Time-Line

1525 -- First arrival. Spanish explorer Ayllon brings a few enslaved Africans to the South Carolina coast. The attempt to build a colony fails. Before the survivors leave, some Africans may have escaped and then intermarried with native Americans in the area.

1670 -- Settlement. A group of about 100 English settlers and at least one enslaved African create the first permanent colony near present-day Charleston. Soon after the governor brings a family of enslaved Africans, known only as John Senior, John Junior, and Elizabeth, to the colony. In the following years enslaved Africans help establish the first colony in many ways, building homes and performing such tasks as the cooking, sewing and gardening required on plantations and in towns. They also use their African-learned cattle raising and driving skills--they are the first American cowboys. Around one in three of the early settlers are African.

1685 -- Rice Culture. Seed rice arrives in Charleston as a gift from a sea captain whose boat was under repair. Efforts by the English to grow rice fail. Enslaved Africans, who grew rice in Africa, show the English how to grow rice in wet areas--the rice culture, which creates great wealth for the colony, begins.

1708 -- Population growth. The growth of indigo and cotton requires more and more labor, which leads to the importation of more and more enslaved Africans. By 1708 the numbers of whites and blacks in South Carolina are equal at about 4,000 each, according to British census figures. For most of the next two centuries (except a brief period between 1790 and 1820) blacks will outnumber whites in the state.

1730-39 -- About 20,000 enslaved Africans are brought to the state. Enslaved people resist in a wide range of ways, from acting lazy or stupid or breaking tools in order to minimize the work that is being forced upon them, to theft, running away, and even individual violent resistence.

1739 -- The Stono Rebellion. Although enslaved people have periodically fought back, this is the first large-scale rebellion. Roughly 100 enslaved Africans, led by "Jemmy," capture firearms about 20 miles south of Charles Town, and attempt to rally more people to join them. They plan to fight their way to St. Augustine where the Spanish promise freedom. They accidentally run in to a group of whites led by the Lt. Governor of the state, who alerts white authorities before the group has time to grow into an overwhelming force. The revolt is forcefully put down and some sixty of the rebels are executed.

1740 -- Slave Codes. In reaction to the Stono Rebellion, the legislature passes slave codes which forbid travel without written permission, group meetings without the presence of whites, raising their own food, possessing money, learning to read, and the use of drums, horns, and other "loud instruments," that might be used by enslaved Africans to communicate with each other.

1790 -- The Brown Fellowship Society is formed. It is one of many self-help groups formed by free African-Americans to help with education, burial costs, and support of widows and orphans of members. Others include the Human Brotherhood and the Unity and Friendship Society. The Brown Fellowship Society reflects the prejudice of the day, restricting its membership to those who are racially mixed and whose skin color is brown rather than black.

1792 -- Restrictions are placed on free African-Americans. South Carolina passes a law requiring all free African-Americans between the ages of 16 and 50 to pay a yearly "head tax" of $2.00, a significant sum of money in that day. This is but one of a number of laws that make life very difficult for the relatively few African-Americans who are free. In 1790 they number only 1,801 of the 109,000 African-Americans who live in the state.

1793 -- Invention of the cotton gin makes the growing of cotton profitable in noncoastal areas where only cotton with a lot of seeds in the bolls will grow. This greatly increases the need for labor and once again increases the number of enslaved Africans brought to the state.

1803 -- The Minors Moralist Society founded. A purely charitable organization founded by free African-Americans for the purpose of caring for free African-American orphans.

1810 -- Tom Molyneux, who had won his freedom in Georgetown as a reward for his boxing skills, following eight straight wins, boxes against the world heavyweight champion in England. He loses this match when he hits his head on the ring post and fractures his skull. No other major boxing matches take place between blacks and whites until 1891.

1816 -- Camden Revolt. Few records exist about this revolt, but it is stopped before it really takes place. Local enslaved Africans are plotting a violent revolt in order to take revenge upon those who had enslaved them.

1817 -- Morris Brown, wealthy free African-American, starts an AME church in Charleston. The church is closed forceably after the Vesey Rebellion.

1820-1860 -- Edgefield Pottery. During the early 1800s, a number of enslaved people become famous for their beautiful and useful pottery made in this area. The most famous is known as Dave the Potter. Scholars estimate that some 140 potters were plying their craft in this area during this period.

