From Toussaint L’Ouverture and Nelson Mandela to Barack Obama – The History of Black People


1783 Massachusetts abolished slavery.

1800-1804 Under the leadership of Francois Toussaint L’Ouverture, Haiti, a former French territory in the Caribbean, became the first black republic in the world. He had led a slave revolution against France. From 1697 to 1804 Haiti was an European colony. Toussaint was one of the most outstanding black leaders in the 19th century. In the 19th century, many new Latin American republics, ex European colonies, were inspired by the example of the Haitian revolution.

1808-1860 African slaves flocked to the United States.

1822 Many American black freedmen went to Africa, where they founded a new republic: Liberia, a Kentucky-sized land of mountains, tropical savannahs and lakes. This African country became the second black republic in the world.

1870-1871 Hiram R. Revels (182-1901) became the first black ever elected to the United States senate.

1896 The Empire of Ethiopia was established.

1904 Haiti celebrated its centenary.

1911 South Africa. Under “the Mines and Work Act”, the Africans could only work as farmers and miners…

1914-1918 During the World War I, more than 300,000 African-Americans served in the U.S. armed forces.

1920 William Edward Burghardt Du Bois was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

1935 The Spingarn Medal was awarded to Mary McLeod Bethune (1875-1955), an advocate for black’s rights.

1939 Hattie McDaniel, a black actress, made history when she won an Academy Award.

1943 Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Liberia.

1950-1953 During the Korean War, more than 3,000 African-Americans were killed by enemy forces…

1956 Sudan became the fourth black republic in the world.

1958 Guinea is a new republic in Africa.

1960-1988 Cuba. Ever Peñalver Mazorra, an anti-dictatorship activist, was the world’s longest-standing black political prisoner of conscience.

1960 Albert J. Luthuli (South African leader) won the 1960 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts against the apartheid system…New independent countries in Africa: Dahomey, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast, Chad, Gabon, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Central African Republic (CAR) , Congo, Senegal, Somalia and Togo.

1960-1991 South Africa under the apartheid system. During that period, South Africa became a pariah in the international community. Almost all African states severed diplomatic ties with Pretoria.

1961 Both Sierra Leone and Tanzania became independent.

1962 More than 200,000 black Americans, under the leadership of Martin Luther King, demanding civil rights for everyone. Martin gave a famous speech, “I have a dream…that all God’s children, black and white, catholic and protestant, will join hands and sing “Free at last! Thank God we are free at last!” Months later the law in America was changed to give African-Americans civil rights…Five new states in the world: Trinidad-Tobago, Jamaica, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda…

1963 The Organization of African Unity was created in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)…Lesotho and Kenya became independent from the United Kingdom…Sydney Poitier, who was grew up in the Bahamas (Caribbean), became the first black man to win an Academy Award. He won the prize for his role in the film “Lilies of the Field”.

1964 Dr. Martin Luther King earned the Nobel Prize for Peace in Scandinavia… Zambia gained its independence from Great Britain…

1965 Gambia is a new country on Africa’s western coast…

1965-1978 The white minority, led by Ian Smith, governed Rhodesia-it is about the size of Montana. Like South Africa, Rhodesia was also an international pariah. The United Nations imposed sanctions against the Rhodesian government. Rhodesia’s Prime Minister Ian Smith, architect of the racist system, had support from South Africa.

1966- Under the direction of Sir Seretse M. Khama and other leaders, Botswana, a nation on the African continent, is one of the best democracies in the Third World. Unlike many countries, Botswana has never had a coup d’etat.

1968 In Memphis (Tennessee), Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated by James Earl Ray…Equatorial Guinea gained its independence from Spain…Swaziland is an independent nation in Africa.

1973 The Bahamas (Caribbean) and Guinea-Bissau (Africa) proclaimed its independence…

1974 Grenada is an independent country on the Caribbean Sea…

1974-1976 Elisabeth Domitien was named Prime Minister of the Central African Republic. This country was the first African nation to elect a woman as Prime Minister.

1975 Sao Tome and Principe, Mozambique and Angola (Africa) declared its independence.

1976 Soweto (South Africa). During a protest march against apartheid, more than 500 blacks were killed by South African forces…Thirty-four African governments boycotted the Montreal Olympics because the national rugby team of New Zealand visited South Africa-an country under the apartheid. World-class athletes John Akii-Bua (Ugandan hurdler), Henry Rono (Kenyan runner) and Filbert Bayi (Tanzanian runner) could not participate in the Olympic Games in Canada.

1976-1981 The United Nations refused to recognize South African puppet state of Transkei.

1977 “Black and White in Color”, a film from Ivory Coast (Africa), won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film…Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Janelle “Penny” Commissiong (Trinidad & Tobago) became the first black woman to be crowned Miss Universe. The great African-American Gordon Parks, a world-famous photographer, said “She has the classical beauty of black women around the world”…South Africa established a puppet state in Bophutatswana which was not recognized by the United Nations…Alex Haley won a Pulitzer award for his novel “Roots”…

1977-1981 President Jimmy Carter was an active supporter of black’s rights in America. During his government, Andrew Young was the first African-American ambassador to the United Nations. Meanwhile, Patricia Roberts Harris was named Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. In 1979 she also was elected Secretary of Health and Human Services. Patricia became the first black female to hold a cabinet post. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter visited Liberia.

