Black History Timeline: 1910–1919

Marcus Garvey rides in the back of a car in a parade
UNIA founder Marcus Garvey rides in the back of a car in the association's 1920 parade through New York City.

Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Like the previous decade, Black Americans continue to fight against racial injustice. Using various methods of protest—writing editorials, publishing news, literary and scholarly journals, and organizing peaceful protests—they begin to expose the ills of segregation not only to the United States but the world.


W.E.B. Du Bois
W.E.B. Du Bois.

Keystone / Staff / Getty Images

According to U.S. Census data, Black Americans number almost 10 million, almost 11% of the United States' population. About 90% of Black Americns live in the South, but large numbers will begin migrating north looking for better job opportunities and living conditions.

September 29: The National Urban League is established in New York City. The purpose of the NUL is to help Black Americans find jobs and housing. As the league describes on its website, its mission is:

"To help African-Americans and others in underserved communities achieve their highest true social parity, economic self-reliance, power, and civil rights. The League promotes economic empowerment through education and job training, housing and community development, workforce development, entrepreneurship, health, and quality of life."

The NUL will grow to 90 affiliates serving 300 communities in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

November: The NAACP publishes the first issue of Crisis. W.E.B. Du Bois becomes the monthly magazine's first editor-in-chief. The magazine covers events such as the Great Migration. By 1919, the magazine grows to an estimated monthly circulation of 100,000.

Throughout the United States, local ordinances are established to segregate neighborhoods. Baltimore, Dallas, Louisville, Norfolk, Oklahoma City, Richmond, Roanoke, and St. Louis establish such ordinances separating Black and White neighborhoods.


Library at Howard University
The library at Howard University. David Monack / Wikimedia Commons

January 5: Kappa Alpha Psi, an African American fraternity, is founded by 10 students at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. According to the university's website:

"Kappa Alpha Psi (Alpha Chapter) is the first African-American Fraternity to be founded at a predominantly white Institution during an era where racism and prejudice (are at their) peak in the Northern states of the union. The Fraternity and its members adhere to the motto 'Achievement in every field of Human Endeavor'....and in doing so, they devote themselves to leadership training."

November 17: Omega Psi Phi is established at Howard University "by undergraduate students Edgar A. Love, Oscar J. Cooper, and Frank Coleman in the office of their faculty advisor, biology Professor Ernest E. Just," according to the university's website. "Manhood, scholarship, perseverance, and uplift" are adopted as the group's cardinal principles during its first meeting in Just's office in the Science Hall (now known as Thirkield Hall), notes the fraternity's website.


Claude McKay
Claude McKay.

Historical / Getty Images

More than 60 Black Americans are lynched this year, part of a larger violent trend in the U.S., as there are nearly 5,000 lynchings throughout the country between 1882 and 1968, mainly of Black men.

September 12: W.C. Handy publishes "Memphis Blues" in Memphis. Known as the "Father of the Blues," Handy changes the course of American popular music with the publication of the song, which brings African American folk tradition into mainstream music and influences later Blues greats such as John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Koko Taylor, notes the Library of Congress.

Claude McKay publishes two collections of poetry, "Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads." One of the most prolific writers of the Harlem Renaissance, McKay uses themes such as Black pride, alienation, and desire for assimilation in his works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction throughout his career.


A battle scene from D.W. Griffith's 1915 film 'The Birth of a Nation'
Ku Klux Klan members on horseback drive a Black militia out of town in a battle scene from 'The Birth of a Nation,' directed by D. W. Griffith.

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

September 22–27: The 50th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation is celebrated. The Library of Congress to this day has an item called, a "Souvenir and official program, fifty years of freedom: September 22, 1862-September 22, 1912; national jubilee in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation proclamation, September 22 to 27, 1912, Washington, D.C." It is part of the library's African American Perspectives in its Rare Book Collection and was given to the institution by Daniel Murray, a Black man and assistant librarian at the LOC who helped to establish what was called the "Colored Authors' Collection" though a donation of 1,100 books and artifacts from Black American writers.

January 13: Delta Sigma Theta, a Black sorority, is established at Howard University. The date, says the university on its website:

"...marks the dawn of a new horizon in the history of Black women. On that day, 22 indelible young women from Howard University set the foundation for what is now one of the largest Black women’s organizations in the world—Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc."

Woodrow Wilson's administration establishes federal segregation. Across the United States, federal work environments, lunch areas, and restrooms are segregated. Wilson even throws William Monroe Trotter out of the Oval Office when the civil rights leader comes to discuss the issue with the president on November 12, notes The Atlantic. A century later, students at Princeton University, where Wilson also served as president, will protest how the school has honored him in light of his racist legacy.

African American newspapers such as the California Eagle begin campaigns to protest the portrayal of Black people in D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation." As a result of editorials and articles published in Black newspapers, the film is banned in many communities throughout the United States.

