Civil Rights Movement A social movement that found its catalyst in two events:
Brown vs. the Board of Education, a Supreme Court decision which found
segregation unconstitutional; and Rosa Parks' refusal to give up
her seat at the front of the bus in Selma, Alabama. The movement,
which found its leader in Martin Luther King, Jr., pushed for an
end to Jim Crow Laws and the passage of a civil rights act that
would prohibit discrimination based on one's skin color.
Harlem Renaissance Refers to the proliferation of art and music in New
York's African-American community in the 1920's. During this time, Harlem
became the undisputed intellectual and artistic center of African-American
society. The 1920s in Harlem produced writers like Langston Hughes,
Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson and Claude McKay, and
photographers like Roy De Carava and James Van Der Zee.
Jim Crow Laws Jim Crow Laws were the most effective agent of segregation
in the South. The laws prohibited businesses from employing African-Americans,
and barred African- Americans access to public places such as hotels,
restaurants and public restrooms. Jim Crow legislation was officially
instituted by the southern states shortly after the Emancipation
Proclamation. These laws remained in place until the Civil Rights
Movement of the 1960s.
Ku Klux Klan The Ku Klux Klan, or KKK, is a "secret society" based
in the South which promotes the superiority of white Protestants
over all non-white and non- Protestant people. The KKK was responsible
for many acts of violence against African-Americans, including
lynchings, after the Civil War, and this violence continued up
until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. Since the passage
of the Civil Rights Amendment, the KKK's influence has dwindled
Traveling Show A traveling vaudeville and minstrel tent show run by
Lonnie and Cora Fisher. Bessie's brother Clarence Smith first worked
the circuit as a comedian and then managed to convince the Fishers to
give Bessie Smith in 1912. Bessie Smith then joined the show.
Minstrels Minstrel shows became popular in the 1820s and were,
for years, the most popular form of live entertainment in America.
In minstrel shows, white performers blackened their faces and exaggerated
their facial features, often lining their lips in white paint,
in order to imitate slaves in the South and former slaves in the
North. Blackface minstrels were particularly offensive–to our modern
sensibilities–because they portrayed African-Americans as lazy,
shiftless and dim-witted, and these stereotypes continued for decades.
Northern Migration The Northern Migration of Southern African-Americans
to the great industrial cities of the North took place after the Emancipation
Proclamation in 1863. Despite being freed from slavery, life did
not improve much for African- Americans in the devastated Southern
states and many sought opportunity in the prosperous, relatively
liberal North. However, with the influx of European immigrants,
African-Americans found jobs scarce and discrimination as rampant
as it had been in the South.
Reconstruction The period of readjustment–social, economic and physical–that
occurred in the American South following the Civil
War. The South had been completely devastated during
the four-year war and now, with the once entrenched social system
turned on its head, had to rebuild and redefine itself.
Roaring Twenties Term given to the years directly following America's
victory in WWI in which industrialization hit a high point and
the country's wealth increased rapidly. Also, alternatively, called
the Jazz Age.
Segregation A policy of separating the races that was put in place
in the South during Reconstruction. Segregation usually took the
form of what were informally called Jim Crow Laws, in which blacks and
whites were required, by law, to use separate facilities, including
schools, restrooms and drinking fountains.
TOBA Theater Owners' Booking Association, or as the African-American
artists who worked under its auspices liked to call it, "Tough
On Black Asses." A collective of theater owners that booked vaudeville,
minstrel, and blues shows in the South.
October 29, 1929. The stock market went into a tailspin
and stocks lost value, setting the Great Depression in motion.
The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution prohibited "manufacture,
sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes."
As a result, saloons became underground speakeasies, organized
crime controlled most of the illegal liquors and bootlegging became
one of the most lucrative careers one could enter into in the 1920s.
Signed by Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862, the Emancipation
Proclamation essentially put an end to slavery in the United States.
In its wake, huge numbers of freed slaves migrated to Northern
The severe economic crisis instigated by the Stock Market
Crash of 1929. The Depression's impact on the various sectors of American
industry, business and society was devastating.
A British ocean liner that was downed by a German torpedo
on May 7, 1915, in the midst of WWI. Although officially the United
States maintained its neutrality in the wake of the attack, the
sinking of the Lusitania did much to stir up anti-German sentiment
and increased American willingness to join a global war in progress.
The Nineteenth Amendment, ratified on August 22, 1920,
gave women the right to vote.
The Constitutional amendment repealing The Eighteenth Amendment,
or Prohibition, ratified in 1933.
Also known as the Great War. Instigated in 1914 by the assassination
of Archduke Ferdinand in Austria-Hungary by a Serbian nationalist,
World War I plunged all of Europe into chaos. After Germany sank
the Lusitania and America's neutrality was pushed to its breaking
point, Germany announced unrestricted warfare in British waters.
In protest, America broke off diplomatic relations with Germany
and, on April 6, 1917, joined WWI.