1619 – 1865 AMERICAN SLAVERY ERA
1865 – 1954 RECONSTRUCTION, JIM CROW, RACIAL APARTHEID AND SEGREGATION ERA
1954 – Present Day Civil Rights Law and Mass Incarceration
Reformatted from the original PDF compiled by The Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families.
1619 – 1865 AMERICAN SLAVERY ERA
1619 The beginning of American slavery
In late August of 1619 a ship arrived at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia, bearing a cargo of 20 to 30 enslaved Africans. Their arrival inaugurated a barbaric system of chattel slavery in the United States that would last for the next 250 years.
1641 Massachusetts Becomes First State to Formally Legalize Slavery.
This develops into a system of economic dependence on enslavement of people to produce the key goods (tobacco, sugar cane, cotton) that other economic sectors (banking, land speculation, trade, etc.) are intrinsically linked to. As the US economy develops and grows it does so with dependency on a system of enslaved labor.
1676 Social Identities Fluid
In early colonial America, social identities are fluid and class distinctions trump physical ones. On Virginia plantations, European indentured servants and African slaves mix freely. In 1676, Bacon's Rebellion unites poor Africans and Europeans against Indians and wealthy planters. Although the rebellion is short lived, the alliance alarms the colonial elite, who realize the labor system based on indentured servitude is unstable. Coincidentally, captured Africans, perceived as stronger workers by Europeans, become more available at this time. Planters turn increasingly to African slavery for labor, while granting increased freedoms to Europeans.
1705 Virginia Slave Codes Passed
As wealthy planters turn from indentured servitude towards slavery, they begin to write laws making slavery permanent for Africans, and dividing Blacks from whites and slaves from free men. African Americans are punished more harshly for crimes and their rights are increasingly curtailed. Poor whites are given new entitlements and opportunities, including as overseers who police the slave population. Over time, poor whites identify more with wealthy whites and the degradation of slavery is identified with Blackness.
1776 Birth of "Caucasian"
Johann Blumenbach, one of many 18th-century naturalists, lays out the scientific template for race in On the Natural Varieties of Mankind. Although he opposes slavery, he maps a hierarchical pyramid of five human types, placing "Caucasians" at the top because he believes a skull found in the Caucasus Mountains is the "most beautiful form...from which...the others diverge."
This model is widely embraced, and Blumenbach inadvertently paves the way for scientific claims about white superiority.
1781 Jefferson Suggests Black Inferiority
With Notes on the State of Virginia, Jefferson becomes the first prominent American to suggest that Africans are innately inferior: "I advance it therefore, as a suspicion only, that blacks...are inferior to the whites in the endowments of body and mind." His writings help rationalize slavery in a nation otherwise dedicated to equality, and he calls on science to find proof.
1790 Naturalization Reserved For Whites
The 1790 Naturalization Act reserves adopted citizenship for whites only. African Americans are not guaranteed citizenship until 1868, when the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified during Reconstruction. Native Americans become citizens through individual treaties or intermarriage and finally, through the 1924 Indian Citizenship Act. Asian immigrants are ineligible for citizenship until the 1954 McCarran-Walter Act removes all racial barriers to naturalization. Without citizenship, nonwhites can't vote, own property, bring suit, or testify in court - all the basic protections and privileges that whites take for granted.
1819 The Civilization Act
The Civilization Act provides U.S. government funds to subsidize Protestant missionary educators to convert Native Americans to Christianity.
1830 Native Tribes Dispossessed of Lands
Throughout the 19th century, American Indian lands are taken away and given to white settlers. In 1830, thousands of Native Americans are forcibly relocated from east of the Mississippi River to Oklahoma. Many die en route. The 1862 Homestead Act encourages a flood of squatters to invade Indian lands in the midwest. Already suffering from decimation of the buffalo, nomadic Plains Indian tribes are forced to relocate to government reservations. The 1887 Dawes Act breaks up collectively owned Indian lands and redistributes it to individuals, allowing "surplus" land to be sold to whites. Lewis Cass, Secretary of War under President Jackson, sums up 19th-century Indian policy this way: "The Indians are entitled to the enjoyment of all the rights which do not interfere with the obvious designs of Providence."
1800’s – Mid-1900’s Indian Boarding Schools
Washington was home to a number of Indian Boarding schools in the late 1800s and into the mid- 1900s, where Native children were removed from their families and institutionalized for training as workers in the white settler economy.
The trauma inflicted on children by removal from families, and the record of abuses incurred in these schools is now understood to be a source of historical trauma that continues to impact many tribes today. Here we see photos from the Tulalip School and the Yakima Boarding school at Ft. Simcoe. Both housed hundreds of children over the years they operated.
