Organizing for Racial Justice:

A Timeline

Since colonizers arrived in what is now the United States, indigenous people, Black people, and other people of color have been organizing for justice and liberation. This timeline highlights some of the battles for racial and economic justice, particularly those that have happened within the context of institutions. It is incomplete, as we know that there are people organizing in every corner of this country, every day, and there will be until liberation is realized for all of us.

Scroll through or use the arrow keys to navigate the timeline.

Title art by Kate Decicco

Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters founded as a Black-founded and -led union

"In the 1920s, a group of disgruntled Pullman porters in New York City asked an African-American labor militant, A. Philip Randolph, a strong advocate of the rights of black working men and women, to form an independent union of sleeping car porters and maids. The porters worked for the Pullman Company, whose founder, George Pullman, invented the overnight sleeping train car in the 1880s in Chicago. Pullman hired black men and women to serve as porters and maids to the mostly white passengers who used the cars. ... In 1925, Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP). ... The Brotherhood was the verge of collapsing when Congress passed federal laws guaranteeing the right of all legitimate unions to organize workers without interference from their employers, giving the union a new life. The BSCP now found itself with some legal muscle. In addition, the major labor organization in the United States, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which had traditionally excluded blacks from its membership-now gave the Brotherhood support. As a result, in 1937, the Pullman Company finally signed a labor agreement with the Brotherhood."

"We exist as women who are Black who are feminists, each stranded for the moment, working independently because there is not yet an environment in this society remotely congenial to our struggle—because, being on the bottom, we would have to do what no one else has done: we would have to fight the world."

- Michelle Wallace, "A Black Feminist's Search for Sisterhood"

Timeline curated and designed by Alyssa Smaldino & Hafizah Omar, Living Cities

If you’re interested in a printable, poster-sized version of the timeline, reach out to us at racialequity@livingcities.org.