Historical Context for Talma Gordon: a Timeline of the Late 1890's Nicole Williams

This particular decade is important for setting up not only the context for Talma Gordon, but for detailing the U.S.’s growing imperialism as well as the beginnings of the Jim Crow era. While this is certainly a dark time for African Americans, it is not solely a period of hardship. As you will see, many African Americans in this period are entering the middle class and seeking justice by forming legal communities. In addition, we see America entering into an age of growing expansionism, one which will not only shade the context of this text but will also influence the future of the country.

January 25 1887 - the Afro-American League.

Founded in Chicago and focused on promoting equal treatment under the law and granting fair voting privileges, the Afro-American League was the foundation for many modern organizations seeking the advancement of civil rights and is considered a predecessor to groups like the NAACP. While receiving some success, mainly in the northern states, they lacked support from politicians of the time and eventually disbanded in 1893. Still, the roots of their organization live on today, and represented the push towards equality for Black Americans.

1896 - Plessy v. Ferguson is upheld in the supreme court

Jim Crow is effectively legalized in the American South. Jim Crow has been the status quo for most of the period post-reconstruction, so this hasn’t changed much of the lived reality for black Americans living in the south. However, it is an important period of time in that it reaffirms this reality for decades to come. While the Civil Rights Act of 1875 had already been struck down in 1983, Plessy v. Ferguson was the nail in the coffin for any hope of equal treatment for black Americans, most notably in the south. Plessy v. Ferguson wasn’t the first of these Jim Crow laws, but its standing in the Supreme Court justified it within the context of the federal government and the constitution.

1897 - William McKinley is elected

Preceded by Grover Cleveland, McKinley’s time as president represents an important aspect of this period in American history. He was well liked for the most part, mostly for bringing economic prosperity to a country that had just recovered from a severe recession and for winning the Spanish-American war for the united state, thereby increasing our territory. McKinley’s shifting attitudes on race made him fairly unpopular among African Americans: he would denounce lynching and elect a few African American officials, but did nothing to curtail the growing anti-blackness in the south.

December 10, 1898 - The Spanish American War Ends

The Spanish American war in of itself lasted less than a year - but the territory gained from the war is critical towards expanding America's Imperialism. The treaty cedes control of Guam, the Philipines, and Puerto Rico to the U.S. Even though Cuba was supposed to have been granted its freedom, it remained under American control and is still partially under our control to this day. This victory marks the burgeoning era of New Imperialism, and our rapid expansion of this region was considered as highly profitable as it was highly controversial.

July 7, 1898 - The United States annexes the independent republic of Hawaii.

For most of its history post-contact, Hawaii was able to remain self-governed. However, with the victory of the Spanish-American war and the land obtained still warm in the American consciousness, Hawaii became the next target for American Imperialists. The U.S. had made many attempts to annex the islands in the past, but these were halted by Grover Cleveland in his attempt to restore power to the queen Liliuokalani. However, with the expansionist fervor of the era, and with the guidance of McKinley, Hawaii is unjustly annexed and they cease to have any of their own economic and sovereign control. Hawaii was officially made a territory in 1900.

1898 The National Benefit Life Insurance Company of Washington, DC were established.

The founding of the National Benefit Life Insurance Company, as well as the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Insurance Company, represent an important shift in African American culture and the growing prosperity of African Americans. Forced to exist in a system that frequently neglects and seeks to abuse them, many African Americans are creating thriving economies in which they are allowed to support themselves and their families. Black-owned insurance companies date back to this idea of fraternal orders that sought to help those in the black community in need. These businesses, especially these two life insurance companies, were very successful and allowed african americans to achieve the middle class lifestyle that was frequently denied to them.

February 4, 1899 - The Philippine–American War

Emilio Aguinaldo leads Filipino independence fighters in a guerrilla war to gain a grant of independence from the United States, which they had been fighting for from Spain since 1896. In the view of the American forces - this was simply a rebellion instead of an all-out war, and the attitudes of many soldiers reflected that. While these conflicts continued past the actual war itself, the Philippines was eventually granted its sovereignty, and Emilio Aguinaldo became its first president.


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