1822 -- Denmark Vesey Rebellion. Led by Denmark Vesey, an African-Methodist church founder and former enslaved person who had bought his freedom, the rebellion is well-planned and widespread. It involves about 9,000 people. However, two house servants tell their masters before the planned date. Vesey and about 100 others are arrested. Vesey refuses to reveal any names, and he and thirty-three others are hanged.

1829 -- The Georgetown Conspiracy. Details are sketchy, but a plot is uncovered and at least 20 enslaved people are arrested. Written documents suggest that many were hanged.

1839 -- The Christian Benevolent Society is formed by free African-Americans to provide for the poor.

1850 -- Fugitive Slave Law. This law, passed by Congress as part of a compromise to keep the nation together, is designed to help southern whites recapture enslaved people who flee to the northern "free" states. However, the law does not work very well because of abolitionists such as Robert Purvis. Born in Charleston to an enslaved mother and a white father, he is lucky in that his wealthy father sends him to school in the North. He settles in Philadelphia and helps organize the American Anti-Slavery Society and raises money for the underground railway.

1861 -- Union forces take control of the Sea Islands. Enslaved African-Americans flee to the area where Union troops consider blacks to be free because they are the "contraband of war." That is, they were the property of the enemy which is forfeited. Formal freedom comes more than a year later with the Emancipation Proclamation.

1862 (May 12) -- Robert Smalls sails The Planter through Confederate lines and delivers it and its cargo to Union forces off the South Carolina coast. He volunteers to help the Union Navy guide its ships through the dangerous South Carolina coastal waters for the rest of the war.

1862 -- Two Northern Quakers create the Penn School on St. Helens Island after the Union captures the area and thousands of former enslaved people flee to safety there. The school survives as the Penn Center, serving as a conference center for the civil rights movement and a center for self-help and historical preservation today.

1864 -- Spirituals. The Atlantic Monthly publishes a collection of African-American spiritual hymns collected by Charlotte Forten, a free African-American from the North who comes to live and teach on St. Helena Island.

1865 -- New Constitution and Black Codes. Following the war, white South Carolinians rewrite the state constitution in order to return to the union. They restrict the right to vote and elect an all-white legislature that then passes the "Black Codes," which restrict rights of the newly freed people. Congress responds by passing the Reconstruction Acts, which require that the state rewrite the Constitution. African-Americans participate under federal military supervision.

1867 -- The Howard School is opened in Columbia. This is the only public school to serve African-Americans in Columbia until 1916. It serves all grades.

1868 -- New Constitution. A convention of 48 whites and 76 blacks meet and write a very progressive constitution that includes representation based on population, a complete bill of rights, protection of a married woman's property rights, a homestead exemption, and a right to a public education.

1869 --Joseph Rainey becomes the first African-American in South Carolina to become a U.S. Representative in Congress. He is followed by seven others before African-Americans are driven out of elected office: Robert C. DeLarge, Robert Brown Elliott, Richard H. Cain, Alonzo Ransier, Robert Smalls, Thomas E. Miller, and George W. Murray.

1870 -- Public Education. The state legislature, with African-Americans in control, passes a law to create a state-wide public school system. Although insufficient funds are available, this is the first such effort in the history of the state.

1870 -- James Webster Smith of Columbia becomes the first African-American to enter West Point. He survives the vows of silence taken by other cadets, having to drill alone, eating after all the other cadets, being screamed at by instructors until 1874 when he is failed on an oral exam that is given to him in secret by a hostile philosophy professor and is dismissed from the academy. In 1996 President Clinton awarded him his West Point Commission posthumously.

1871 -- With much support from African-American Baptists all over the state, the American Baptist Home Mission Society creates Benedict Institute, which later evolves into Benedict College.

1872 -- The state legislature creates the S.C. Agricultural College and Mechanics Institute near Orangeburg, which later grows into S.C. State.

1873 -- The first African-American enters the University of South Carolina. All white students and faculty leave, but the school remains open with the help of white faculty from the North. After Reconstruction USC is reopened as an all-white school.

1876 -- The Hamburg Massacre takes place near Aiken in a battle between Democratic private para-military groups and the African-American state militia. After forcefully disarming the militia unit, whites execute five of their prisoners.

1877 -- Both parties claim to have won the election, and for several months the state has two governors and two sitting legislatures. The withdrawal of federal troops in April spells doom for the Republicans, who cannot match the firepower of the Democrats, led by Governor Wade Hampton.

1878 -- About 200 African-Americans from South Carolina, following the advice of Reverend Richard H. Cain, a member of Congress from South Carolina and a newspaper publisher, emigrate to Liberia. Despite Cain's call for a million people to go, few others do.

