Timeline: The Life and Times of William Still (1821-1902)

A timeline charting the life of William Still
Year Local Events National Events

Charity Still

Abolitionist, writer and businessman William Still is born in Burlington County near Medford, New Jersey. Both of Still’s parents, Levin Steel and Sidney, were held in bondage in Maryland. Levin changed his last name to Still and Sidney changed her first name to Charity to protect each other from re-enslavement once they escaped. William was the youngest of their eighteen children. Some of the names of his brothers and sisters were Peter, Levin, Mahalah, Kitturah, James and Samuel Still.

U.S. Census data shows that there are 32,153 free Africans and 211 enslaved Africans in Pennsylvania of which 11,891 resided in Philadelphia.

Blacks are disfranchised through Missouri law.

The Black Republic of Liberia was established with support from the American Colonization Society.

New York restricts black male suffrage by establishing property qualifications of $250 and longer residence requirements for blacks than whites.

Interracial marriages are outlawed through Maine law, which includes the nullifying of marriages already in existence.

Daniel Coker leads African Americans in the establishment of the first American colony of Liberia established on the west coast of Africa.

 1822 Philadelphia's Black population increased with the arrival of migrants from Charleston, South Carolina, including people of Haitian descent. An elaborate armed struggle involving thousands of enslaved Africans in South Carolina planned by Denmark Vesey, a free Black sailor and carpenter, is betrayed by house slaves. Vesey and thirty six others are hanged.
 1823   Nicholas Biddle becomes president of the Bank of the United States.

Richard Allen leads emigration effort, and with James Forten, organizes the Haitian Emigration Society of Philadelphia.

Black Philadelphians emigrate to Haiti, including Richard Allen’s two sons and Robert Douglass, Jr.

Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice (1808-1860) gave his first solo in blackface, introducing the song and dance, Jim Crow.
President Jean Pierre Boyer sends agents to the United States to charter ships and recruit skilled free blacks to emigrate to Haiti.
 1825 Many of the Black emigrants, who migrated to Haiti, returned to the United States by the Fall.

William Whipper writes Eulogy on William Wilberforce.

Slavery is abolished in the British Empire.


Pennsylvania Colonization Society is founded.

Legislative act was passed in New Jersey that provided for the return of fugitive slaves to their owners.

Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th.
 1827 James Forten published an attack on the American Colonization Society in the Freedom's Journal. The first Black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, primarily an antislavery newspaper, is published by John Russworm and Samuel Cornish.  In it was stated, "We wish to plead our cause. Too long others have spoken for us.  Too long has the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly..."  The newspaper served as a powerful vessel for the struggle to increase the rights of free Blacks as well as the anti-slavery movement.
 1828 Lawless whites assault black women and other guests arriving at an African Fancy ball on South Street on February 28 in Philadelphia.
St. Thomas African Episcopal Church becomes the first black church to purchase a pipe organ. Ann Appo is hired as the church organist.
The African Observer, an antislavery journal in Philadelphia, begins publication.
Noah Webster published the American Dictionary of the English Language.
 1829 Sarah Mapps Douglass established a school for African-American children in Philadelphia.

David Walker, a free black, issues his famous anti-slavery pamphlet, Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the United States.  Walker wrote, "America is more our country than it is the white - we have enriched it with our blood and tears. The greatest riches in all America have arisen from our blood and tears: And they will drive us from our property and homes, which we have earned with our blood." This radical manifesto urges slaves to revolt against their inhumane conditions.  In South Carolina a $1500 reward was issued to anyone who found distributors of Walker’s Appeal.

Robert Alexander Young wrote his work entitled The Ethiopian Manifesto, issued in defence of the black man's rights, in the scale of universal freedom.

Samuel Cornish started the newspaper Rights of All.


Richard Allen chairs the first national Black convention, held in Philadelphia at the Mother Bethel AME Church.  The historic meeting drew 38 delegates from eight states to discuss the various moral and social issues relevant to African Americans, including emigration to Canada, and boycotting consumer goods made by slave labor.

