Cheyney University was founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, making it the oldest HBCU in the nation
Sign for "colored" waiting room at a Greyhound bus terminal in Rome, Georgia, 1943. Throughout the South there were Jim Crow laws creating "de jure" legally required segregation
King in 1964
President George H. W. Bush signs a new Executive Order on historically black colleges and universities in the White House Rose Garden, April 1989
"We Cater to White Trade Only" sign on a restaurant window in Lancaster, Ohio in 1938. Ohio, like most of the North and West did not have de jure statutory enforced segregation (Jim Crow laws), but in many places still had social segregation (de facto) in the early 20th century.
King's childhood home in Atlanta, Georgia
North Carolina A&T State University is the largest HBCU in the nation.
An African-American man drinking at a "colored" drinking fountain in a streetcar terminal in Oklahoma City, 1939.
The high school that King attended was named after African-American educator Booker T. Washington.
Vice President Kamala Harris with black students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities
A black man goes into the "colored" entrance of a movie theater in Belzoni, Mississippi, 1939.
King received a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Crozer Theological Seminary (pictured in 2009).
Booker T. Washington, educator, orator, and advisor (Hampton)
Although the ban on interracial marriage ended in California in 1948, entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. faced a backlash for his involvement with a white woman in 1957
Martin Luther King, Jr. with his wife, Coretta Scott King, and daughter, Yolanda Denise King, in 1956
W. E. B. Du Bois, sociologist, historian, and activist (Fisk)
Colored Sailors room in World War I
King (left) with civil rights activist Rosa Parks (right) in 1955
Thurgood Marshall, first Black Supreme Court justice (Lincoln, Howard)
A black military policeman on a motorcycle in front of the "colored" MP entrance during World War II
King first rose to prominence in the civil rights movement while minister of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
Martin Luther King Jr., leader of the civil rights movement (Morehouse)
Negro section of keypunch operators at the U.S. Census Bureau
King led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and later became co-pastor with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta (pulpit and sanctuary pictured).
Toni Morrison, acclaimed novelist and Nobel laureate (Howard)
Founded by former Confederate soldiers after the Civil War (1861–1865), the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) used violence and intimidation to prevent blacks from voting, holding political office and attending school
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy with King, Benjamin Mays, and other civil rights leaders, June 22, 1963
Jesse Jackson, minister and politician (North Carolina A&T)
Stand in the Schoolhouse Door: Governor George Wallace attempts to block the enrollment of black students at the University of Alabama.
King was arrested in 1963 for protesting the treatment of blacks in Birmingham.
Ruth Simmons, first African-American president in the Ivy League (Dillard)
White tenants seeking to prevent blacks from moving into the Sojourner Truth housing project erected this sign. Detroit, 1942.
Leaders of the March on Washington posing in front of the Lincoln Memorial
Samuel L. Jackson, actor and film producer (Morehouse)
A sign posted above a bar that reads "No beer sold to Indians" (Native Americans). Birney, Montana, 1941.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963)
Oprah Winfrey, talk show host and media mogul (Tenn State)
Discrimination in a restaurant in Juneau, Alaska in 1908: "All White Help."
King gave his most famous speech, "I Have a Dream", before the Lincoln Memorial during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Spike Lee, film director and producer (Morehouse)
The Rex theater for colored people, Leland, Mississippi, 1937
King at a press conference in March 1964
Kamala Harris, Vice President of the United States (Howard)
Residential segregation in Milwaukee, the most segregated city in America according to the 2000 US Census. The cluster of blue dots represent black residents.
The civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in 1965
Taraji P. Henson, actress (Howard)
A "Colored School" in South Carolina, ca.1878
King standing behind President Johnson as he signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Common, rapper and actor (Florida A&M)
President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with King in the White House Cabinet Room in 1966
Chadwick Boseman actor and playwright (Howard)
King speaking to an anti-Vietnam war rally at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul on April 27, 1967
A shantytown established in Washington, D. C. to protest economic conditions as a part of the Poor People's Campaign
The Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated, is now the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
The sarcophagus for Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King is within the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta, Georgia.
Martin Luther King Jr. statue over the west entrance of Westminster Abbey, installed in 1998
Banner at the 2012 Republican National Convention
King at the 1963 Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C.
King worked alongside Quakers such as Bayard Rustin to develop nonviolent tactics.
The only meeting of King and Malcolm X, outside the United States Senate chamber, March 26, 1964, during the Senate debates regarding the (eventual) Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The FBI–King suicide letter, mailed anonymously by the FBI
King showing his medallion, which he received from Mayor Wagner, 1964

During the period of segregation prior to the Civil Rights Act, the great majority of institutions of higher education served predominantly white students, and disqualified or limited black American enrollment.