1879 -- P.B. Morris founds a newspaper for African-Americans, the Sea Island News, later replaced by the New South after his death in 1891.

1880-1900 -- As conditions worsen in the state following the end of Reconstruction, about 20,000 African-Americans leave the state, many moving west as the frontier opens to opportunity. Out-migration accelerates after the turn of the century.

1881 -- Reverend Alexander Bettis, a former enslaved person, creates the Bettis Academy in Trenton in Edgefield County to teach basic academic skills and trades and crafts.

1882 -- White Democrats use the Eight Ballot Box law to disenfranchise African-American voters and pass laws to allow white registrars to strike African-Americans from the voting registration lists.

1885-6 -- Columbia native Clarissa Thompson has her book Treading the Winepress: A Mountain of Misfortune, published as a serial in a Boston newspaper, making her the first female African-American from South Carolina to have her work published.

1886 -- Arthur MacBeth opens a photographic studio in Charleston, winning many awards for his pioneering work.

1887 -- The United Methodist Church founds the Mather Academy in Camden, the only African-American secondary school to be accredited during this period.

1890 -- The Colored Farmers' Alliance reaches a membership of 30,000 members in South Carolina and prints its own newspaper. However, a failed strike effort by cotton pickers a year later marks the decline of this self-help group.

1892 -- The Jenkins Orphanage is begun in Charleston by Rev. Daniel Jenkins, the only orphanage for African-Americans in the state. The band formed by Jenkins to help support the enterprise becomes famous, makes European tours, and produces many professional musicians.

1895 -- Governor Ben Tillman leads a state constitutional convention to rewrite the state constitution to eliminate virtually all African-American influence in state politics. Six African-American politicians attend the convention (Robert Smalls, Thomas Miller, William Whipper, James Wigg, Isaiah Reed, and Robert Anderson) and speak out against the proceedings but are outvoted.

1896 -- African-Americans, now comprising about sixty percent of the population, are relegated to less than five percent of the voters in South Carolina.

1897 -- Elizabeth Evelyn Wright and Jessie Dorsey open the Denmark Industrial School, which later becomes Vorhees Industrial School and then Vorhees College, one of many examples of African-American self-help in education.

1898 -- Battle of San Juan Hill, in which two African-American Cavalry units, the Ninth and Tenth, which include South Carolinians, help take the hill. According to some reports, they may have saved Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" from defeat.

1900 -- The number of African-American owned general stores, the business centers in the communities across the rural state, reaches nearly 500, about ten times the number in 1880.

1902 --- John William Bolts of Georgetown leaves office as a member of the state house, the last African-American to serve there after Reconstruction.

1904 -- The Penn School begins teaching the African craft of basketmaking, which had once been a vital part of the rice culture.

1906 -- Isaac Samuel Leevy returns to his home state to teach and help the African-American community, building many businesses, helping organize a state fair for African-Americans, helping found Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia, working for higher education, promoting many charities, helping organize the Columbia branch of the NAACP, and running for city council and the state legislature as a Republican. He helps lay the foundation for the next generation, including his grandson, I.S. Leevy Johnson, who is elected to the state legislature in 1971.

1909 -- Georgetown native William A. Sinclair, who was born enslaved in 1858 and who later earned a theology degree from Howard University and a medical degree, helps create the NAACP. Another South Carolina native, Archibald Grimke, is among the first African-Americans to attend Harvard Law School, and is also an important figure in the early NAACP.

1911 -- Former Civil War hero and Reconstruction politician Robert Smalls foils a lynch mob by spreading rumors that Charleston would be burned if the jailed African-Americans are harmed.

1916 -- Septima Poinsette Clark begins her teaching career on Johns Island, receiving $25 a month for pay and supplies for teaching over 130 pupils. She is fired for helping organize the NAACP in Charleston in the 1920s. In the 1960s she helps organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King's organization, in the state. Throughout the drive to win the vote she runs "citizenship schools" that help overcome illiteracy. She is remembered as the "grandmother of the civil rights movement" in South Carolina.

1917 -- John Birks "Dizzy Gillespie," who will become probably the state's most famous musician, is born in Cheraw.

1918 -- Corporal Freddie Stowers of Anderson County dies while rallying his men in the 371st Infantry in the successful capture of a hill in France. In 1991 he is post-humously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

1920 -- Using a petition signed by nearly three-fourths of all African-American families in the city, the NAACP has its first significant victory in the state in convincing white Charleston leaders to hire blacks to teach in black public schools in the city.