U.S. Census data shows that there are 37,930 free Africans and 403 enslaved Africans in Pennsylvania of which 15,624 resided in Philadelphia.

James Forten, Sr. owns a sail making business which employs over 40 black and white laborers.

There are 2,328,642 Blacks in the U.S. (18.1% of total population) and over two million are enslaved.






The Liberator The first Colored Female Society is organized in Philadelphia.

William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879) begins publication of The Liberator, an antislavery journal during January. James Forten assisted him by collecting funds for subscriptions from Philadelphia Blacks.

Girard College

The Convocation of the First Annual Convention of the People of Color at Wesleyan Church in Philadelphia was held. Delegates from five states discussed various plans such as Black migration to Canada and fundraising for an industrial college.

Girard College is established for white males with funds illegally taken from Toussaint L’Overture during the Haitian Revolution.

The Confessions of Nat Turner




Nat Turner launches a liberation movement in Southhampton County, Virginia from August 21-23. Sixty whites are killed in this insurrection.  Turner is later hanged November 11th.


Life in PhiladelphiaThomas Rice appeared at the Walnut Street Theatre where he introduced his famous tune Jim Crow to Philadelphia.

Anti black riots begin in Philadelphia. Five occur between 1932 and 1849.
The Second Annual Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Color in these United States is held in Philadelphia, focusing on the importance of education for Blacks.

The Life, Experience, and Gospel Labors of the Right Reverend Richard Allen is published in Philadelphia.

Free Blacks petition the Pennsylvania state legislature to admit their children to public schools on the grounds that they pay taxes that support public education. The petition is denied.

Blacks in Philadelphia establish the Banneker Society, a literary organization.

The first railroad streetcar begins operation in New York City.

The American Anti-Slavery Society is formed in Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Female Anti-Slavery Society was organized in Philadelphia by Black and white women abolitionists, including Lucretia Mott, Grace Douglass, Sarah Douglass, Sarah Forten, Harriet Forten, Marguerite Forten, Mary Grew, Sarah Pugh, Elizabeth Neall and Abby Kimber at 107 N. 5th Street.

African Americans in Philadelphia organized the Library Company of Colored Persons as a repository of books.  The company sponsored concerts and lectures and is incorporated in 1837.

The 4th national Black convention meets in Philadelphia.


White mobs in Philadelphia begin a three-day riot that destroys The African Presbyterian Church; they also burn Black residents, and attack Black citizens.

The Minerva Literary Association of Philadelphia is founded by African American women.

Philadelphia Anti-Slavery Society is founded.

Slavery is abolished throughout the British Empire.

Henry Blair is the first Black to obtain a U.S. Patent for a corn planter.

The Fifth Convention for the Improvement of Free People of Color meets at Wesley Church in Philadelphia.

Black Seminoles begin the largest slave rebellion in the United States.

A.M.E. Book Concern is founded.

The Reverend Jarena Lee (1783-?) published The Life and Religious Experiences of Jarena Lee, a Coloured Lady. The book becomes the first autobiography by a Black woman.


Blacks in Pennsylvania lose their right to vote, after a ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court excludes Blacks from suffrage, although the official disenfranchisement law was not passed until the following year.  Blacks in Pennsylvania were restricted from voting until the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870.

The Institute for Colored Youth, that later became Cheyney State Training School for Teachers, was established in Pennsylvania.

Legislative act of 1826 was amended to allow for a review by three justices and the privilege of a jury trial to fugitive slaves.


Image of Pennsylvania Hall burningThe U.S. State Department rejects the application of a Philadelphia African American for a passport, on the grounds that the Pennsylvania constitution does not recognize Blacks as citizens.

Pennsylvania passed a new constitution that denied free Black males the right to vote.

Blacks hold a mass meeting in Philadelphia to protest the Pennsylvania Reform Convention of 1837’s action to denied Blacks the right to vote.

