By the middle of this century, people of color will make up the majority in the United States, a culmination of this country’s long and often-violent struggle with its multiracial identity. But alongside assorted celebrated “firsts,” landmark court cases such as Brown v. Board of Education, and legendary protests such as the March on Washington, are lesser-known political, social, and cultural milestones that have gradually marked the way.
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1912: New Mexico enters the union as the 47th state—and the first bilingual one—protecting Spanish speakers in education and voting.
1917: 10,000 African Americans march in New York, believed to be the first major demonstration against lynching and discrimination.
1920: 12 Racial Categories Listed in 1920 U.S. Census
4 variations of White as well as Negro, Mulatto, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Native, Foreign-born, and “All other.”
POPULATION: 105.7 million
1920s-1930s: The Harlem Renaissance produces dozens of African American artists, musicians, and writers, including Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and Zora Neale Hurston.
1947: The 9th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals declares the segregation of Mexican and Mexican American students unconstitutional in Mendez v. Westminster. The California case is considered a precursor to the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education.
1958: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, an exclusively African American dance troupe, forms.
1960: 8 Racial Categories Listed in 1960 U.S. Census
White, Nonwhite, Negro, Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, and “All Other.”
POPULATION: 179.3 million
1965: Civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., eventually lead to passage of National Voting Rights Act. A police assault halts the first march of 600 people; a few weeks later, 25,000 march to the state capitol where Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd.
1967: U.S. Supreme Court strikes down laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
1969: “Sesame Street,” with its cast of diverse urban characters debuts on public television.
1973: 71-day standoff at Wounded Knee, S.D., leaves two members of the American Indian Movement dead and elevates Native issues to national stage.
1978: Thousands of Native Americans participate in the “Longest Walk” from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to preserve tribal sovereignty.
1985-1990: “The Cosby Show,” a sitcom about an African American family, tops the Nielsen ratings for five consecutive years.
1986: First observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday.
1990: After a more-than-20-year campaign for redress, families of Japanese Americans interned during World War II begin to receive more than $1 billion in reparations.
2000: 20 Racial Categories Listed in 2000 U.S. Census
Including Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, “Other Spanish,” Hispanic, Latino, African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian, Chamorro, Samoan, “Other Asian,” and “Other Pacific Islander.”
POPULATION: 281.4 million
2000: First census allowing respondents to check more than one race.
2005: U.S. Senate formally apologizes for its failure to enact an anti-lynching law. Historically, southern senators blocked more than 200 such bills. 3,437 African Americans were lynched from 1880 to 1951.
2006: Hundreds of thousands boycott work and school to participate in Day Without Immigrants, demonstrating the contributions of immigrants to everyday society.
2007: Foreign-born workers make up almost 16 percent of the U.S. labor force, the highest proportion since 1920.
2009: Barack Obama, nation’s first African American president, takes office.
2010: 31 Racial Categories Listed in 2010 U.S. Census
The U.S. Census Bureau has begun collecting data for the 2010 Census, offering its most comprehensive questionnaire to date.
Kim Eckart compiled this timeline for America: The Remix, the Spring 2010 issue of YES! Magazine. Kim is associate editor at YES! Magazine. Graphics by Seattle-based artist Tim Sanders.
Racial categories from 1920, 1960 and 2000 U.S. Census:
Information on 2010 Census:
Percentage of people speaking a language other than English:
Percentage of foreign-born workers in the U.S. labor force:
Number of international adoptions, first Census to recognize adoption:
Players of color in Major League Baseball:
New Mexico enters union as bilingual state:
African Americans march through New York to protest lynching:
Mendez v. Westminster:
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater:
Loving v. Virginia:
First holiday marking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday:
“Sesame Street,” “The Cosby Show” debut:
U.S. government awards reparations to families of Japanese Americans interned during World War II:
U.S. Senate apologizes for failing to enact anti-lynching laws:
Day Without Immigrants: