African-American History Timeline 1930 to 1939

African-American History Timeline 1930 to 1939

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Despite enduring the Great Depression and Jim Crow laws, throughout the decade of 1930, African-Americans continued to make great strides in the areas of sports, education, visual artistry and music.


  • One of the first art galleries to feature African-American art is opened at Howard University. Founded by James V. Herring, the Howard University Gallery of Art is the first of its kind in the United States to have its artistic vision directed by African-Americans.
  • The Black Muslim Movement is established in Detroit by Wallace Fard Muhammad. Within four years, Elijah Muhammad takes control of the religious movement, moving its headquarters to Chicago.


  • The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) hires Walter White as its executive secretary. With White in this role, the organization develops new strategies for ending racial discrimination.
  • In March, nine African-American young men are accused of raping two white women. Their case begins on April 6 and they are quickly convicted of the crimes. However, the case of the Scottsboro Boys soon receives national attention and will help pave the way for the civil rights movement.
  • Symphony composer William Grant Still becomes the first African-American to have his music performed by a major orchestra.


  • A 40-year study begins in Tuskegee, Ala. testing the impact of syphilis on 400 African-American men. The Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment is established through the U.S. Public Health Service. The men are never told they have the disease nor are they offered any treatment.
  • Thomas Dorsey, known as the "father of African-American gospel music." Dorsey writes "Take My Hand, Precious Lord."
  • Leon H. Washington publishes Sentinel in Los Angeles.
  • Sculptor Augusta Savage opens the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts. Based out of New York City, it is considered the largest art center in the United States.


  • James Weldon Johnson publishes his autobiography, Along This Way. Johnson's autobiography is the first person narrative by an African-American to be reviewed by the New York Times.
  • Historian Carter G. Woodson publishes Mis-education of the Negro.


  • W.E.B. Du Bois resigns from the NAACP.
  • Zora Neale Hurston publishes her first novel, Jonah's Gourd Vine.


  • The Southern Tenant Farmer's Union is established by the Socialist Party to assist southern sharecroppers to fight for better wages and working conditions.
  • Pianist Count Basie establishes Count Basie and His Orchestra, which will become one of the biggest bands of the Swing Era.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Norris v. Alabama case that a defendant must have the right to a trial by jury by his/her peers. This ruling overturns the Scottsboro Boys' early conviction.
  • Mary McLeod Bethune establishes the National Council of Negro Women--calling more than 20 leaders of national women's organizations together.


  • Bethune is appointed Director of the Division of Negro Affairs for the National Youth Administration. Bethune is the first African-American woman to receive a presidential appointment and is the highest-ranking African-American official in Theodore Roosevelt's administration.
  • Jesse Owens wins four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics. His achievement defies Adolf Hitler's plan to use the Olympics to show the world "Aryan Supremacy."
  • The first medical textbook to be written by an African-American is entitled Syphilis and Its Treatment. The author is Dr. William Augustus Hinton.
  • The first African-American federal judge is appointed by Roosevelt. William H. Hastie is appointed to the federal bench in the U.S. Virgin Islands.


  • The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids signs a collective bargaining agreement with the Pullman Company.
  • Joe Louis wins the heavyweight championship against James J. Braddock.
  • The Negro Dance Group is founded by Katherine Dunham.
  • Zora Neale Hurston publishes the novel Their Eyes Were Watching God.


  • The work of Jacob Lawrence debuts in an exhibition at the Harlem YMCA.
  • Crystal Bird Fauset becomes the first African-American woman elected to a state legislature. She is chosen to serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.


  • Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial in front of 75,000 people on Easter Sunday.
  • The Black Actor's Guild is founded by Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
  • Jane M. Bolin is appointed to the domestic relations court of New York City. This appointment makes her the first African-American woman judge in the United States.

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