1921 -- The Mutual Savings Bank is begun in Charleston, but it only survives for twenty years.

1927 -- Susan Dart Butler opens a free library for African-Americans in her own home in Charleston.

1932 -- Dr. Matilda Evans, the state's first native-born female African-American doctor, trained at Schofield Industrial School and at Oberlin College in Ohio, opens the Evans Clinic in Columbia. Reportedly she worked 25 years without taking a vacation.

1935 -- Mayesville native Mary McLeod Bethune, who in 1920 had founded what later became Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona, Florida, is named as head of the Division of Negro Affairs of the National Youth Administration. She becomes the first African-American woman to run a federal agency.

1938 -- Painter and Florence native William H. Johnson returns from Europe to escape the Nazis. Most of his work was done in the 1920s and 1930s while living in Europe.

1939 --NAACP forms its first state organization, headed by Reverend A.W. Wright as president. Other leaders include Levi S. Byrd of Cheraw and Reverend James M. Hinton of Columbia.

1941 -- The 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first African-American air fighting unit, begins training in Tuskegee, Alabama. The unit, whose pilots are known as the Tuskegee Airmen, includes Ernest Henderson of Laurens County, South Carolina. The unit and Henderson go on to win many air battles, and Henderson goes on to train other flying units, including the Black Eagles, who are formed and trained in Columbia in 1949.

1942 -- South Carolina Civil Rights leader Mary McLeod Bethune uses her friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt to persuade President Roosevelt to create opportunities for African-Americans in the military, which is still totally segregated.

1944 -- November. "Ossie" McKaine, a World War I military hero, businessman, journalist, and civil rights leader, runs under the Progressive Democratic Party label against Governor Olin Johnston for the U.S. Senate, invigorating the drive to win voting rights in the state.

1945 -- Columbia native Charity Edna Adams completes her tour of service in Europe after winning the highest rank in the army of any African-American woman, Lt. Colonel, serving as a Battalion Commander in the European Theater of Operations. Nearly fifty years later, after a lifetime of public service in voluntary and charitable organizations, she is named by the Smithsonian as one of the top 100 women in Black History.

1946 -- George Elmore tries to vote in the August Democratic primary, is refused, and becomes plaintiff in a suit filed by the NAACP. The next year he wins his case against the all-white primary (Elmore v. Rice).

1947 -- July. Moved by a plea from state NAACP president James Hinton, Reverend J.A. DeLaine convinces his friend Levi Pearson, father of three children, to file a petition with the public schools in Clarendon County, asking that his children and other Negro school children be provided public school transportation. Thus begins the case that will evolve into Briggs v. Elliot, that will eventually be joined with Brown v. Board of Education. Pearson loses the initial case, becomes president of the local NAACP, but is punished by local white businessmen who refuse to buy the timber he cuts to make a living.

1948 -- Strom Thurmond temporarily bolts from the Democratic Party in protest over the civil rights plank in the national platform and runs for president under the State's Rights or Dixiecrat banner, carrying South Carolina in the electoral college.

1949 -- November. Harry Briggs is the first name on a list of more than a hundred petitioners in a test case filed with Clarendon County by the state NAACP, that goes beyond the earlier request for equal transportation by asking for total educational equality. Modjeska Montieth Simpkins writes the petition. Briggs and others in the case, including Reverend J.A. DeLaine, who was a school principal, are fired from their jobs. The case is filed in federal court the next year.

1951 -- Governor James Byrnes supports a three cent sales tax for eduction, mainly to improve African-American schools in hopes of avoiding integration.

1954 -- Following the Supreme Court's order that public schools be desegregated in Brown v. Board of Education and the attached cases, including Briggs v. Elliot, Reverend J.A. DeLaine's church is burned and his life is threatened. He escapes from the state and spends the rest of his working life in New York where he founds a new church, later retiring in Charlotte, N.C.

1959 -- Popular singer Camden native "Brook" Benton begins having success, recording twenty-one gold records over the next five years.

1960 -- Due West native Charlayne Hunter (later Hunter-Gault), is one of the first two African-Americans to integrate the University of Georgia. She later wins fame as a co-anchor reporter on the PBS McNeil/Lehrer Report.

1962 -- The all-white legislature votes to fly the Confederate Naval Jack over the capitol dome to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Confederate secession.