The present state and condition of the free people of color...

Robert Purvis publishes Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens Threatened with Disfranchisement to the People of Pennsylvania.

The Anti-Slavery Society erected Pennsylvania Hall which was burnt to the ground on May 17 by a mob four days after it opened. (Image of the burning of Pennsylvania Hall courtesy of:  Haverford College Quaker and Special Collections)

Abolitionist Report on The Present State And Condition Of The Free People Of Colour Of The City of Philadelphia And Adjoining Districts, As Exhibited By The Report Of A Committee Of The Philadelphia Society For The Promotion Of The Abolition Of Slavery &c., taken early in 1837 is published.

Frank Johnson, one of America’s first Black bandleaders and composers, gives a command performance before England’s Queen Victoria at Buckingham Palace.


Octavius V. Catto is born on February 22.

Joseph Cinque, a young African leader, and his followers revolted against their captors and took over the slave ship L’Amistad. The Africans landed in Montauk, Long Island. They were defended before the Supreme Court by former president John Quincy Adams and were awarded their freedom.

The U.S. House of Representatives votes not to receive antislavery petitions.


U.S. Census data shows that there are 47,854 free Africans and 64 enslaved Africans in Pennsylvania of which 19,833 resided in Philadelphia.

Black Philadelphian, John Lewis, lectured on “The Life and Character of Toussaint L’Overture.”

Lucretia Mott, Lydia Maria Child and Maria Weston Chapman served as executive committee for the Boston Female Anti-slavery Society.


Sketches of the Higher Classes of Colored in Philadelphia is published.

The Africans from the Amistad arrived in Philadelphia.

William Still left home to work on neighboring farms.

The U.S. Supreme Court free Joseph Cinque and other Africans in the Amistad ship mutiny, ruling that they were free persons.

Solomon Northrup (1808-c.1893), a free black, is kidnapped and sold into slavery.

Frederick Douglass begins career as abolitionist writer and speaker.


In Prigg v. Pennsylvania, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that states have no power over cases that arise from the Fugitive Slave Act, thus preventing states from helping or hindering fugitive slaves.

White mob in Philadelphia attacks a parade of Blacks commemorating the abolition of slavery in the West Indies.

James Forten dies on March 4.

Seminole War ends; Indians are removed from Florida and sent to Oklahoma.


A meeting was held on December 28 at the First Presbyterian Church to establish an Underground Railroad committee.

Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) begins abolitionist work, becoming one of the first black women abolitionist lecturers.

Martin R. Delany founded The Mystery, an antislavery newspaper, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


William Still moved to Philadelphia and worked at various jobs.

Macon Bolling Allen of Maine becomes the first African American admitted to the legal profession.


Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave/written by Himself is published.

Frederick Douglass departs for a speaking tour in England.


Robert Douglass Jr. was committed to the antislavery movement.

Norbert Rillieux, a Black inventor, obtained his first patent on a process to refine sugar which became standard in the sugar industry.


William Still married Letitia George, a skilled dressmaker and they had four children.

William Still found employment in the office of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.

Caroline Virginia Still, daughter of Letitia and William Still, is born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 1.

New Jersey law disfranchises blacks.

Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave/written by Himself is published.

Dred Scott filed a lawsuit in St. Louis, Missouri, claiming freedom because he has lived for a while in a free territory.

Frederick Douglass begins publishing the pivotal abolitionist newspaper, The North Star during December. The newspaper serves as a platform against slavery.


Quaker and abolitionist, Thomas Garrett was convicted in Delaware for aiding enslaved children.

Ellen and William Craft escape from slavery to Philadelphia and freedom.

On February 2, The Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo was signed and later ratified by both the U.S. and Mexican Congresses, annexing the northern portions of Mexico to the United States.


