1513: Ponce de León arrives in Florida. Juan Garrido, a free black conquistador, accompanies the expedition.
1693: King Charles II of Spain grants escaped slaves living in Florida their freedom as long as they convert to Catholicism and join the militia.
1821: Spain and the United States sign the Adams-Onís Treaty, which transfers Florida to the United States. The treaty guarantees United States citizenship to Spanish individuals who stay in Florida, including free blacks.
1857: In Dred Scott v. Sandford, the United States Supreme Court rules that moving to a free state did not cause Scott, a slave, to become emancipated.
1863: On January 1, President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation.
1863-1865: Black troops fight for the Union Army during the Civil War. Major battles in Florida involving black troops include Olustee and Natural Bridge.
1865: The Civil War ends and full emancipation goes into effect. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws slavery.
1868: The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants citizenship and equal protection under the law to African-Americans.
1870: The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees male citizens the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” It does not extend voting rights to women.
1871: Josiah Thomas Walls becomes Florida’s first black congressman.
1873: Florida law declares that no Florida citizen can be denied “full and equal enjoyment” of any theater, inn, railroad or place of amusement.
1877: Federal troops are withdrawn from the South as a result of the Compromise of 1876.
1885: Florida’s 1885 constitution legitimizes poll taxes as a prerequisite for voting, which disproportionately disenfranchises African-Americans and many poor whites who can't afford to pay the tax.
1896: The United States Supreme Court’s decision in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896 declares segregation legal as long as public facilities for blacks and whites are “separate but equal.”
1900: “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” written by James Weldon Johnson and his brother, John Rosamond Johnson, is first performed in Jacksonville. The song later becomes known as the Black National Anthem.
1904: Mary McLeod Bethune founds the Daytona Normal and Industrial School for Negro Girls.
1941: The United States enters World War II in 1941. African-Americans serve in the armed forces in segregated units. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Executive Order 8802, which prohibits racial discrimination in defense industries.
1947: A. Philip Randolph and Grant Reynolds form the Committee Against Jim Crow in Military Service and Training.
1948: President Harry S. Truman issues Executive Order 9981 calling for equal treatment in the armed services regardless of race, color, religion or national origin.
1954: In the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka the United States Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” facilities are inherently unequal and violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white passenger, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama.
1956: The Tallahassee bus boycott challenges segregated seating for the city bus system.
1960: Eight students arrested during a sit-in at a Woolworth lunch counter in downtown Tallahassee choose to remain in jail instead of paying their bail. This “jail-in” draws national attention.
1961: Interfaith Freedom Riders challenge segregated interstate buses by traveling from Washington, D.C. to Tallahassee, Florida. After successfully completing the journey, 10 Freedom Riders, later known as the Tallahassee Ten, were arrested for unlawful assembly when they attempted to eat in the segregated Tallahassee airport restaurant.
1964: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. joins other prominent civil rights leaders in protesting segregation in St. Augustine. The Civil Rights Act outlaws racial segregation in schools and public places, and bans the unequal application of voter registration requirements. It does not eliminate literacy tests used to exclude voters.
1965: The Voting Rights Act prohibits states from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure … to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.”
1968: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. The tragedy of King’s assassination provides added motivation to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which had been stalled in Congress. Also known as the Fair Housing Act, the bill prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion or national origin.