A Timeline of the Delany Sisters’ Lives

delany sister timeline header image

1889sadie at two

Sarah Louise “Sadie” Delany is born on September 18th.
Benjamin Harrison is the 23rd President of the United States. It has been 24 years since the end of the Civil War. There are 42 states in the Union.

1891Bessie Delany, around one year old, 1892

Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany is born on September 3rd.
Streetcars in the South are segregated for the first time. There are 112 recorded lynchings.

1896

Sadie is 7. Bessie is 5.Delany family around 1898 -- Sadie is standing at left
Plessy v. Ferguson: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” public accommodations are legal, paving the way for Jim Crow laws.

1900

Sadie is 11. Bessie is 9.
W.E.B. DuBois proclaims “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” Booker T. Washington’s Up from Slavery is published. James Weldon Johnson writes “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

1903

The first powered airplane is flown by the Wright brothers. Ford Motor Company is founded.

1910

Sadie is 21. Bessie is 19.
Halley’s Comet makes its first 20th century appearance. The NAACP is incorporated. Three quarters of the population of New York City consists of first- and second-generation immigrants.

1912

Sadie is 23. Bessie is 21.
Woodrow Wilson is elected president. Federal employee facilities are segregated; New York City theaters are desegregated. The Titanic sinks on its maiden voyage.

1917

Bessie (26) follows Sadie (28) to Harlem.
The U.S. enters World War I Marcus Garvey emerges as a strong voice for black nationalism.

1918Bessie, left, with our sister, Julia, and a friend of Sadies, Rayford Lightner, about 1919

Sadie (29) graduates from Pratt Institute and continues her education at Columbia University.
World War I ends on November 18th

1920

sadie graduation gown

Sadie (31) graduates from Columbia Teachers College and takes a teaching job in Harlem.
American women win the right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment.

1922

 Sadie is 33. Bessie is 31.
The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated in a segregated ceremony.

1923

Bessie (32) graduates from Columbia Dental School.Bessies yearbook photograph, Columbia University, 1923
Garret Morgan, the African-American inventor, receves a patent for the automatic traffic light.

1925

Sadie (36) finishes her Master’s Degree in Education at Columbia. Bessie (34) opens her dental practice.
The “Scopes Monkey Trial” ends in the conviction of John Scopes for teaching evolution in public schools.

1929

Sadie is 40. Bessie is 38.
The 22-year-old Cab Calloway performs at the Cotton Club. The stock market crashes.

1930

Sadie (41) becomes the first black teacher of domestic science in New York City public schools.

1936

Rise of Nazism in Europe. Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the Olympics; Adolf Hitler refuses to shake his hand.

1939

Sadie is 50. Bessie is 48.
War breaks out in Europe. Marian Anderson sings before 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial after being denied permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to perform in Constitution Hall. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt resigns from the DAR.

1941

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declares war on Japan.

1945

Sadie (56) and Bessie (54) move to Bessie, Mama, and Sadie around World War IIthe Bronx.
Harry Truman becomes president. Colonel Bejamin P. Davis, Jr. becomes the first African-American to command a U.S. Air Force base. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are bombed by the U.S.

1950

Bessie (59) retires from her dental practice.
The Korean War begins. Poet Gwendolyn Brooks is the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize.

1954

Brown v. Board of Education: The U.S. Supreme Court rules segregation in public education unconstitutional.

1955

Sadie is 66. Bessie is 64.bessie and sadie 1950s
Rosa Parks of Montgomery, Alabama refuses to give up her bus seat to a white man. A bus boycott is organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. and local NAACP leaders.

1957

Sadie (68) and Bessie (66) move to Mt. Vernon, New York.
The Civil Rights Act of 1957 – protecting the right to vote – becomes law. Hank Aaron is voted M.V.P. in the National League.

1960

Sadie (71) retires.
John F. Kennedy elected president. To Kill a Mockingbird is published; A Raisin in the Sun is produced on Broadway.

1963

Sadie is 74. Bessie is 72.
The death of W.E.B. Du Bois. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech to over 250,000 people at the March on Washington. JFK is assassinated.

1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

1965

Malcolm X assassinated in New York. Selma to Montgomery protest march. Voting Rights Act signed by President Johnson.

1967

Sadie is 78. Bessie is 76.
The “long, hot summer” of urban rioting begins in Newark, NJ. Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. Escalating U.S. involvement in Vietnam is met with increasing protest.

1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Mephis; Robert Kennedy assassinated in California.

1969

Sadie is 80. Bessie is 78.
Richard Nixon is sworn in as 37th president. Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon.

1974

Sadie is 85. Bessie is 83.
President Nixon resigns following the Watergate scandal.

1981

Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman Supreme Court Justice.

 1982

Sadie is 93. Bessie is 91.
Equal Rights Amendment defeated.

1986

Sadie is 97. Bessie is 95.
Halley’s Comet returns. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday.

1989

Sadie celebrates her 100th birthday.bessie and sadit at home mt vernon
Barbara Harris, an African-American Episcopal priest, becomes the first female bishop of the worldwide Anglican church.

1990

Nelson Mandela released; the dismantling of apartheid begins.

1991

Bessie celebrates her 100th birthday.
The beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles is captured on videotape. The Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings are broadcast.delany sisters color

1993

Sadie is 103. Bessie is 101.
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years is published.

1995

Bessie dies at age 104.
Having Our Say is adapted and a hit at McCarter Bessie at age 100Theatre Center and on Broadway.Million Man March.in Washington DC.
OJ Simpson is acquitted.

1997

President Clinton apologizes for the Tuskegee experiments.

1998

DNA evidence confirms that Thomas Jefferson likely fathered the children of his Sadie at age 102slave, Sally Hemings.

1999

Sadie dies at 109.
Having Our Say film airs on television.

-Timeline reprinted by permission of McCarter Theatre Center

 

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