Henry "Box" Brown

In one of the most ingenious African escape plans in U.S. history, Virginia slave Henry Brown, boxed by Samuel A. Smith, was transported to freedom by fitting his 5’8”, 200 lb. frame into a wooden box headed north. After traveling 27 hours and 350 miles, he arrived in Philadelphia, where he was given the nickname Henry “Box” Brown to commemorate his brave escape to freedom.

Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Henry Bibb: an American Slave/written by Himself is published.

Harriet Tubman escaped from a life of slavery on the Eastern Shores of Maryland, finding freedom in Philadelphia.  Later, Tubman, or “Moses” as she was called, rescued other enslaved Africans by making liberation trips back into the South.


Peter Still

Twelve days after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, Martin R. Delany expressed his position before a large crowd in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Henry Johnson and Isaac Parvis become the first African Americans in Philadelphia to practice law.

During August, William Still’s brother Peter Still arrived in Philadelphia, after escaping from bondage.

The Fugitive Slave Act is passed by Congress as part of the Compromise of 1850.


On September 11, African American men and women resisted slave catchers at Christiana, Pennsylvania.

On January 25, Sojourner Truth addressed first Black Women's Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio.


Abolitionist John Rock graduated from the American Medical College in Philadelphia.

In response to the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, Harriet Beecher Stowe writes her seminal work, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  The best-selling book helped to rally national support for the abolition cause.

Martin R. Delany publishes The Condition, Elevation, Emigration, and Destiny of the Colored People of the United States, the first major statement of the black nationalist position.

On July 5th, noted abolitionist Frederick Douglass delivers his famous “Fourth of July” speech at Corinthian Mall in Rochester, NY.  Douglass posed the question, "What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?"The speech examined the ironies of celebrating independence in a society with inherently unequal political conditions for Blacks and Whites.


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper moved to Philadelphia and lived in an Underground Railroad station. 

Clotel; or, The President’s Daughter: A Narrative of Slave Life in the United States by William Wells Brown is published as the first African American novel.


Lincoln University, one of the first black colleges, is chartered as Ashmun Institute in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Banneker Institute was founded.


William Still travelled to Canada where he visited communities of African Americans settled there because of the existence of slavery in U.S.

More than one hundred delegates from six states held a black convention in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia free blacks appeal to U.S. Congress for the right to vote.

Free Soilers establish government in Kansas, banning Blacks and slavery.


James Blockson, an ancestor of Charles L. Blockson escapes from slavery in Seaford, Delaware.

The Kidnapped and the Ransomed. Being the Personal Recollection of Peter Still and his wife “Vina,” after Forty Years of Slavery is published.


Black Presbyterian minister, William T. Catto, published a semi-centenary history of First African Presbyterian church in Philadelphia.

Dred Scott In the case of Dred Scott, the US Supreme Court rules against the citizenship of Blacks, declaring that Blacks have no law a white man is bound to respect.  The decision opened up the Northern Territory to slavery.


William Still started a campaign to end racial discrimination on the railroad cars in Philadelphia.

The first part of Martin Delany's Blake is published. It is the story of an African American who chooses violent rebellion as opposed to the passive subservience of the main character in Uncle Tom's Cabin.

John Brown launches a raid on the military arsenal at Harpers Ferry, West  Virginia alongside thirteen White men and five Black men. During the suprising, two of the five Blacks were killed, two were captured and one escaped. John Brown was later hanged in Charlestown, West Virginia.

Our Nig; or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two-Story White House, North. Showing that Slavery's Shadows Fall even There by Harriet E. Wilson is published.


William Still hid his record books and papers in the loft of the Lebanon Cemetery building.

Abraham Lincoln is elected U.S. President.  The state of South Carolina leaves the Union. The division over states’ rights erupted into the Civil War.

U.S. population: 31,443,790 and Black population 4,441,790 (14.1%).

Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom; or The Escape of William and Ellen Craft from Slavery is published.


William Still concluded his work in the antislavery office but continued his association with the society.

Still helped organize and finance a social, civil, and statistical association to collect statistics about Negroes.

William Still opened a coal yard.

