African-American History Timeline: 1880 to 1889

African-American History Timeline: 1880 to 1889

During the 1880s, many of the liberties that African-Americans enjoyed as citizens were rapidly taken away by the U.S. Supreme Court, state legislatures and everyday people who did not believe that African-Americans should be able to participate in the political process.

As laws were created on the federal and local level to disenfranchise African-American communities, men such as Booker T. Washington established Tuskegee Institute and women such as Ida B. Wells began working on a local level to expose the horrors of lynching.


  • The U.S. Supreme Court rules that African-Americans cannot be excluded from a jury based on race in Strauder v. West Virginia.


  • The Tennessee State Legislature votes to segregate railroad passenger cars.
  • Spelman College is established by Sophia B. Packard and Harriet E. Giles. The institution is the first for African-American women in the United States.
  • Booker T. Washington establishes Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.


  • The first state mental hospital for African-Americans is opened in Virginia. The hospital is located in Petersburg.
  • History of the Negro Race in America from 1619 to 1880 is published by George Washington Williams. The text is considered the first comprehensive history of African-American culture to be written.
  • The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 is voided by the U.S. Supreme Court.


  • A new trend begins in the electoral process: no African-Americans are elected to serve in the 50th Congress. At the same time, voter intimidation keeps many African-American men from participating in the voting process.
  • The Civil Rights Act of 1875 is considered invalid by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision is known as the Civil Rights Cases and declares that the federal government cannot keep businesses or individuals from discriminating against others on the basis of race.
  • Abolitionist and women's advocate Sojourner Truth dies.
  • A group of white residents in the town of Danville, Va. take control of the local government. In the process, four African-Americans are killed.


  • Judy W. Reed, inventor of the dough kneader and roller, becomes the first African-American woman to receive a patent.
  • Granville T. Woods establishes the Woods Railway Telegraph Company in Columbus, Ohio. Woods' company manufactures and sells telephone and telegraph equipment.


  • Episcopal Priest Samuel David Ferguson becomes the first ordained bishop in the Episcopal Church.


  • An estimated 75,000 African-Americans are members of the Knights of Labor.
  • Norris Wright Cuney is appointed chairman of the Texas Republican Party. In this position, he is the first African-American to lead a major political party at the state level in the United States.


  • Florida segregates railroad passenger cars.
  • The directors of Major League Baseball prohibited the African-American players from joining the league.
  • The National Colored Baseball League is established, becoming the first professional African-American league. The league begins with eight teams-the Lord Baltimores, Resolutes, Browns, Falls City, Gorhams, Pythians, Pittsburgh Keystones, and the Capital City Club. However, within two weeks the National Colored Baseball League will cancel games as a result of poor attendance.
  • The National Colored Farmer's Alliance is founded in Texas.


  • Mississippi segregates its railroad passenger cars.
  • The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of the Reformers and Capital Savings Bank of Washington D.C. are established. Both are considered the first African-American owned and operated banks.


  • Florida institutes the poll tax in an effort to keep African-American men from voting. Florida is the first state to use the poll tax.
  • Frederick Douglass is appointed as the Prime Minister of Haiti.