- Historically black colleges and universities

Among the graduates of HBCUs are civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., United States Vice President Kamala Harris, United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Virginia governor Douglas Wilder, and former president of Brown University Ruth Simmons.

- Historically black colleges and universities

The American Missionary Association supported the development and establishment of several historically black colleges including Fisk University and Shaw University.

- Racial segregation in the United States

King witnessed his father stand up against segregation and various forms of discrimination.

- Martin Luther King Jr.

During King's junior year in high school, Morehouse College—an all-male historically black college that King's father and maternal grandfather had attended—began accepting high school juniors who passed the school's entrance examination.

- Martin Luther King Jr.

The Chicago suburb of Cicero, for example, was made famous when Civil Rights advocate Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led a march advocating open (race-unbiased) housing.

- Racial segregation in the United States
Cheyney University was founded in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth, making it the oldest HBCU in the nation

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African Americans

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Ethnic group consisting of Americans with partial or total ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa.

Ethnic group consisting of Americans with partial or total ancestry from sub-Saharan Africa.

Slaves processing tobacco in 17th-century Virginia, illustration from 1670
The first slave auction at New Amsterdam in 1655, illustration from 1895 by Howard Pyle
Reproduction of a handbill advertising a slave auction in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1769
Crispus Attucks, the first "martyr" of the American Revolution. He was of Native American and African-American descent.
Frederick Douglass, ca 1850
Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia, 1853. Note the new clothes. The domestic slave trade broke up many families, and individuals lost their connection to families and clans.
Harriet Tubman, around 1869
A group of White men pose for a 1919 photograph as they stand over the Black victim Will Brown who had been lynched and had his body mutilated and burned during the Omaha race riot of 1919 in Omaha, Nebraska. Postcards and photographs of lynchings were popular souvenirs in the U.S.
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after being arrested for not giving up her seat on a bus to a White person
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963, shows civil rights leaders and union leaders
Black Lives Matter protest in response to the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in July 2016
Proportion of African Americans in each U.S. state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as of the 2020 United States Census
U.S. Census map indicating U.S. counties with fewer than 25 Black or African-American inhabitants
Graph showing the percentage of the African-American population living in the American South, 1790–2010. Note the major declines between 1910 and 1940 and 1940–1970, and the reverse trend post-1970. Nonetheless, the absolute majority of the African-American population has always lived in the American South.
Former slave reading, 1870
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson is director of New York City's Hayden Planetarium
The US homeownership rate according to race
This graph shows the real median US household income by race: 1967 to 2011, in 2011 dollars.
"Lift Every Voice and Sing" being sung by the family of Barack Obama, Smokey Robinson and others in the White House in 2014
Genetic clustering of 128 African Americans, by Zakharaia et al. (2009). Each vertical bar represents an individual. The color scheme of the bar plot matches that in the PCA plot.
Al Sharpton led the Commitment March: Get Your Knee Off Our Necks protest on August 28, 2020.
Although the ban on interracial marriage ended in California in 1948, entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. faced a backlash for his involvement with a White woman in 1957
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remains the most prominent political leader in the American civil rights movement and perhaps the most influential African-American political figure in general.
BET founder Robert L. Johnson with former U.S. President George W. Bush
A traditional soul food dinner consisting of fried chicken with macaroni and cheese, collard greens, breaded fried okra and cornbread
Mount Zion United Methodist Church is the oldest African-American congregation in Washington, D.C.
Masjid Malcolm Shabazz in Harlem, New York City
This parade float displayed the word "Afro-Americans" in 1911.
Michelle Obama was the First Lady of the United States; she and her husband, President Barack Obama, are the first African Americans to hold these positions.
Racially segregated Negro section of keypunch operators at the US Census Bureau

These circumstances changed due to participation in the military conflicts of the United States, substantial migration out of the South, the elimination of legal racial segregation, and the civil rights movement which sought political and social freedom.

To maintain self-esteem and dignity, African Americans such as Anthony Overton and Mary McLeod Bethune continued to build their own schools, churches, banks, social clubs, and other businesses.

In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., African Americans and their supporters challenged the nation to "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed that all men are created equal..."