Confederate soldiers attack Fort Sumter, Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1961. In response, President Lincoln calls in 75,000 troops to squash the rebellion on April 15th.

Later that year, Congress passes the Confiscation Act, which frees the slaves of all rebels.

On August 30, John C. Fremont issues a proclamation freeing the slaves of Missouri. President Lincoln revokes the proclamation.


Frederick Douglass’ delivered a speech on the War delivered in National Hall in Philadelphia on January 14.

President Lincoln sends a message to Congress recommending gradual and compensated emancipation.

Federal, state, and local governments begin to distribute free land to railroads.  Between 1862 and 1890, the railroads acquire 180 million acres of free land, an area equal in seize to New York and the six New England states.

Congress authorizes the president to accept Blacks into military service.

Congress abolishes slavery in Washington, D.C. on April 16th. 


Frederick Douglass attended a mass meeting, held at National Hall, Philadelphia, July 6, for the promotion of colored enlistments.

In 1896 Lewis Baxter Moore (1866-1928) made history when he became the first African American to earn his Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Pennsylvania. At the time Moore wrote his dissertation "The Stage in Sophocles' Plays" and completed his doctorate in the classics department at Penn, only four other African Americans had earned doctor of philosophy degrees at any university. Moore, a native of Alabama, came to Penn after earning his A.B. and A.M. degrees from Fisk University

President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st.  The Emancipation Proclamation liberated slaves in the states that rebelled against the Union, but did not apply to slaves in border-states like West Virginia and Louisiana.

In May of 1863, the United States Congress establishes the Bureau of Colored Troops and launches aggressive campaign for the recruitment of soldiers.  At the same time, the Confederate Congress passed a resolution that branded black troops and their officers as criminals. Black soldiers in the South had to choose then between death and/or slavery.

Frederick Douglass, T. Morris Chester, and William Wells Brown recruited African American men to serve in the 54th Massachusetts Regiment from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

New York City Draft Riots started on July 13 and lasted four days, during which hundred black Americans were killed or wounded.


Camp William Penn William Still was appointed post sutler at Camp William Penn.

Congress passes bill equalizing pay, arms, equipment and medical services to black troops.


William Still volunteered for the Union Army.

As a result of William Still’s campaign, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law prohibiting discrimination on the railroad cars.

General William T. Sherman issued his Field Order No. 15 setting aside land for the exclusive settlement by blacks on the islands and coast of South Carolina, Georgia and northern Florida.

Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment on January 31st, which after its ratification on December 18, 1865, abolished slavery in the United States.

On February 1st, John S. Rock becomes the first black admitted to practice in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

In order to assist the newly freed slaves, Congress establishes the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands (Freedman’s Bureau) in March of 1865.

The Civil War officially ends in April. On the 14th of the April, President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.

Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson takes office in May, declaring his Plan of Reconstruction.

Blacks hold protest convention in Zion Church in Charleston and demanded equal rights and repeal of the Black Codes.

In May, President Johnson offers amnesty to most Confederates. Under the amnesty plan, southern planters reclaim abandoned lands occupied by freedmen.

Mississippi legislature enacts Black Codes that restrict the rights and freedom of movement of freedmen. The Black Codes in Southern states virtually re-enslaved free blacks.

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens offered amendment to Freedmen’s Bureau bill authorizing the distribution of public land and confiscated land to freedmen and loyal refugees in forty-acre lots.  The measure was defeated in the House by a vote of 126 to 37.

Black delegation, led by Frederick Douglass, called on President Johnson and urged ballots for formerly enslaved Africans. The meeting ended in disagreement with Johnson opposing black suffrage.

African Americans begin building hundreds of schools and independent churches throughout the South.


There was a cholera epidemic in Philadelphia.

The Civil Rights Bill is passed, despite a veto by the president. The bill extends citizenship to all Blacks in the United States, and offers the same rights given to Whites.

On June 13, 1866 the Fourteenth Amendment is passed by the House. The amendment extended and solidified the civil rights of African Americans, particularly in terms of political representation and inclusion and protection from racial discrimination.

