African American History Timeline: 1900 to 1909

Booker T. Washington Dines With President Roosevelt

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In 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that separate but equal was constitutional through the Plessy v. Ferguson case. Immediately, local and state laws were created and, in some cases, enhanced to prohibit African Americans from participating fully in American society. However, almost immediately, African Americans began working to prove their worth in American society. The timeline below highlights some of the contributions as well as some tribulations faced by African Americans between 1900 and 1909.


  • James Weldon Johnson and John Rosamond Johnson write the lyrics and composition for Lift Every Voice and Sing in Jacksonville, Fl. Within two years, the song is considered the African American national anthem.
  • The New Orleans Race Riot begins on July 23. Lasting four days, 12 African Americans and seven whites were killed.
  • The National Negro Business League is established by Booker T. Washington. The purpose of the organization is to promote African American entrepreneurship.
  • Nannie Helen Burroughs establishes the Women's Convention of the National Baptist Convention.
  • An estimated two-thirds of landowners in the Mississippi Delta are African American farmers. Many had purchased land following the Civil War.
  • Since the end of the Civil War, an estimated 30,000 African American men and women have been trained as teachers. The work of these educators assists the African American population throughout the United States to learn to read and write.


  • George H. White, the last African American elected to Congress, leaves office.
  • Bert Williams and George Walker become the first African American recording artists. They recorded with Victor Talking Machine Company.
  • Booker T. Washington becomes the first African American to eat at the White House. President Theodore Roosevelt invited Washington to the White House for a meeting. At the end of the meeting, Roosevelt invited Washington to stay for dinner.
  • Washington publishes his autobiography, Up From Slavery.


  • W.E.B. Du Bois publishes The Souls of Black Folks. The collection of essays explored issues concerning racial equality and denounced Washington's beliefs.
  • Maggie Lena Walker establishes the St. Luke's Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Va.


  • Mary McLeod Bethune establishes Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Fl.
  • Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller becomes the nation's first African American psychiatrist. Fuller trained at the Royal Psychiatric Hospital at the University of Munich.


  • The African American newspaper, The Chicago Defender, is published by Robert Abbott.
  • Du Bois and William Monroe Trotter found the Niagara Movement. The first meeting is held on July 11-13. The organization later morphs into the (NAACP) National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
  • African American residents of Nashville boycott streetcars to show their disdain for racial segregation.


  • African American evangelist William J. Seymour leads the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. This revival is considered the foundation of the Pentecostal Movement.
  • A riot, known as the Brownsville Affray, breaks out between African American soldiers and local citizens in Brownsville, Texas. A local resident is killed. In the coming months, President Theodore Roosevelt discharges three companies of African American soldiers.
  • The Atlanta Race Riot breaks out on September 22 and lasts for two days. Ten African Americans and two whites are killed as a result.
  • Seven African American male students attending Cornell University establish Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. This will become the first collegial fraternity for African American men.


  • Alain Locke becomes the first African American Rhodes Scholar. Locke will go on to be an architect of the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the New Negro Movement.
  • Edwin Harleston, a security guard, and budding journalist establish The Pittsburgh Courier.
  • Madam C.J. Walker, a washerwoman working and living in Denver, develops hair care products.


  • The first African American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, is established at Howard University.
  • The Springfield Race Riot begins on August 14 in Springfield, Ill. This race riot is considered the first of its kind in a Northern city in more than 50 years.


  • In response to the Springfield Riot and a number of other incidents, the NAACP is founded on February 12.
  • African American Matthew Henson, Admiral Robert E. Peary, and four Inuits become the first men to reach the North Pole.
  • The New York Amsterdam News is published for the first time.
  • The first national African American Catholic fraternal order, The Knights of Peter Claver, is established in Alabama.