Skip to main content Skip to main content

A Biography of America

America at the Centennial – Alternative Timeline to 1876

Revisit the events up to 1876


First African Slaves on Hispaniola 
Spanish introduce the use of African slaves on the Caribbean island of Hispaniola.


Slave Rebellion on Hispaniola 
A major slave rebellion on Hispaniola marks the beginning of a long series of uprisings in Spanish-held territory in the New World.

1539 - 1542

De Soto Explores Southeast 
Hernando de Soto and his army travel through ten future states, from Florida to Arkansas, wreaking havoc on native cultures.

1540 - 1542

Coronado Explores Southwest 
Francisco Vasques de Coronado, heads from Mexico City in an unsuccessful search for cities of silver, travelling as far as Kansas and California and crushing native resistance to his troops.


Oñate Conquers Pueblos in New Mexico for Spain 
Juan de Oñate leads soldiers and settlers into New Mexico, brutally putting down resistance at Ácoma.


Jamestown Founded 
The London Company, a joint stock enterprise created to find gold and other riches in America, sends 104 Englishmen to found Jamestown. All but 38 die in the first nine months.


Marriage of Pocahontas 
Pocahontas (Princess Matoaka), daughter of the chief of the Powhatans in Virginia, marries John Rolfe, an English settler and one of the leading promoters of tobacco. Her conversion to Christianity and her marriage to Rolfe help keep the peace for several years between English settlers in Virginia and the Powhatans. Three years later Pocahontas dies while visiting England with her husband.


First Slaves in Virginia 
A cargo of twenty African slaves arrives at Jamestown, Virginia, on a Dutch ship. The Dutch privateer had taken the slaves from a Spanish ship. This is the first documented case of African slavery in the English colonies.


Plymouth Colony Founded 
A group of Separatist Puritans (Pilgrims) found the first English settlement in New England.


Pequot War
The Pequot War begins in Connecticut when a combined force of 240 Puritans and a thousand Indian allies attack the Pequot without warning. The Pequot are the most influential tribe in New England. Although the Pequot had never attacked the English settlers, the English consider them to be a political threat. By 1837 the Pequot are almost completely wiped out.


Dutch Indian Massacre 
The Dutch stage a massacre of 1500 Indians of the Wappinger Confederacy seeking Dutch protection from raiding Mohawks.


King Philip’s War
King Philip (Metacom) leads Narraganset and Wampanoag warriors in attacks on 52 New England settlements. Before he is killed in 1676, his confederation destroys a dozen settlements and kills 600 colonists. Metacom’s head is carried to Plymouth, where it is displayed for 20 years. His wife, children, and warriors are sold into slavery in the West Indies. The war devastates the Indian population of southern New England.


Popé’s Rebellion
Popé, a Tewa medicine man, leads a Pueblo Rebellion that drives the Spanish from New Mexico. He has long opposed Spanish rule and the conversion of the Pueblo to Christianity. Once in power, he destroys all vestiges of Spanish rule and deals harshly with those Indians who had been baptized. He dies in 1690, and the Spanish reclaim New Mexico in 1692.


Stono Rebellion
About twenty slaves with stolen guns and ammunition embark on a ten-mile march along the Stono River near Charleston, S.C., invading houses and killing white occupants. Led by an Angolan named Jemmy, the band grows to about 100 along the route. The slaves, who carry banners and shout “liberty,” kill about 25 whites before they meet with armed resistance. Many of the rebels are killed, and the rest are captured and executed.


Slaves in Virginia Number 100,000 
There are 100,000 slaves in Virginia.


Pontiac’s Rebellion
Pontiac’s Rebellion begins and lasts for three years. Chief Pontiac fights against the British for control of the Great Lakes region.


Stamp Act
The British government, seeking to fund its army in America, imposes a “stamp tax” on several items, including American legal documents, newspapers, pamphlets, and playing cards. Colonists resist the tax and organize the Sons of Liberty to coordinate their protests.


