by John H. Murphy, Sr., a formerly enslaved person.


Dr. Daniel Hale Williams in the operating room
Dr. Daniel Hale Williams in the operating room.

Dr. Daniel Hale Williams successfully performs an open-heart surgery in Provident Hospital, the first such procedure performed on a human, notes Jackson State University, which further explains:

"The operation (is performed) without X-rays, antibiotics, surgical prep-work, or tools of modern surgery. Dr. Williams' skills (places) him and Provident Hospital at the forefront of one of Chicago’s medical milestones. His patient, James Cornish, survives."


W.E.B. Du Bois, about 1918
W.E.B. Du Bois, about 1918.

GraphicaArtis / Getty Images

W.E.B. DuBois is the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard University.

In September: Booker T. Washington delivers the Atlanta Compromise at the Atlanta Cotton States Exposition.

The National Baptist Convention of America is established through the merging of three Baptist organizations—the Foreign Mission Baptist Convention, the American National Baptist Convention, and the Baptist National Educational Convention.

The National Medical Association is established in Silver Spring, Maryland, by African American doctors because they are barred from the American Medical Association. Robert F. Boyd is the group's first president and Daniel Hale Williams is its vice president.


George Washington Carver in Laboratory

Historical / Getty Images

May 18: The Supreme Court rules in the Plessy v. Ferguson case that separate but equal laws are not unconstitutional and do not contradict the 13th and 14th Amendments. The decision will stand for more than half a century until the Court overturns it in Brown v. The Board of Education on May 17, 1954.

In July: The National Association of Colored Women is established. Mary Church Terrell is elected as the organization's first president.

George Washington Carver is selected to head the agricultural research department at Tuskegee Institute. Carver's research advances the growth of soybean, peanut, and sweet potato farming.


Arthur Alfonso Schomburg portrait
Arthur Alfonso Schomburg.

Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

The American Negro Academy is founded in Washington D.C. The purpose of the organization is to promote African American work in the fine arts, literature, and other areas of study. Prominent members included Du Bois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Arturo Alfonso Schomburg.

The Phillis Wheatley Home is established in Detroit by the Phillis Wheatley Women's Club. The purpose of the home—which quickly spreads to other cities—is to provide shelter and resources for African American women.

Bishop Charles Harrison Mason establishes The Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tennessee. The church will grow to become the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States with nearly 9 million members, as of February 2021.


Bishop Alexander Walters, founder of NAAL and AAC
Bishop Alexander Walters, founder of NAAL and AAC. Public Domain

The Louisiana Legislature enacts the grandfather clause. Included in the state constitution, the clause allows only men whose fathers or grandfathers were qualified to vote on January 1, 1867, the right to register to vote. African American men have to meet educational and/or property requirements as well.

April 21: When the Spanish-American War begins, 16 African American regiments are recruited. Four of these regiments fight in Cuba and the Philippines with several African American officers commanding troops. As a result, five Black soldiers win the Congressional Medal of Honor.

April 25: Black American voters in Mississippi are disenfranchised through the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Williams v. Mississippi.

August 22: The North Carolina Mutual and Provident Insurance company is established. The National Benefit Life Insurance Company of Washington, D.C., is also founded this year. The purpose of these companies is to provide life insurance to African Americans.

September: The National Afro-American Council is established in Rochester, New York. It is the first national civil rights organization in the U.S. Bishop Alexander Walters is elected the organization's first president.

November 10: Eight African Americans are killed in the Wilmington Riot. During the riot, White Democrats remove—with force—Republican officers of the city.


The Afro-American Council Annual Meeting, 1907
The Afro-American Council Annual Meeting, 1907. Public Domain

June 4: This date is named a national day of fasting to protest lynching. The Afro-American Council spearheads this event.

Scott Joplin composes the song "Maple Leaf Rag" and introduces ragtime music to the United States. Joplin also publishes such songs as "The Entertainer"—which will again become popular when the 1973 movie "The Sting" incorporates the song—and "Please Say You Will." He also composes operas such as "Guest of Honor" and "Treemonisha." He is considered one of the greatest composers of the early 20th century, inspiring generations of the greatest jazz musicians.

View Article Sources
  1. Gibson, Robert A. “The Negro Holocaust: Lynching and
    Race Riots in the United States,1880-1950
    .” Yale New Haven Teacher Institute, 1
    Sept. 1979.

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Lewis, Femi. "Black History Timeline: 1890–1899." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lewis, Femi. (2023, April 5). Black History Timeline: 1890–1899. Retrieved from Lewis, Femi. "Black History Timeline: 1890–1899." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 7, 2023).