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.
Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany is born on September 3rd.
Streetcars in the South are segregated for the first time. ∙ There are 112 recorded lynchings.
Sadie is 7. Bessie is 5.
Plessy v. Ferguson: The U.S. Supreme Court rules that “separate but equal” public accommodations are legal, paving the way for Jim Crow laws.
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.”
The first powered airplane is flown by the Wright brothers. ∙ Ford Motor Company is founded.
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.
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.
Bessie (26) follows Sadie (28) to Harlem.
The U.S. enters World War I ∙ Marcus Garvey emerges as a strong voice for black nationalism.
Sadie (29) graduates from Pratt Institute and continues her education at Columbia University.
World War I ends on November 18th
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.
Sadie is 33. Bessie is 31.
The Lincoln Memorial is dedicated in a segregated ceremony.
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.
Sadie is 40. Bessie is 38.
The 22-year-old Cab Calloway performs at the Cotton Club. ∙ The stock market crashes.
Sadie (41) becomes the first black teacher of domestic science in New York City public schools.
Rise of Nazism in Europe. ∙ Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the Olympics; Adolf Hitler refuses to shake his hand.
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.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declares war on Japan.
Sadie (56) and Bessie (54) move to the 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.
Bessie (59) retires from her dental practice.
The Korean War begins. ∙ Poet Gwendolyn Brooks is the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize.
Brown v. Board of Education: The U.S. Supreme Court rules segregation in public education unconstitutional.
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.
Sadie (71) retires.
John F. Kennedy elected president. ∙ To Kill a Mockingbird is published; A Raisin in the Sun is produced on Broadway.
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.
Martin Luther King, Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.
Malcolm X assassinated in New York. ∙ Selma to Montgomery protest march. ∙ Voting Rights Act signed by President Johnson.
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.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Mephis; Robert Kennedy assassinated in California.
Sadie is 80. Bessie is 78.
Richard Nixon is sworn in as 37th president. Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon.
Sadie is 85. Bessie is 83.
President Nixon resigns following the Watergate scandal.
Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman Supreme Court Justice.
Sadie is 93. Bessie is 91.
Equal Rights Amendment defeated.
Sadie is 97. Bessie is 95.
Halley’s Comet returns. ∙ Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday.
Nelson Mandela released; the dismantling of apartheid begins.
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.
Sadie is 103. Bessie is 101.
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years is published.
President Clinton apologizes for the Tuskegee experiments.
DNA evidence confirms that Thomas Jefferson likely fathered the children of his slave, Sally Hemings.
Sadie dies at 109.
Having Our Say film airs on television.
-Timeline reprinted by permission of McCarter Theatre Center