Tennessee State Library and Archives


Year State and National Events Slavery and Racial Issues African American Institutions and Accomplishments
1871 The Ku Klux Klan Act becomes law, allowing President Grant to suspend habeas corpus in enforcing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

Grant acts on testimony from victims of Klan violence in the South: he quickly sends in federal troops to suppress the KKK.

The last of a series of anti-Klan Enforcement Acts is passed, providing protection to African Americans voting in federal elections.
The General Assembly begins the practice of leasing prisoners to work in the mines.  By 1884 a coal company leases the entire prison population.  During the 42nd U.S. Congress, there are five black members serving in the House of Representatives.

LeMoyne College (later LeMoyne-Owen College) opens in Memphis with nearly 300 students and three active departments.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers leave Nashville on their first American concert tour to raise money for the college.  Among them is Greene E. Evans.
1872 Vanderbilt University is chartered under the name of  Central University of the Methodist Episcopal Church. 

At the Liberal Republican Convention in Cincinnati, leaders of the party nominate newspaperman Horace Greeley as their Presidential candidate.

President Grant signs the Amnesty Act, restoring full civil rights to all
white Southern men except about 500 former Confederate leaders .

At the Republican Convention in Philadelphia, the party re-nominates Ulysses S. Grant on the first ballot.

Congress terminates the Freedmen’s Bureau. 

The Democratic party also nominates Horace Greeley for President.  [See entry for May 1, 1872]

Ulysses S. Grant  is re-elected with a popular majority of 763,000 and an
electoral college majority of 286-66 over opponent Horace Greeley.
Dec. 9             
The Fisk Jubilee Singers perform for the Vice President and members of Congress but are forced to leave their hotel because of their race.  The Memphis Weekly Planet becomes West Tennessee’s first African American newspaper

Charlotte Ray graduates from Harvard University.  She is the first African American woman lawyer in the US.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers perform for President Grant at the White House.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers embark on a concert tour of Great Britain that will earn $50,000 for the university.  They will perform before royalty.

John Henry Conyers of South Carolina becomes the first black student at the Annapolis Naval Academy. 

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback of Louisiana becomes the nation’s first African American governor.
1873 The Panic of 1873 plunges the nation into a depression. The New York Tribune publishes a series of articles accusing black lawmakers in South Carolina of corruption.

Frederick Douglass, speaking in Nashville, urges black Tennesseans to stay and fight for racial justice rather than to join the Black Exodus west.
James T. Rapier, educated in Nashville’s free black schools, becomes the first black Congressman from Alabama. 

Samson W. Keeble (ca. 1833-1887) takes his seat as the first African American member of the Tennessee State Legislature.

Samson W. Keeble introduces House Bill No. 506, to protect laborers, and to secure their wages.

In the Colfax Massacre in Louisiana a white paramilitary group clashes with the state militia, which is largely black.  Dozens die.
1874 Democrats control both Houses of Congress for the first time since before the Civil War.

Reports of Southern violence, political corruption, and economic depression will allow the Democrats to take control of Congress in 1875.
The Freedmen’s Bank closes.  Half the depositors eventually recover about 60% of their money; others receive nothing.  
1875 Knoxville College opens during this year as a normal school initially offering classes from first grade through college level.
Andrew Johnson is elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat from TN.

The Forty-Fourth Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which outlaws racial segregation in public facilities on juries. 

The Tennessee Legislature passes House Bill No. 527 permitting racial discrimination in transportation, lodging, and places of entertainment.

Chapter XC of the Acts of Tennessee 1875 orders the creation of a state normal school, a State Board of Education, and segregated schools.

Andrew Johnson dies of a stroke and is buried in Greeneville, Tennessee.

The Inaugural Exercises of the State Normal College are held in the General Assembly.  This institution accepts only whites.

A bitterly disputed Presidential election takes place between candidates Samuel J. Tilden (D) and Rutherford B. Hayes (R).

Because of allegations of voting fraud in four states, there is no certain victory in the Presidential election.  Both candidates claim victory. 
Black preacher Hezekiah Hanley holds a celebration of racial unity in  Memphis, inviting Nathan Bedford Forrest and other former Confederates 

Black preacher Hezekiah Hanley holds a celebration of racial unity in  Memphis, inviting Nathan Bedford Forrest and other former confederates 
Blanche Kelso Bruce takes his seat as the US Senator from Mississippi, the first African American Senator to serve a full six-year term.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers return to the U.S., having raised $50,000 for the University during a year-long British tour.  Styles L. Hutchins graduates from U. of South Carolina Law School.

William F. Yardley, a Knoxville politician, becomes the first African American to campaign for governor of Tennessee.

The Colored National Convention meets in the House Chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly. 

Meharry Medical College, the first American college for the training of African American physicians, opens in Nashville. 
Edward Bouchet becomes the first African American to receive a Ph.D. from an American institution (Yale University). 
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