Boston Massacre
Former slave Crispus Attucks leads a mob of fellow sailors in an assault on British troops guarding the Boston Customs House. The Redcoats fire on the mob, killing Attucks and four others. Dramatized in Paul Revere’s widely circulated engraving, the incident becomes a legendary symbol of British injustice in the colonies. Attucks, an African American, is frequently cited as the first to die in the struggle for independence.

Phillis Wheatley Becomes Noted Poet 
Phillis Wheatley, a teen-aged slave, is purchased in Boston. She masters the English language and becomes a poet known for her strong religious imagery.


Battles of Lexington and Concord 
The Revolutionary War begins as local militiamen battle General Gage’s British troops sent from Boston to seize colonial arms stored in Concord, Massachusetts. Gage is defeated at Concord and his troops retreat back to Boston.

Dunmore’s Proclamation
In response to Lexington and Concord, Virginia’s royal governor, the Earl of Dunmore, declares martial law and promises freedom to all indentured servants and slaves who take up arms against rebellious colonists. He underestimates the effect of his proclamation. Over 800 slaves join up, thousands are inspired to flee, and angry members of the House of Burgesses hasten Virginia’s entry into the Revolutionary War.


Declaration of Independence
The Second Continental Congress issues a Declaration of Independence from Great Britain, proclaiming that a new nation, the United States of America, was assuming a “separate and equal station” among the “powers of the earth.”


Molly Pitcher Fights at the Battle of Monmouth 
Mary McCauley, known as Molly Pitcher, takes up firing her husband’s cannon when he falls in battle and becomes a heroine of the Revolutionary War.


Pennsylvania Abolition Law 
Pennsylvania, under the influence of Quaker abolitionists, and in part as a reaction against the “tyranny” of Great Britain, passes an emancipation law that outlaws lifetime slavery after 1780, but allows a gradual phasing out of slavery and indentured servitude.


Deborah Sampson Enlists in Continental Army 
Deborah Sampson, desiring to serve in the Continental army, disguises herself as a man and enlists under the name Robert Shurtleff.


Massachusetts High Court Ends Slavery 
As a result of a series of cases involving Quock Walker, a slave who left his master’s service and sought better treatment with a neighbor, the Massachusetts Supreme Court declares slavery to be incompatible with the State Constitution of 1780. The case does not immediately end all slavery in Massachusetts, but sends a strong message that the state courts would no longer support slavery.

Treaty of Paris Grants Independence to the U.S. 
Great Britain grants the victorious United States unconditional independence, with sovereignty over lands bounded by Canada to the north, the 31st parallel to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west.


Constitutional Convention
The Constitutional Convention meets in Philadelphia and drafts a new form of government for the United States.

African American Church Established 
Richard Allen, a 27-year-old freedman in Philadelphia, establishes the Free African Society to work for the social and economic betterment of African Americans. He goes on to establish the African Methodist Episcopal Church after he and other blacks are denied the right to worship in a white Methodist congregation.


Slaves in Virginia Number 200,000 
There are 200,000 slaves in Virginia.


Fugitive Slave Act
Congress passes the Fugitive Slave Act which makes it illegal to help a slave escape from bondage.

Cotton Gin Invented 
Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin, a machine for removing seeds from cotton, dramatically increases cotton production in the South. As cotton production rises, the demand for slave labor increases.


Child Labor in Cotton Mill 
Child labor is employed in the Slater Cotton Mills in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.


Gabriel’s Rebellion
A Virginia slave named Gabriel leads a band of a few hundred slaves in an aborted attempt to take Richmond, capture the arsenal there, and cause a widespread slave uprising. A heavy rainstorm thwarts the rebellion and prevents the rebel slaves from reaching Richmond. Governor James Monroe calls out the militia to round up the slaves. Thirty-four, including Gabriel, are hanged.

c. 1803

U.S. Purchases Louisiana Territory from France 
France sells the 827,000 square miles to the United States for $15 million, doubling the size of the nation.