1978 Dominica proclaimed its independence…

1979 The United Nations refused to recognize Venda-a South African puppet state from 1979 to 1994…Rosa Parks, an advocate for black’s rights, won the 1979 Spingarn Medal…There are new nations: Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (Caribbean).

1979-1981 Washington,DC. Donald F.McHenry was named ambassador to the United Nations. Donald is an expert on Third World studies. In the mid-1970s, he published “Micronesia:Trust Betrayed: Altruism vs. Self-Interest in American Foreign Policy”.

1980 Zimbabwe Rhodesia. After the civil war, the black nationalists won the general elections…Mary Eugenia Charles became the first black female to be elected Prime Minister in the Third World. She governed Dominica, an English-speaking island on the Caribbean Sea, from 1980 to 1995. Like Margaret Thatcher (Prime Minister of the United Kingdom), Mary was not a feminist…Alice Walker emerged as an important voice in American literature. In 1983 she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “The Color Purple”.

1981 The United Kingdom gave Antigua-Barbuda (Caribbean island) full independence as a member of the Commonwealth of Nations…

1983 Gulon Bluford, an African-American astronaut, became the first black in space when he flew aboard the shuttle Challenger…Ivory Coast decided to move the capital from Abidjan to Yamoussoukro…Saint Kitts and Nevis is a new independent nation in the Caribbean…

1984 Bishop Desmond Tutu was awarded the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize… Upper Volta changed its name: Burkina Faso…Jesse Jackson was one of the outstanding leaders of the Democratic Party.

1986 Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature. Wole became the first black writer to win the Nobel Prize. He left Africa in the 1970s and settled in the United Kingdom as a political refugee.

1988 Toni Morrison earned the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “Beloved”. Afterward, she won the Nobel Prize (1993).

1989 Pope John Paul II arrived in Malawi for a visit…

1990 Namibia (Africa) gained its independence…

1991 Haitian-born Marjorie Vincent, Miss Illinois, was elected Miss America, the most oldest beauty pageant in the world (1921-).

1992 Derek Walcott became the first Caribbean writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

1993 Pope John Paul visited Benin, former Dahomey, Uganda and Sudan…Eritrea, it is about the size of Virginia, became the last black independent republic in the world. This African republic was an Ethiopian colony between 1960s and 1980s.

1991-1994 The South African regime abandoned apartheid. After 26 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, a famous anti-apartheid campaigner, was free and made history when he was chosen South African president by the electors. He became the country’s first democratic president. Mandela is one of the most admired persons in history…Maya Angelou was awarded the 1994 Spingarn Medal.

1996 Liberia. Ruth Perry became the first black woman to be elected president on the African continent.

1997 Kofi Annan (Ghana) was elected Secretary General of the United Nations. He competed against Amara Essy (foreign minister of Cote d’Ivoire) and Ahmadeu Ould Abdallah (Mauritania’s foreign minister) for leadership of the United Nations. He was born on April 8, 1930 in Kumasi, Ghana. He studied at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Ghana’s Annan is one of the most universal of contemporary Africans…South Africa severed diplomatic relations with Taiwan. During many decades, South Africa was a Taiwanese ally in Africa.

1998 President Bill Clinton visited Rwanda.

2001-2006 America. Colin Powell was elected Secretary of State.

2002 Halle Berry became the second black woman to win an Oscar…

2006 Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a former minister of economy of Liberia, was the first woman to win a Presidential election in Africa…The South African film Tsotsi won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 78th Annual Academy Awards…

2007 African filmmaker Ousmane Sembène died in Dakar, Senegal. He won many European film trophies-his film “Moolaade” won a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In the last decades, Ousmane emerged as a campaigner for women’s rights and justice social. Mali’s Culture minister, Choick Oumar Sissoko, said “Africa cinema has lost one of its lighthouses. The man only worked fully in Africa and for Africa. Mr Sembène led Africa to understand its identity and build its cultural horizon”.

2008 At the Summer Olympic Games, Kenya ranked 15th among 204 countries and dependencies in the world. Kenya, an ex-British colony on the African continent, won five gold medals…

2009 Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. He became the first non African-Caribbean to be elected President in the Americas.


Cobb, Charles. “Haiti Against All Odds”, National Geographic, November 1987

Cristal, David. The Cambridge Factfinder, Cambridge University Press, 1998

David Wallechinsky and Irving Wallace. The People’s Almanac 2, 1978

Guevara Onofre, Alejandro. Enciclopedia Mundototal, editorial San Marcos, 1999

Monica Wilson and Leonard Thompson. The Oxford History of South Africa. Vol.2 :1870-1966, Oxford, 1971

O’Neill, Louis Decker. The Women’s Book of World Records and Achievements, Anchor Books,1979