1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the U.S.-Mexican War
Mexico cedes one third of its territory, including the future states of California, Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. The treaty promises to protect the land, language, and culture of Mexicans living in ceded territory and gives them the right to become U.S. citizens if they stay. Congress refuses to pass Article X, stipulating protection of ancestral lands, and instead requires Mexicans to prove their legitimate title to land in U.S. courts, by speaking English, with U.S. lawyers.
1854 - 1855 Puget Sound Tribes Dispossessed of Lands
62 leaders of major Western Washington tribes, including the Nisqually and Puyallup, and Territorial Gov. Stevens sign the treaty at Medicine Creek on December 26, 1854. The tribes cede most of their lands in exchange for $32,500, designated reservations, and the permanent right of access to traditional hunting and fishing grounds. This pact was followed in January 1855 with the signing of treaties at Point Elliott (now Mukilteo) and Point No Point (near Hansville on the Kitsap Peninsula), which relocated remaining of Puget Sound tribes to reservations.
The agreements did not secure a durable peace, however, and the new Territory experienced several bloody clashes over the next four years. Nisqually Chief Leschi later claimed not to have signed the treaty and fiercely resisted confinement on a reservation. He allegedly led an attack on Seattle on January 26, 1856, and was hanged in 1858 on unrelated (and, in the opinion of many pioneers, false) charges of murder and rebellion.
1857 African Americans Denied Citizenship
In the Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declares that "Negroes," whether free or enslaved, are not citizens. As Chief Justice Taney puts it, they have "no rights which any white man is bound to respect." Free Black people are taxed like whites, but they do not enjoy the same protection and entitlements. African Americans are not granted citizenship until 1868. Meanwhile, centuries of slavery generate wealth for whites only. When slaves in Washington, D.C., are freed in 1862, reparation is paid not to slaves but to slaveowners for their loss of property.
1865 – 1954 RECONSTRUCTION, JIM CROW, RACIAL APARTHEID, AND SEGREGATION ERA
1865 13th Amendment Ratified
While abolishing the current system of slavery the text of the 13th amendment provides one exception of involuntary servitude: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
1866 The Black Codes
Immediately after the civil war, legislatures in former southern slavery states begin passing state and local laws that make it nearly impossible for Black people to freely move in public space without breaking a law. These laws would be known as Black Codes. Ways a Black person could break the law included: vagrancy, speaking loudly to a White woman, walking beside a railroad, or selling vegetables after dark.
1868 14th Amendment Guarantees Equal Rights
Passage of the Fourteenth Amendment is a landmark event, not only for African Americans but for all Americans. Conceived during Reconstruction, the amendment extends citizenship to African Americans and attempts to heal Civil War wounds by emphasizing national unity. The amendment defines citizenship for the first time, guarantees all citizens equal protection and due process under the law, and most importantly, grants citizens privileges and immunities that cannot be abridged. Although the amendment's strength is tested by discriminatory laws and policies throughout the 20th century, the equal protection clause forms the cornerstone of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and is the legal basis for all civil rights and anti-discrimination efforts to this day.
1870–1928 Native American Children Taken From Their Communities
Native American children are removed from their communities by U.S. government mandate and put in boarding schools to “civilize” indigenous people.
1882 Chinese Exclusion Law suspends Immigration of Laborers For Ten Years
The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act came after a long period of anti-Chinese discrimination. There were more than 200 incidents of ethnic cleansing in the last half of the nineteenth century, many of them occurring before the passage of the Act.
1887 Jim Crow Segregation Begins
Beginning in the late 19th century, southern states codify a system of laws and practices to subordinate African Americans to whites. The "new" social order, reinforced through violence and intimidation, affects schools, public transportation, jobs, housing, private life and voting rights. Cutting across class boundaries, Jim Crow unites poor and wealthy whites, while denying African Americans equality in the courts, freedom of assembly and movement, and full participation as citizens. The federal government adopts segregation under President Wilson in 1913, and is not integrated until the 1960s.
1898 U.S. Imperialism
The U.S. defeats Spain and acquires Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines, and annexes Hawaii. Puerto Rico has been defined as an unincorporated territory that “belongs to but is not part of the U.S.” which is unapologetically racist. Territorial inhabitants were considered unfit and not mature enough to be self-governed or be part of the union because of their condition as “uncivilized” and “alien races.”
1922 Supreme Court Ruling Defines White as Caucasian
Japanese businessman Takao Ozawa petitions the supreme court for naturalization. He argued that his skin is as white, if not whiter, than any so-called Caucasian; the Court rules Ozawa cannot be a citizen because he is not “white” within the meaning of the statute, asserting that the best-known science of the time defines Ozawa as of the Mongolian race.
1923 U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind
In U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind, the Supreme Court recognizes that East Indians are “scientifically” Caucasians but concludes they are not white in popular (white) understanding, reversing the logic used in the Ozawa case.