Sacagawea Aids Lewis and Clark Expedition 
Sacagawea, a 16-year-old Shoshone, her newborn son and husband, a French trader, join the Lewis and Clark Expedition as interpreters and guides. She leads the explorers from present-day North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean. On the return trip, Sacagawea guides the expedition through the mountains at the site of present-day Bozeman Pass, Montana. Her exploits on the expedition help ensure its success.


Slave Importation Banned 
The United States bans the importation of slaves from foreign countries. The internal slave trade within the United States is unaffected by the law, and illegal slaves continue to be smuggled into the country.


Freed Slaves Returned to Africa 
The American Colonization Society is founded with the purpose of returning freed slaves to Africa. The idea of returning slaves to Africa never materializes to any significant extent, although more than 11,000 return to Africa before the Civil War and form the basis for the African state of Liberia.


First Seminole War 
Andrew Jackson leads troops in an attempt to drive the Seminole from their homeland in Florida.


Missouri Compromise
Maine is admitted as a free state and Missouri is admitted as a slave state. Slavery is prohibited in the rest of the Louisiana Territory north of 36°30′.


Slave Plot Uncovered 
Denmark Vesey, a former slave who had purchased his own freedom and become a prominent citizen in the African American community of Charleston, S.C., is so incensed by slavery that he plans a secret insurrection to take over Charleston and kill as many slaveholders as possible. The plot is discovered; Vesey and about 130 followers are captured and tried. Some are banished; 35, including Vesey, are hanged.


Sojourner Truth Crusades against Slavery 
Freed slave Isabella van Wagener takes the name Sojourner Truth and becomes a leading abolitionist, especially in New York and New England, preaching for many years against slavery.


Indian Removal Act 
President Andrew Jackson signs into law the Indian Removal Act, which forces the relocation of Indians to lands west of the Mississippi River.


Garrison Publishes The Liberator 
William Lloyd Garrison of Boston begins publication of The Liberator, which has as its goal the abolition of all slavery in the United States.

Nat Turner’s Rebellion 
Nat Turner, a religiously inspired slave, leads a revolt against his master and other slave holders that results in the deaths of 60 whites in Virginia over a two-day period. Turner and most of his 75 followers are killed outright or eventually captured. Turner is tried and hanged for the murder of his master and his family while they slept. This slave revolt sends much fear through the slave-holding South.


Lydia M. Child Publishes Anti-slavery Tract 
Lydia Maria Child publishes An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans, an influential abolitionist tract.


Federal Troops Quell Striking Canal Workers 
For the first time in American history, federal troops are used to put down labor strife when President Andrew Jackson orders troops sent to restore order among the workers on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.


Second Seminole War 
The Second Seminole War begins and lasts seven years as the United States attempts to drive Seminoles from Florida. Many are driven into the Everglades, where they are captured and resettled in small bands in the West. A few Seminole remain undefeated in Florida’s hinterlands.


Gag Rule on Slavery 
The U.S. Congress institutes the “gag rule” which prohibits the introduction of bills and petitions related to the abolition of slavery. The gag rule remains in force until 1844.


Osceola Captured 
Osceola, leader of the Seminoles in Florida, is taken prisoner while under a flag of truce, and many of his people are killed, in the last major effort to eliminate the Seminole from Florida. Osceola dies in captivity in 1838. Colonel Zachary Taylor, who leads the federal troops that defeat the Seminole, wins promotion to brigadier general. He later becomes president of the United States.


Frederick Douglass Publishes Slave Narrative 
The most famous of the first-person accounts of slavery in the United States, The Narrative Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, is an important stimulant to the abolitionist movement. After purchasing his freedom in 1847, Douglass becomes the leading black abolitionist in the country, as an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society.


Seneca Falls Conference on Women’s Rights 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Coffin Mott launch the Woman Suffrage movement at a conference in Seneca Falls, NY. On July 19-20, about 100 men and women meet to discuss the unequal treatment of women, including the most controversial issue, the right of women to vote. They issue the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled on the Declaration of Independence, calling for equal treatment of women.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Ends Mexican War 
The United States gains lands from California to New Mexico and recognition of the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of Texas.


Compromise of 1850, including Fugitive Slave Law 
California becomes a free state, Texas’ permanent boundary is defined, and New Mexico and Utah Territories are opened to slavery. A stronger fugitive slave law and suppression of the slave trade in the District of Columbia are also included.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin Explores Evils of Slavery 
Harriet Beecher Stowe’s popular novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, does much to promote the abolitionist movement by sympathetically portraying the plight of slaves and by showing in dramatic fashion the evils of slavery.

Temperance Society Formed 
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton found the Woman’s New York Temperance Society.


Kansas-Nebraska Act
Lands are open to slavery in the Kansas and Nebraska Territories, which are north of the Missouri Compromise Line.


Dred Scott Case 
In the Supreme Court Case of Scott v. Sanford, better known as the Dred Scott Case, the high court rules that slavery is legal in U.S. Territories. This decision fuels the flames of anti-slavery sentiment in the North.


John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry 
Considered by many to be a martyr to the cause of African American freedom and by others to be an extreme terrorist, John Brown, the fiery abolitionist, leads a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) to capture weapons and lead an army of slaves to end slavery in America. Troops under the command of Col. Robert E. Lee, capture Brown. He is hanged for treason on December 2, 1859.


Confederate Troops Fire on Fort Sumter 
The Civil War begins as Confederate troops bombard the federal garrison on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor.


Clara Barton Nurses Civil War Wounded 
Clara Barton, a government clerk, braves the carnage of Civil War battlefields to act as a nurse, earning the commendation of President Lincoln. Later, in 1881, she would found the American Red Cross.


Emancipation Proclamation
The Emancipation Proclamation is issued on January 1, 1863. It abolishes slavery in those territories controlled by the Confederacy but does not abolish slavery in the states bordering the Confederacy. The power of the Emancipation Proclamation is that wherever the Union Army goes in the Confederate States, slavery ends. The Emancipation Proclamation changes the Civil War from a war to save the Union to a war to end slavery.


Slavery Abolished
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolishes slavery in the United States.


National Labor Union Established 
The National Labor Union is established by workers in Baltimore who want an eight-hour workday.

First Woman Runs for Congress 
Suffragist leader Elizabeth Cady Stanton runs unsuccessfully for a seat in Congress, even though women do not have the right to vote at the time.


Knights of Labor Established 
The Knights of Labor is launched with the goal of creating one large union for all workers. The organization reaches a peak membership of more than 700,000 workers by the mid-1880s.

National Woman Suffrage Association Founded 
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Woman Suffrage Association to promote the right of women to vote.


Coal Strike in Pennsylvania 
Pennsylvania coal miners go on strike, spurred by a secret Irish-American organization called the Molly McGuires.


Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia 
The United States celebrates the hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence with the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

Battle of Little Big Horn 
On July 4, 1876, word comes by telegraph to Centennial revelers in Philadelphia that the famous Indian fighter Col. George A. Custer and his troops of the 7th Cavalry were soundly defeated nine days earlier by warriors of a combined Sioux and Cheyenne village at the Little Big Horn. It is one of the most dramatic encounters between plains Indians and federal troops.

Centennial Women’s Protest 
On the Fourth of July, during the great Centennial celebration of the nation in Philadelphia, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton lead a band of feminists onto the fairgrounds in protest of the failure of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to include the right of women to vote.

Centennial Violence in South Carolina 
On the Fourth of July in Hamburg, South Carolina, a group of black militia, many of them Civil War veterans, are prevented from marching in a Fourth of July parade by whites armed with a cannon. Several black militiamen are murdered in cold blood, and in a sham trial, the white murderers are acquitted.