Slavery, Abolition, and William Still: A Timeline


This image appeared as an illustration in the January 24, 1863 issue of Harper's Weekly as a celebration of President Abraham Lincoln's decree emancipating slaves during the Civil War. Historical Society of Pennsylvania Large Graphics Collection (#V65)

1688 Germantown Quakers' first protest against slavery
1775 Formation of the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes unlawfully held in Bondage (later becomes the Pennsylvania Abolition Society)
1777 Vermont is the first state to abolish slavery
1780 Pennsylvania Legislature passes law for the gradual abolition of slavery
1787 The Northwest Ordinance outlaws slavery in the region northwest of the Ohio River
  The Constitution of the United States allows a male slave to count as three-fifths of a man in determining representation in the House of Representatives
1788 PA amends slavery act to forbid removal of African Americans from the state
1790 Pennsylvania Abolition Society (PAS) incorporated (was formerly the Society for the Relief of Free Negroes unlawfully held in Bondage)
1791 The Haitian Revolution, a slave revolt led by Haitian Toussaint L’Ouverture, begins
1793 U.S. Congress enacts first Fugitive slave law
  Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin, encouraging the expansion of slavery in the South
1794 The First American Anti-Slavery Convention is held in Philadelphia
1804 Haiti is declared a free republic after slaves successfully revolt
1808 Federal law enacted that prohibits the importation of African slaves
1818 American Colonization Society is formed
1820 Missouri Compromise
1821 William Still born in New Jersey
  The American Colonization Society helps to found the Black Republic of Liberia
1822 Denmark Vesey conspiracy
1826 Pennsylvania Legislature passes personal liberty law, making it illegal to bring a person into Pennsylvania to be held as a slave
1827 Pennsylvania Free Produce Association forms in Philadelphia to boycott goods produced by slave labor
1829 David Walker’s militant antislavery pamphlet, An Appeal to the Colored People of The World, is published
  First National Negro Convention meets in Philadelphia
1831 Nat Turner revolt
  William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing The Liberator
1832 Nullification crisis
1833 Formation of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society
1834 Slavery is abolished in the British Empire
1837 Formation of Vigilant Committee and Vigilant Association
  New Pennsylvania constitution disenfranchises African Americans
1838 Formation of the American Free Produce Association
  Burning of Pennsylvania Hall
1840 Organization of Liberty Party, first anti-slavery political party
1842 Prigg v. Pennsylvania declares PA personal liberty laws unconstitutional
  Race riot in Philadelphia
1845 Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: an American Slave/written by Himself
1847 Pennsylvania passes personal liberty law requiring trial by jury for accused fugitive slaves
  William Still marries Letitia George, and begins working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery
  Frederick Douglass begins publishing The North Star
1848 Free Soil Party organized
1849 Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery
1850 U.S. Fugitive Slave Act passes as part of the Compromise of 1850
1851 Sojourner Truth addresses first Black Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio
1852 William Still begins working with the Vigilance Committee
  Harriet Beecher Stowe writes Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  William Still begins his Underground Railroad journal
1855 The Shepherd family escapes slavery with help from the Vigilance Committee
  “Bleeding Kansas” conflict begins as result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act’s passage in 1854
1856 The Taylor family escapes slavery with help from the Vigilance Committee
  The Wanzer group escapes slavery with help from the Vigilance Committee
1857 Dred Scott decision
1859 John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry
1860 PA passes second liberty law outlawing use of state facilities or officials to enforce federal Fugitive Slave Act, among other protections
  Abraham Lincoln elected president
  South Carolina secedes from the Union
1861 U.S. Civil War begins
1862 Congress allows the enlistment of blacks in the Union Army
  Slavery is abolished in Washington, D.C.
1863 Emancipation Proclamation issued, freeing all slaves in confederate states
1865 U.S. Civil War ends
  Congress passes Thirteenth Amendment passes, freeing African American slaves
1866 Petition to desegregate Philadelphia streetcars
1868 Fourteenth Amendment passes, granting African Americans U.S. citizenship
1870 Fifteenth Amendment passes, granting African American males the right to vote
  Hiram R. Revels becomes first black U.S. Senator
1872 PAS advocates for an equal rights clause for the new PA state constitution
  William Still publishes The Underground Rail Road
1895 W.E.B. DuBois’ Philadelphia Negro published
1896 Plessy v. Ferguson establishes “separate but equal” policy for public facilities
  William Still becomes president of the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery
1902 William Still dies in Philadelphia
1909 NAACP founded
1954 Brown v. Board of Education
1963 March on Washington
1964 Twenty-fourth Amendment passes, making poll taxes unconstitutional