1924 Changing Definitions of Who is Black
In 1705, Virginia defines any child, grandchild, or great grandchild of a Negro as a mulatto. In 1866, the state decrees that every person having one-fourth or more Negro blood shall be deemed a colored person. In 1910, the percentage is changed to 1/16th. Finally in 1924, the Virginia Racial Purity Act defines Black persons as having any trace of African ancestry - the infamous "one-drop" rule. Practically speaking, most people cannot prove their ancestry and the rule is applied inconsistently. Other states also define Blackness differently. As historian James Horton notes, one could cross a state line and literally, legally change race.
1924 Indian Citizenship Act makes All Native Americans U.S. Citizens
All Native Americans are granted U.S. citizenship on June 2, 1924. Congress is grateful for service by Native Americans during World War I and is inspired by their assimilation into U.S. society. Until this time, Native Americans qualified for citizenship if the lands they held were removed from trust status and the protection of the U.S. Government.
The law did little to change the lives of Puget Sound Indians. The mechanism of wardship continued, with Indian agents controlling the management and disposition of tribal lands and allotments. Citizenship did not relieve Native Americans from racial discrimination and they continued to experience state regulation of their treaty rights to fishing off-reservation.
1926 Racial Restrictive Covenants
Racial deed restrictions became common after 1926 when the U.S. Supreme Court validated their use. The restrictions were an enforceable contract and an owner who violated them risked forfeiting the property. Many neighborhoods prohibited the sale or rental of property to Asian Americans and Jews as well as Blacks. The US Supreme Court stopped enforcing racial restrictive covenants by 1948, but private companies continued to use them, along with Redlining by real estate agents and mortgage brokers.
1929 - 1936 Redlining in Washington State
Housing discrimination and racially segregated neighborhoods are one of the most pernicious and impactful examples of structural racism. Vividly illustrated here by redline maps from 1936 (Seattle) and 1929 (Tacoma and Spokane). The legacy of racial segregated spaces is still being felt by communities of color across our state.
1930 Mexicans Added to Census
Mexicans, like other minority groups, are defined differently at various times. In the 19th century, they are classified as white and allowed to naturalize, based upon an 1848 treaty. In 1930, nativists lobby to classify them separately on the census, to limit their immigration and reinforce their distinctness from whites. During World War II, as demand for Mexican labor grows, Mexicans are again classified as whites. In the 1970s, they are reclassified as "Hispanics." As census historian Hyman Alterman notes, the definition depends on political climate: "It was not an accident that in the census of 1930, persons of Mexican birth or ancestry were classified as 'nonwhite'. This was a policy decision, not a mistake."
1934 U.S. Housing Programs Benefit Whites Only
In the 1930s and 1940s, the federal government creates programs that subsidize low-cost loans, opening up home ownership to millions of Americans for the first time.
Government underwriters also introduce a national appraisal system that effectively locks nonwhites out of homebuying just as many white Americans are getting in. In post-WWII restricted suburbs, European "ethnics" blend together as whites, while minorities are "marked" by urban poverty. Two legacies of this discrimination are still with us today: segregated communities and a substantial wealth gap between whites and nonwhites.
1935 People of Color Denied Social Security/Excluded From Unions
From Unions In 1935, Congress passes two laws that protect American workers and exclude nonwhites. The Social Security Act exempts agricultural workers and domestic servants (predominantly African American, Mexican, and Asian) from receiving old-age insurance. The Wagner Act also known as the National Labor Relations Act, guarantee workers' rights, but does not prohibit unions from racial discrimination. Nonwhites are locked out of higher-paying jobs and union benefits such as medical care, job security, and pensions. As low-income workers, minorities have the greatest need for these provisions, yet they are systematically denied what most Americans take for granted.
1944 GI Bill
The GI Bill also known as the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act provided education and mortgage benefits to returning WWII veterans; primarily to working class white men. Black veterans faced discrimination in employment, education, and housing.
1947 Mendez vs. Westminster School District
In 1945, Mexican parents tried to enroll their children into the Main Street Elementary School located in the Westminster School District, Orange County, California and were refused admission based on race. A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 5,000 families against four school districts including Westminster and Santa Ana for discrimination. The Mendez's counsel, David Marcus, argued in court for desegregation of California's schools "on the grounds that perpetuation of school admissions on the basis of race or nationality violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the National Constitution." In 1946, federal judge Paul J. McCormick ruled in favor of Mendez and found that “the segregation of Mexican Americans in public schools was a violation of the state law” and unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment because of the denial of due process and equal protection. McCormick struck down systematic segregation in public schools in California.