Edward G. Walker, the son of abolitionist David Walker, and Charles L. Mitchell were the first blacks to serve in an American legislative assembly when they were elected to the Massachusetts assembly.

Freedmen vote for the first time in the elections of 1867-1868.

Memphis massacre occurs. On May 1-3, white civilians and police killed forty-six African Americans and injured many more, burning ninety house, twelve schools, and four churches in Memphis, Tennessee.

Police massacre occurs. Police in New Orleans stormed a Republican meeting of blacks and whites on July 30, killing more than 40 and wounding more than 150.

The Ku Klux Klan is founded to terrorize and intimidate blacks and other ethnic and religious minorities, first met in Maxwell House, Memphis. The Klan was the first of many secret terrorist organizations organized in the South for the purpose of re-establishing white authority.


A Brief Narrative of the Struggle for the Rights of the Colored People... William Still writes A Brief Narrative of the Struggle for the Rights of the Colored People of Philadelphia in the City Railway Cars.


A Philadelphia law forbids segregation in public conveniences.


The Pythian Base Ball Club celebrated its first full season.

The first of a succession of Reconstruction acts is passed by Congress.

Reconstruction of the South began with the registering of black and white voters in the South.


William Still’s brother Peter Still died in New Jersey.

Hampton Institute opens during April.


Black delegates Robert B. Elliott, Joseph H. Rainey, and John R. Lynch deliver addresses at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.

Hiram R. Revels becomes the first Black U.S. senator, elected by the Mississippi legislature.

U.S. population: 39,818,449 and Black population: 4,880,009.

The Fifteenth Amendment is passed. The Fifteenth Amendment extended the right to vote to all men regardless of, “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Congress passed the first Enforcement Act, which enforced stiff penalties for public officials and private citizens who deprived citizens of the suffrage and civil rights. The measure authorized the use of the U.S. Army to protect the rights of African Americans.

The first African Americans are elected to the House of Representatives. In South Carolina, Black Republicans Joseph Rainey, Robert DeLarge and Robert B. Elliott won three of the four congressional seats.


Octavius V. Catto

Octavius V. Catto was murdered during the elections.

The Anti-Slavery Society asked William Still to write a book about the Underground Railroad.




African Americans Josiah T. Walls of Florida and Benjamin Turner of Alabama are elected to Congress.



William Still’s book The Underground Railroad is published.

The Republican National Convention convenes in Philadelphia with considerable representation from African American political leaders.


P.B.S. Pinchback, a Black man from Louisiana, is elected to the House of Representatives.  He was elected to the U.S. Senate the next year.


Businessman and philanthropist Stephen Smith died.

The Forty-third Congress convenes with seven Black congressmen: Richard H. Cain, Robert Brown Elliott, Joseph H. Rainey, Alonso J. Ransier, James T. Rapier, Josiah T. Wells, and John R. Lynch.

Congressman Alonzo J. Ransier (R-SC) speaks forcefully in favor of the Civil Rights Act sponsored by Senator Charles Sumner, the bill is eventually watered down and an important clause concerning integrated education is deleted; Ransier refuses to vote for the weakened bill.


William Still writes and publishes a pamphlet entitled An Address on Voting and Laboring in support of a reform candidate for mayor of Philadelphia.

Freedmen's Bank closes during June.


On April 14, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper delivered an address in Philadelphia at the Centennial Anniversary of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery where she outlined what needed to be done to achieve African American freedom.

Congress approved the Civil Rights Act on March 1, guaranteeing equal rights to Black Americans in public accommodation and jury duty.  The legislation was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 1883.

Blanche Kelso Bruce is elected to serve a six year tem in the US Senate as a representative for Mississippi.

Clinton Massacre was on September 4-6: more than 20 Black Americans were killed in a massacre in Clinton, Mississippi.