The Apollo Theater is founded in New York City. Benjamin Hurtig and Harry Seamon obtain a 31-year lease on the newly constructed, neo-classical theater, designed by George Keister, calling it Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque. African Americans are not allowed to attend as patrons or to perform in the theater's early years, as is the case with most U.S. theaters at the time. The theater would close in 1933 after New York City's future Mayor Fiorello La Guardia begins a campaign against burlesque. It reopens a year later, in 1934, under new ownership, as the Apollo.


President Reagan speaking to a crowd with new Carter G. Woodson stamp off to the side
President Ronald Reagan unveils a U.S. Postal Service stamp to honor Carter G. Woodson.

Mark Reinstein / Getty Images

June 21: The Oklahoma Grandfather Clause is overturned in Guinn v. the United States. In its unanimous opinion, delivered by Chief Justice C.J. White, the court rules that Oklahoma’s grandfather clause—having been written in a way to serve “no rational purpose” other than to deny Black American citizens the right to vote—violates the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

September 9: Carter G. Woodson establishes the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. That same year, Woodson also publishes "The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861." During his lifetime, Woodson works to establish the field of Black American history in the early 1900s and contributes numerous books and publications to the field of Black research.

The NAACP proclaims that "Lift Every Voice and Sing" is the African American national anthem. The song was written and composed by two brothers, James Weldon and Rosamond Johnson. The opening lines of the song, first performed on February 12, 1900, as part of the celebration of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday, proclaim:

"Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea."

November 14: Booker T. Washington dies. He had been a prominent Black educator, and author, who having been enslaved from birth, rose to a position of power and influence, founding the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in 1881 and overseeing its growth into a well-respected Black university.


Marcus Garvey, 1924
Marcus Garvey.

A&E Television Networks / Wikimedia Commons 

In January: Woodson's ANSLH publishes the first scholarly journal dedicated to Black American History. The publication is called the Journal of Negro History.

In March: Marcus Garvey establishes the New York branch of the Universal Negro Improvement Association. The organization's goals include the founding of colleges for general and vocational education, promotion of business ownership, and encouragement of a sense of brotherhood among the African diaspora.

James Weldon Johnson becomes field secretary for the NAACP. In this position, Johnson organizes mass demonstrations against racism and violence. He also increases the NAACP's membership rolls in southern states, an action that would set the stage for the civil rights movement decades later.


The Silent Parade of 1917.
The Silent Parade of 1917.

Underwood & Underwood / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

April 6: When the United States enters World War I, an estimated 370,000 Black Americans join the armed forces. More than half serve in the French war zone and more than 1,000 Black officers command troops. As a result, 107 Black soldiers are awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French government.

July 1: The East St. Louis Race Riot begins. When the two-day riot is over, an estimated 40 people are killed, several hundred are hurt, and thousands are displaced from their homes.

July 28: The NAACP organizes a silent march in response to lynchings, race riots, and social injustice. Considered the first major civil rights demonstration of the 20th Century, almost 10,000 Black Americans participate.

In August: The Messenger is established by A. Philip Randolph and Chandler Owen. According to the website BlackPast:

"The Messenger (alarms) both the white and black establishments by supporting socialism as well as the arrival of the 'New Crowd Negro,' black intellectuals and political leaders who challenged both 'reactionaries' like Booker T. Washington and civil rights leaders like W.E.B. DuBois."


In July: Three Black and two White people are killed in the Chester, Pennsylvania, race riot. Within days, another race riot erupts in Philadelphia, killing three Black people and one White resident.


Filmmaker Oscar Micheaux and a poster of the movie, "Murder in Harlem". Public Domain

February 20: "The Homesteader" is released in Chicago. It is the first film to be produced by Oscar Micheaux. For the next 40 years, Micheaux will become one of the most prominent Black filmmakers by producing and directing 24 silent films and 19 sound films.

In March: Claude A. Barnett founds the Associated Negro Press on Chicago's South Side and remains its director for half a century, until its closure in 1967. According to the Black Metropolis Research Consortium, The ANP becomes the largest and longest-lived Black news service, supplying 150 Black newspapers in the United States—and another 100 in Africa—with opinion columns, reviews of books, movies, records, and poetry, cartoons, and photographs.

In April: The pamphlet, "Thirty Years of Lynching in the United States: 1898–1918" is published by the NAACP. The report is used to appeal to lawmakers to end the social, political, and economic terrorism associated with lynching. During this year alone, 83 Black people are lynched—many of them soldiers returning home from World War I—and the Ku Klux Klan is operating out of 27 states.

May–October: Several race riots erupt in cities throughout the United States. Johnson names these race riots as the Red Summer of 1919. In response, Claude McKay publishes the poem, "If We Must Die."

The Peace Mission Movement is established by Father Divine in Sayville, New York. Peace Mission facilities, called "heavens," will spread across the country in the coming decades. They are interracial communal living facilities that foster the belief in a desegregated society.

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Your Citation
Lewis, Femi. "Black History Timeline: 1910–1919." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lewis, Femi. (2023, April 5). Black History Timeline: 1910–1919. Retrieved from Lewis, Femi. "Black History Timeline: 1910–1919." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).