1954 – Present Day Civil Rights Law and Mass Incarceration
1954 Legal Segregation Ends
In the wake of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, civil rights advocates led by Martin Luther King, Jr. organize a yearlong boycott of city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest the state's resistance to school integration. What begins as a struggle over schools spreads to public transportation, voting, and all areas of social life. Despite the violent opposition of some white groups, especially in the Deep South, integration and the freedom struggle continue through the work of whites and nonwhites alike. Students, church groups, workers, and volunteers participate in massive nonviolent protest, civil disobedience, and public education campaigns. Their efforts culminate in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin and desegregated public facilities; and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which made racial discrimination in voting illegal.
1964 The Civil Rights Act of 1964
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in voting, public accommodations, public facilities, public education, federally funded programs, and employment; it is considered the most significant piece of civil rights legislation since the Emancipation Proclamation.
1965 The Negro Family: The Case for National Action report
The U.S. Department of Labor published a report titled, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action. This report frames the issue of poverty in Black people communities as a product of an internal “tangle of pathology” that produces broken homes and poverty. The report influences social welfare policy makers for the next 30+ years.
1972 Human Diversity is Mapped
In the early 1970s, geneticist Richard Lewontin decides to find out just how much genetic variation falls within, versus between, the groups we call races. He discovers that 85% of all human variation can be found within any local population; about 94% within any continent. This means local groups are much more diverse than they appear, and our species as a whole is much more similar than we appear. Lewontin's work, confirmed over and over again by others, remains an important milestone in our understanding of race and biology.
1974 Lau v. Nichols Guarantees Bilingual Education
A class-action suit by 1,800 Chinese families whose children speak limited English leads to a unanimous Supreme Court decision with far-reaching consequences. The court mandates that school districts must provide students with special instruction to ensure "equal access" to the curriculum. Significantly, the court distinguishes between treating students "the same" and supplying them with tools to put them on a par with other students. Although the case deals with language ability and public education, it opens up a new era in federal enforcement of equal opportunity laws.
1977 Government Defines Race/Ethnic Categories
In response to civil rights legislation, the federal Office of Management and Budget issues Directive 15, creating standard government race and ethnic categories for the first time. The categories are meant to aid agencies, but they are arbitrary, inconsistent, and based on varying assumptions. For example, "Black" is defined as a "racial group" but "white" is not. "Hispanic" reflects Spanish colonization and excludes non-Spanish parts of Central and South America; while "American Indian or Alaskan Native" requires "cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition" - a condition of no other category. The categories are amended in 1996, and "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander" is added.
1989 26 Washington Tribes and Governor Booth Gardner Sign The Centennial Accord
The accord affirms the sovereignty of Washington's federally recognized tribes and calls for clearer communication and better collaboration between tribal and state governments. It marks one step forward in a long history of conflict between the tribes and the state dating back to the 1850s, a conflict that came to a head in the fish wars of the 1960s and 1970s. Federal courts affirmed the tribes' fishing rights in 1974, but the state continued to fight the rulings until the early 1980s.
1994 Black-white wealth gap
Centuries of inequality are not remedied overnight. Today, the average white family has eight times the wealth of the average nonwhite family. Even at the same income level, whites have, on average, two to three times as much wealth. Whites are more likely to be segregated that any other group, and 86% of suburban whites still live in places with a Black population of less than 1%. Today, 71% of whites own their own home, compared to 44% of African Americans. Black and Latino mortgage applicants are 60% more likely than whites to be turned down for loans, even after controlling for employment, financial, and neighborhood characteristics.
1998 Ban on Bilingual Education Programs
California voters pass Proposition 227 (“English for the children”) banning bilingual education programs in public schools.
2006 Racial Restrictive Covenants
Gov. Christine Gregoire signed into law Senate Bill 6169, which makes it easier for neighborhoods governed by homeowners associations to rid themselves of racial restrictive covenants.
2007 Schools Prohibited from Assigning Students to Public Schools to Solely Achieve Racial Integration
Decisions in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, along with Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education, prohibit assigning students to public schools solely for the purpose of achieving racial integration and decline to recognize racial balance as a compelling state interest. What we are continuing to see is that schools whose student population is primarily white are more successful and have more resources. Our schools whose students are primarily black and Latino are less likely to have experienced teachers, advanced courses, instructional materials and adequate facilities, according to the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
2011 Fair Housing Test
A fair housing test in the Seattle area found discriminatory behavior in 69% of the rental property’s tested. Demographic reports for the Seattle area show that population in north Seattle, a historically redlined area, remains 75% white.
2013 Black Lives Matter Movement
The Black Lives Matter movement begins after George Zimmerman is acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin. Following the shooting deaths of Michael Brown, John Crawford III, and Eric Garner in 2014, and Freddie Gray in 2015, the movement grows. The Black Lives Matter Movement’s mission is to build local power and to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. The movement is guided by the fact that all Black lives matter, regardless of actual or perceived sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, economic status, ability, disability, religious beliefs or disbeliefs, immigration status, or location. Those who are a part of the movement embody and practice justice, liberation, and peace in engagements with one another.
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