1963 -- January. Governor Ernest Hollings leaves office warning the state that segregation can no longer be maintained and that it is time to move on. Incoming Governor Donald Russell has a barbecue at the governor's residence for both races.

1964 -- The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed under the leadership of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, ending segregation laws in all public facilities and easing voting restrictions somewhat. The percentage of African-Americans registered to vote in the state more than doubles from the previous presidential election, rising to nearly thirty-nine percent. Strom Thurmond moves to the Republican Party for good in support of Barry Goldwater's anti-civil rights law position, and the state votes for Goldwater in the presidential election.

1965 -- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is passed, which leads to further gains in African-American voter participation all over the South.

1967 -- October 15. Winnsboro native Sergeant First Class Webster Anderson of the 101st Airborne Division, suffering multiple wounds that result in the loss of both legs and part of an arm, successfully defends his artillery position from a sustained enemy attack. His many heroics include throwing an exploding hand grenade that otherwise would have harmed the men under his command. He is awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

1968 -- February. The Orangeburg Massacre takes place when a year of student protests at the S.C. State campus culminate in white highway patrol officers shooting into a crowd of students who were throwing objects at the officers, killing three students and wounding twenty-eight more. The state unfairly pins the blame on Cleveland Sellers, a young civil rights organizer, who serves a year in prison, but who is finally granted a full pardon in 1993.

1969 -- 300 female workers at the Medical University of South Carolina hospital go on strike with the support of labor and civil rights groups protesting poor working conditions and low wages. After confrontations with police and the arrival of National Guard troops, the mostly African-American workers win a settlement--violence is narrowly averted.

1970 -- Beaufort County native "Smokin'" Joe Frazier beats Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight boxing title in one of the best matches of all time. In 1964 he had been the first American to win the heavyweight gold medal Olympic match.

1971 -- Newly elected Governor John West creates the state Human Affairs Commission, headed by James Clyburn, who holds the position until he runs for Congress in 1992.

1973 -- After winning international fame as a civil rights leader, Greenville native Rev. Jesse Jackson returns home to a dinner held in his honor by the local citizens.

1974 -- Under pressure from the federal courts, the S.C. General Assembly rewrites election laws to end at-large election of legislators from counties and create single member districts. This enables an additional ten African-Americans to be elected to the S.C. House.

1975 -- African-American legislators in the S.C. House form the Legislative Black Caucus in order to promote cooperative legislative action. It is headed by Ernest Finney, Jr.

1976 -- Matthew J. Perry becomes a federal judge with the support of Senator Strom Thurmond. Perry had been chief counsel for the S.C. NAACP for twenty years, helping in key cases like the integration of Clemson.

1978 -- Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Young openly seeks votes of African-Americans, but loses badly to Richard Riley.

1980 -- Columbia native and Annapolis graduate Charles Bolden becomes an astronaut. He will pilot two space shuttle flights and command a third flight.

1983 -- Columbia native and USC graduate Alex English wins the NBA scoring title. Before his career is over he plays in seven all-star games. He also writes three books of poetry and an autobiography, as well as raising a great deal of money for international aid to children.

1985 -- Ernest Finney Jr. becomes the first African-American Associate Justice on the state Supreme Court since Reconstruction.

1986 --The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes on take-off, killing all astronauts aboard, including Lake City native and veteran astronaut and physicist Ron McNair.

1989 -- North Charleston native and pro football hall of famer Art Shell becomes the first African-American NFL head coach, taking over the Oakland Raiders.

1990 -- State Senator Theo Mitchell is nominated by the Democrats to run for governor. Though he loses to incumbent Carroll Campbell, he is the first African-American ever nominated by the Democrats for governor.

1992 -- Columbia native and pioneer heart and stroke researcher Dr. Edward Sawyer is elected president of the American Heart Association.

1993 -- Aiken native Irene Trowell-Harris becomes the third female general and first African-American female general in the National Guard.

1994 -- Legislataive Black Caucus members torpedo a compromise proposal to move the Confederate Naval Jack from over the capitol dome. Republicans place a straw poll question on whether to fly the banner on their primary ballot. Republicans, voting in record numbers, overwhelmingly vote by about four to one to continue to fly the banner.

1995 -- Tim Scott wins a Charleston County Council seat in a special election, the first African-American to win public office in the state as a Republican in modern times.

1997 -- Eartha Kitt, world famous singer and Broadway star, returns to her home state of South Carolina for a benefit performance at Benedict College, creating the Eartha Kitt Performing Arts Scholarship.

last updated 11/17/97

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