Chapter I.

Time Line

1619 The first African slaves are brought to America.
1777-1820 Northern states abolish slavery.
1807 The slave trade from Africa to the United States ends.
1831 Nat Turner's slave revolt.
1852 The publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, which depicts the horrors of slavery for a wide readership.
1857 The Dred Scott decision rules that the new western territories have no right to prohibit slavery.
1860 Abraham Lincoln is elected president on a Republican platform opposed to slavery; in response, most southern states secede by early 1861.
1861 The Civil War begins at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.
1863 Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, declaring all slaves free in Confederate territory and enlisting African Americans in the military.
1865 The Confederacy is defeated and the Civil War ends. The 13th Amendment ending slavery is ratified.
1866 Congress passes the 14th Amendment, granting African American men citizenship and protecting their civil rights.
1867 Congress passes the Reconstruction Acts, dividing the South into five military districts and giving African American men the right to vote.
1870 The 15th Amendment, prohibiting states from denying the right to vote on the basis of race, is ratified.
1877 Rutherford B. Hayes becomes president and ends Reconstruction.
1877 Thomas Edison invents the phonograph.
1898 Valdemar Poulsen of Denmark invents the magnetic wire recorder, the precursor to the modern tape recorder.
1920s Scholars and historians, particularly from African-American colleges, begin interviewing former slaves.
1936-1938 As part of a larger project of collecting first-hand biographies of ordinary American people, the New Deal's Federal Writers' Project begins interviewing thousands of former slaves.
1930s-1940s A second group of scholars (including John, Ruby and Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, and John Henry Faulk), inspired by the Federal Writers' Project but working independently, begins tape-recording the spoken words of former slaves.
1960s The Civil Rights Movement sparks a growing interest in slavery and slave narratives.
1990s New technology enables the old, aluminum disks upon which the original interviews with former slaves were recorded to be "remastered," vastly improving the quality and audibility of the recordings.


Previous Return Next