African-American History Timeline: 1970 to 1979

Barbara Jordan in congress

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The decade of the 1970s is known as the beginning of the Post-Civil Rights Movement Era. With several federal acts of legislation established to protect the rights of all Americans, the 1970s marked the start of a new era. During this decade, African-Americans made great strides in politics, academe as well as business. 

1970

January: Dr. Clifton Wharton Jr. is appointed as president of Michigan State University. Dr. Wharton is the first African-American to head a predominately white university in the 20th century.

February 18: The Chicago Seven, which included Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner were acquitted of charges to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

May: The first issue of the women’s magazine Essence is published.

June 16: Kenneth Gibson (1932–2019) is elected the first African-American mayor of Newark, NJ, ousting a two-term white incumbent.

August: Businessman Earl Graves Sr. publishes the first issue of Black Enterprise.

Playwright Charles Gordone (1925–1995) wins the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for the play, “No Place to Be Somebody.” He is the first African-American to hold such a distinction.

1971

March 30: The Congressional Black Caucus is established in Washington D.C.

December: The People United to Save Humanity (later renamed the People United to Serve Humanity or Operation PUSH) is founded by the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

George Ellis Johnson's Johnson Products becomes the first African-American owned company to be listed on a major U.S. stock exchange.

February 9: Leroy “Satchel” Paige is inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. He is the first former Negro Baseball League player to be inducted.

March: Beverly Johnson is the first African-American woman to grace the cover of a major fashion publication when she is featured on the cover of Glamour.

1972

January 25: New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005) is the first African-American person to campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Chisholm’s bid is unsuccessful.

February 16: Basketball player Wilt Chamberlain becomes the first National Basketball Association (NBA) player to score more than 30,000 points during his career.

March 10–12: The first National Black Political Convention takes place in Gary, Indiana, and about 10,000 African-Americans attend.

November 17: Barbara Jordan and Andrew Young become the first African-American Congressional representatives from the South since 1898.

1973

The Children’s Defense Fund is established by civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman.

May 20: Thomas Bradley (1917–1998) is elected mayor Los Angeles. Bradley is the first African-American to hold this position and is reelected four times, holding his position for 20 years.

August 15: The National Black Feminist Organization is formed by Floyrnce "Flo" Kennedy and Margaret Sloan-Hunter and supported by Eleanor Holmes Norton, then head and attorney of New York's Human Rights Commission.

October 16: Maynard H. Jackson Jr. (1938–2003) is elected as the first African-American mayor of Atlanta with nearly 60 percent of the vote, and the first to be elected in any major southern city.

1974

January: Coleman Young (1918–1997) is inaugurated as the first African-American mayor of Detroit, after a hotly-contested battle. He would be re-elected four times and serve as mayor for 20 years.

April 8: Henry “Hank” Aaron hits his 715th home run for the Atlanta Braves. Aaron’s breaking Babe Ruth's legendary record makes him the all-time leader in home runs in major league baseball.

October 3: Frank Robinson (1935–2019) is named the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians and the next spring becomes the first African-American manager of any Major League Baseball team. He would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles, Expos. and Nationals.

The Links, Inc. makes the most significant single monetary donation from any African-American organization to the United Negro College Fund (UNCF). They had supported the UNCF since the 1960s, and since that time they have donated more than $1 million.

1975 

February 26: The day after Elijah Muhammad (1897–1975), founder of the Nation of Islam dies, and his son Wallace D. Muhammad (1933–2008) succeeds him as leader. The younger Muhammad (also known as Warith Deen Mohammed) would define a new direction for the Nation of Islam, ending the separatist philosophy of his father that had banned whites as "white devils" and changing its name to the World Community of Islam in the West.

July 5: Arthur Ashe (1943–1993) becomes the first African-American to win the British Men’s Singles at Wimbledon, defeating the overwhelming favorite Jimmy Connors.

Historian John Hope Franklin (1915–2009) is elected president of the Organization of American Historians (OAH) for the term 1974–1975. In 1979, Franklin would be elected as the president of the American Historical Association (AHA). These appointments made Franklin the first African-American to hold such a position.

1976

July 12: Barbara Jordan (1936–1996), a congresswoman representing Texas is the first African-American woman to deliver the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

1977

January: Patricia Roberts Harris (1924–1985) is the first African-American woman to hold a cabinet position when Jimmy Carter appoints her to oversee Housing and Urban Development.

January 23–30: For eight consecutive nights, the miniseries Roots is aired on national television. Not only is the miniseries the first to show viewers the impact of enslavement on American society, but it also achieved the highest ratings for a television program.

January 30: Andrew Young is sworn in as the first African-American to become a U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter

September: Minister Louis Farrakhan distances himself from Warith Deen Mohammed's movement World Community of Islam and begins to revives the Nation of Islam.

1978

Faye Wattleton is the first African-American woman, and at 35 the youngest individual at the time, to preside over Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

June 26: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in the case the University of California Regents v. Bakke that affirmative action can be used as a legal strategy to deal with past discrimination.

September 15: Muhammad Ali (1942–2016) is the first heavyweight champion to win the title three times by defeating Leon Spinks in New Orleans.

1979

August 2: The Sugarhill Gang records the 15-minute-long pioneering hip-hop classic “Rapper’s Delight.”