William Still exhibited his book at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

The U.S. Senate refuses to seat P.B.S. Pinchback, the African American political leader from Louisiana.  This exclusion signaled an increasing trend of hostility and violence directed at African American civic leaders.

A summer of race riots and terrorism directed at Blacks occurred in South Carolina.  President Grant sent federal troops to restore order.


Sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller is born in Philadelphia.

Federal troops who had occupied the South since the end of the Civil War were withdrawn by President Rutherford B. Hayes.  This act essentially brings the period of Reconstruction to an end, although Blacks were still able to engage in civic life, until new legal restrictions were introduced in the 1890s.


William Still organized one of the earliest YMCAs for Negro youth.

William Still served as a member of the Freedmen’s Aid Committee.

Still was a member of the Philadelphia Board of Trade.

On August 17, Caroline Still Wiley married Matthew Anderson, a Presbyterian minister. They had three daughters: Helen, Maude and Margaret.

Black and white sharecroppers become caught in a cycle of constant indebtedness until
1900.  African Americans begin to lose their right to vote.

In Stauder v. West Virginia the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the exclusion of blacks from jury duty is unconstitutional.


Architect Julian Abele was born on April 21.

The Philadelphia Police Department hired its first African American employees.

Tennessee paves the way for institutionalized racial segregation, when it introduces racially segregated Jim Crow railroad cars. Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana and other states followed this trend throughout the 1880s and 1890s.


Minister and civil rights activist, Robert W. Bagnall Jr., is born. He later would become rector of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Philadelphia (1933-1943).

The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 is unconstitutional.


The longest running African American newspaper, The Philadelphia Tribune, is founded by Christopher J. Perry.

African American journalist T. Thomas Fortune published the first issue of the New York Age.


Artist Henry Ossawa Tanner painted The Thankful Poor.

U.S. Congress repeals the Enforcement Act, making it easier for some states to disfranchise black voters.


Abolitionist Passmore Williamson died on February 1.

Frederick Douglass died on February 20 in Washington, D.C.

Booker T. Washington delivered his controversial “Atlanta Compromise” speech on September 18 in Atlanta, Georgia.


William Still serves until 1901 as vice-president and president of Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery.

As the first Black fellow appointed by the University of Pennsylvania, W.E.B. Du Bois began his sociological study on Black Philadelphia, published in 1899.

In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court rules in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson, that racial segregation, if “separate but equal” is legally permissible, after a Black shoemaker Homer Plessy refused to give up his seat and was forcibly removed from a New Orleans train in 1892. This landmark ruling legally mandated the widespread practice of segregation often referred to as “Jim Crow.”


The American Negro Historical Society was founded by a group of Philadelphia blacks with the mission to study and preserve materials documenting the American black experience.



Abolitionist Robert Purvis died on April 15.

Louisiana originates the “grandfather clause,” which qualified males to vote if their fathers or grandfathers were eligible to vote on or before January 1, 1867.  The provision excluded most blacks from voting; by 1910, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama and Oklahoma adopted the clause.

The Spanish-American War begins.  Members of the U.S. Tenth Colored Cavalry, accompany Theodore Roosevelt and his Rough Riders in Cuba during the charge up San Juan Hill.


W.E.B. Du Bois published his pionerring sociological study, The Philadelphia Negro.

Charles Chestnut published The Conjure Woman.


Reverend Charles A. Tindley wrote I'll Overcome Some Day

Booker T. Washington attended to dinner at the White House with President Theodore Roosevelt.

William Monroe Trotter established the Boston Guardian.


Colonel John C. McKee, a Negro millionaire, died in April at his resident at 1030 Lombard Street.

William Still died on July 14 at his home at 726 S. 19th Street in Philadelphia.  His funeral was held at the Central Presbyterian Church.  He left a widow and three children: Dr. Caroline Still Wiley Anderson, Miss E. Frances Still and William W. Still.  His estate was worth between $75,000 and $100,000.

There were eighty-five African Americans who were reported lynched.

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