10 Historical Events of the 1920s


1. Marcus Garvey is arrested for mail fraud

In 1922, Garvey was arrested for mail fraud in connection with the sale of stock in the Black Star Line. He was sent to federal prison in Atlanta, Georgia but later deported to Jamaica. Although there were irregularities connected to the business, the prosecution was probably politically motivated, as Garvey’s activities had attracted considerable government attention.



2. The Tulsa Race Riots Began

On May 31, 1921, The Tulsa, Oklahoma Race Riot began. It was one of the worst urban racial conflicts in United States history.  The violence lasted for two days of violence by whites against blacks. It was estimated that 50 people died, hundreds injured, and more than 1,000 black owned homes and businesses destroyed.

3. The Binga State Bank is established in Chicago by Jesse Binga.

As the African American population of Chicago began to grow in the first two decades of the 20th Century Jesse Binga opened the Binga State Bank in 1921 with deposits of over $200,000. Within three years the bank had deposits of over $1.3 million. The Binga State Bank provided Chicago’s black community with an option other than relying on the large white-owned banks, which often discriminated and with predatory lenders.


4. The Rosewood Massacre Occurred

The Rosewood massacre was a racially motivated massacre of blacks and destruction of a black town that took place during the first week of January 1923 in rural Levy County, Florida. It was reported that six blacks and two whites were killed, and the town of Rosewood was abandoned and destroyed in what contemporary news reports characterized as a race riot.



5. Dr. Mordecai Johnson hired as the first African-American president of Howard University

Mordecai was appointed the thirteenth and first African-American president of Howard University in 1926.  On June 10, 1927, Dr. Johnson delivered his Inaugural Address as President of Howard University.  He held that position for thirty-four years.


6. The Cotton Club Opens in Harlem

The Cotton Club opened in 1923, on 142nd St & Lenox Ave in the heart of Harlem, New York was operated by white New York gangster Owney Madden. Madden used the Cotton Club as an outlet to sell his beer to the prohibition crowd. Although the club was briefly closed several times in the 1920s for selling alcohol, the owners’ political connections allowed them to always reopen quickly. The Cotton Club at first excluded all but white patrons although the entertainers and most of the staff were African American.

7. Garrett Morgan patents the caution light

More people and businesses depended on the use of automobiles after World War I, and Morgan saw that the existing mechanical “stop” and “go” signals were dangerous because they had no caution indicator to buffer traffic flow. So he patented a three-armed signal mounted on a T-shaped pole that indicated “stop” and “go” for traffic in two directions and also had another signal for stopping traffic in all directions before the stop and go signals changed-the forerunner of today’s yellow light.

8. The Harlem Globetrotters basketball team is established in Chicago

Abe Saperstein founded the team in 1926, and they played their first road game in Hinckley, Illinois, on Jan. 7, 1927. Since then, the Globetrotters have entertained more than 144 million fans in 122 countries and territories worldwide.

9. Alain Locke publishes The New Negro

Locke was the guest editor of the March 1925 issue of the periodical Survey Graphic titled “Harlem, Mecca of the New Negro”, a special on Harlem and the Harlem Renaissance, which helped educate white readers about its flourishing culture. In December of that year, he expanded the issue into The New Negro, a collection of writings by African Americans, which would become one of his best-known works. A landmark in black literature (later acclaimed as the “first national book” of African America), it was an instant success.

10. The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was founded

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was founded by black employees of the Pullman Company in 1925 in an effort to garner fair and equitable treatment from the company. Early leaders chose A. Philip Randolph to head the union, in part because he was not employed by Pullman and was, therefore, less vulnerable to attacks from the company. Randolph remained president of the union until his retirement in 1968. In 1978, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters merged with the Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks, marking the end of the union as an independent organization.







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