Tennessee State Library and Archives


Year State and National Events Slavery and Racial Issues African American Institutions and Accomplishments
1877 In the “Compromise of 1877,” the Republicans agree to abandon Reconstruction policies and restore “home rule” in exchange for the Presidency. 

Rutherford B. Hayes becomes President (1833-1887).  He quickly withdraws federal troops from the South, officially ending Reconstruction. 

The Nation reports “the great body of the Republican party [opposes] the policy of military interference and coercion as pursued by General Grant.”
The black prison population at the main prison in Nashville has now risen from 33% to 67%, far out of proportion to the general population. In spite of laws against educating slaves, “83 percent of the [2000] black officials [are] able to read and write”; 12 percent are lawyers or teachers.

Sampson W. Keeble is elected a magistrate in Davidson County, serving until 1882.

Henry Ossian Flipper becomes the first African American to graduate from West Point.
1878     James Carroll Napier is elected Nashville’s first black city councilman, serving 5 terms.  He will become Register of the US Treasury under Taft.

Thomas F. Cassels is appointed assistant attorney general in Memphis. 

John W. Boyd is elected as magistrate of the Ninth Civil District, Tipton County.
1879 East Tennessee University, one of the earliest land-grant colleges, is renamed the University of Tennessee.    
1880   Even at this late date, 50%-60% of rural freedmen continue to work as wage laborers, many on the same farms on which they were once slaves.

The 1880 Census shows that African Americans make up 13.1% of the U.S. population (6,580,793 of 50,155,783).

The National Baptist Convention, USA, has its beginnings in a meeting of 150 Baptist pastors in Montgomery, Alabama. 

1881 During 1881 the Tennessee Legislature passes the first “Jim Crow” law in the South, requiring the segregation of the races on railroad cars.

Isaac F. Norris introduces House Bill No. 33, relating to labor contracts between employer and employee.

Thomas A. Sykes introduces House Bill No. 70, proposing to end racial discrimination in the use of public facilities and transportation.

Thomas F. Cassels introduces House Bill No. 73, “to prohibit unlawful carnal intercourse of white persons with negroes".

Isaac F. Norris introduces House Bill No. 276, instructing the Tennessee University “to make arrangements for persons of color who may be entitled to admission.” 

Thomas A. Sykes  introduces House Bill No. 289, to admit black students into the schools for the blind and for the deaf and dumb.
Thomas F. Cassels introduces House Bill No. 312, “An Act to repeal Chapter 131 of an act passed March 19, 1879.” 

House Bill No. 33  (by Isaac F. Norris), relating to labor contracts,  passes its third reading by a vote of 38-25.

Isaac F. Norris 
introduces House Bill No. 510, concerning the payment of wages of laborers.

James A. Garfield is inaugurated the nation’s twentieth President (1881).

Thomas A. Sykes  introduces House Bill No. 560 , to eliminate discrimination in jury selection for circuit and criminal courts. 

On its third reading, Sykes’ House Bill No. 70  is rejected by a vote of 31-29 when five Republicans join Democrats in voting against it.

House Bill No. 73 is taken up as a special order.  A number of amendments are offered; the bill and all amendments are tabled.

Isaac F. Norris  introduces House Bill No. 682, concerning discrimination against railroad passengers (referring to Chapter 130, 1875) 

House Bill No. 289, admitting black students into the school for the blind and the school for the deaf and dumb, passes by a vote of 59-1.

The TN House passes a “compromise” bill, Senate Bill No. 342, permitting “separate but equal” facilities for African Americans on trains. 

The General Assembly passes a $10,000 appropriations bill for the State Normal College, augmented by a Peabody Scholarship grant. 

President James Garfield is shot by assassin Charles Guiteau.  Garfield will linger in the White House for weeks, mortally wounded.

President Garfield dies, more than eleven weeks after he was shot.  Chester A. Arthur from Vermont becomes the twenty-first President (1881-1885).
The Black Exodus to Kansas and other Western states, which began about 1872, slowly ends.  More than 2,400 have migrated from Nashville alone. 

Thomas F. Cassels 
introduces House Bill No. 478 to compensate families of the victims of mob violence. 

The four black legislators [Boyd, Cassels, Norris, and Sykes] file a protest against the rejection of House Bill No. 70.

The State Board of Education is authorized to spend “$10,000 annually for Normal School purposes”; $2,500 is reserved for “colored teachers.” 

The State Board of Education asks the governor to notify the legislature “that only $2,500 in gross is appropriated for the Colored Normal School.” 

The State Board of Education appropriates $50 per year for the education of each African American scholarship student. 
John W. Boyd (ca. 1841-post 1885), a Republican, is elected to represent Tipton County in the 42nd and 43rd General Assemblies, 1881-1885.

Thomas Frank Cassels (1849-1906) is elected as a Republican from Shelby County, serving in the 42nd General Assembly from 1881-1883. 

Isaac F. Norris is elected as a Republican from Shelby County, serving in the 42nd General Assembly from 1881-1883. 

Thomas A. Sykes (1835-?) is elected to represent Davidson County in the legislature, in spite a new poll tax and acts of violence against blacks.  

Styles L. Hutchins opens a law office in Chattanooga and becomes a partner in a newspaper, The Independent Age, of which he is editor. 

Dr. Booker  T. Washington, born a slave, officially opens the Normal School for Colored Teachers in Macon County, Alabama.

Jessee Graham   is listed in the State School Board minutes as a recipient of a Peabody Scholarship to attend Fisk University.

The Supreme Court rules that the Klan Act (see May 31, 1870) is not constitutional–the 14th Amendment does not apply to private conspiracies.

In the second extra House Session, Thomas A. Sykes  introduces House Bill No. 3, “To exempt educational institutions from taxation.”
More than half the convicts in the Tennessee State Prison at Nashville are now being leased out as laborers. 

Between 1882 and 1930 Tennessee has 214 confirmed lynching victims: most in middle and west Tennessee, most (83%) African Americans.
Tennessee State Library and Archives
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