17th-18th centuries: Hundreds of thousands of Africans brought to the United States and sold into slavery to work on cotton and tobacco plantations, right.
1770: An escaped slave, Crispus Attucks, becomes the first African to die for American independence when he is killed by the British in the Boston Massacre.
1775: George Washington changes a previous policy and allows free blacks to enlist in the Continental Army. Approximately 5,000 do so. The British governor of Virginia promises freedom to slaves who enlist with the British.
1776: A passage condemning the slave trade is removed from the Declaration of Independence due to pressure from the southern colonies.
1787: The US Constitution is ratified. It provides for the continuation of the slave trade for another 20 years and requires states to aid slaveholders in the recovery of fugitive slaves. It also stipulates that a slave counts as three-fifths of a man for purposes of determining representation in the House of Representatives.
1791: Slaves revolt in Haiti against the French rulers and slaveowners. Americans, particularly Southerners, are terrified by these events, which also discourage the importation of slaves into the US and probably hasten the end of the slave trade.
1791: A Bill of Rights guarantees individual freedom.
1793: Congress passes the first Fugitive Slave Act, which makes it a crime to harbour an escaped slave.
1800: Gabriel Prosser tries to organise the first large-scale slave revolt in the US, gathering more than 1,000 armed slaves in Virginia. The revolt fails, and Prosser and more than 35 other slaves are executed.
1807: Congress bans the importation of slaves into the US. The law will be largely ignored in the South.
1808: Atlantic slave trade is abolished.
1822: Denmark Vesey, a freedman, plans a massive rebellion of thousands of slaves in Charlestown, South Carolina, but his plans are betrayed, and he and 34 others are hanged.
1827: First African-American newspaper , Freedom's Journal, is published in New York by John Brown Russwurm and Samuel Cornish.
1829: In his pamphlet Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, African-American activist David Walker of Boston calls for a national slave rebellion.
1831: Thousands of slaves escape to the North and freedom using the Underground Railroad, a system in which free African American and white "conductors", abolitionists, and sympathisers guide, help, and shelter the escapees.
1831: Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion in Virginia. Fifty-seven whites are killed, but Turner is eventually captured and executed.
1839: Slaves being transported aboard the Spanish ship Amistad seize it and sail to Long Island. They eventually win their freedom in a Supreme Court case, left.
1850: Congress passes another Fugitive Slave Act, which mandates government support for the capture of escaped slaves, and spurs widespread protest in the North.
1852: Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes her anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, which is an immediate bestseller and helps turn public opinion against the Fugitive Slave Act and slavery itself.
1854: Opponents of slavery, or abolitionists, set up the Republican Party.
1857: In the Dred Scott case, the Supreme Court decides that African-Americans are not citizens of the US, and that Congress has no power to restrict slavery in any federal territory. This meant that a slave who made it to a free state would still be considered a slave.
1860-61: Eleven pro-slavery southern states secede from the Union and form Confederate States of America under the leadership of Jefferson Davis, triggering civil war with abolitionist northern states.
The Civil War begins when the Confederates attack Fort Sumter, in Charleston, South Carolina. The war, fought over the issue of slavery, will rage for another four years. The Union's victory will mean the end of slavery in the US
1863: President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, right, declaring slaves in Confederate states to be free.
1865: Congress passes the Thirteenth Amendment, outlawing slavery, and establishes the Freedmen's Bureau to assist former slaves. Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.
1866: All-white legislatures in the former Confederate states pass the so-called "Black Codes," sharply curtailing African Americans' freedom and virtually re-enslaving them.
1896: Three decades after the emancipation of slaves, the Supreme Court declares that US society could legally be stratified on racial grounds, as long as segregation was put into practice in a "separate but equal" manner.
1909: The National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) is founded by a group of African-American and white activists, including W. E. B. Du Bois. Du Bois is the only one of the seven African American activists to serve on the NAACP board.
1910: The Great Migration of African-Americans from the south to northern industrial towns gets underway. Millions of African-Americans will have migrated North by the 1960s.
1911: The National Urban League is founded to help the many African-Americans who are migrating to the cities to find jobs and housing.
1914: Black nationalist Marcus Garvey founds the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Jamaica, advocating black economic and political independence and the founding of a new homeland in Africa. The UNIA soon moves to the US.
1917: Forty African-Americans and eight whites are killed in race riots in East Saint Louis, right, stirred up by white resentment of African-Americans working in wartime industry. Thousands of African- Americans march down New York City's Fifth Avenue to protest against racial violence and discrimination.
1919: Simmering resentment leads to the so-called "Red Summer," with scores of race riots across the country leaving at least 100 people dead. These are again sparked by white resentment about African- Americans working in industry, and the large-scale exodus of blacks from South to North.
1930: W. D. Fard founds the Nation of Islam (NOI), a religious movement based on African-American separatism, in Detroit. After a few years, he turns the NOI over to follower Elijah Muhammad, who builds it into a major movement.
1931: Nine African-American youths are accused of raping two white women, tried for their lives and quickly convicted in Scottsboro, Alabama. The "Scottsboro Boys" case attracts national attention and will help fuel the civil rights movement.
1936: African-American athlete Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics and becomes a sporting icon, right, thwarting Adolf Hitler's plan to use the games to demonstrate "Aryan supremacy".
1939: Singer Marian Anderson is denied permission by the Daughters of the American Revolution to sing at their hall in Washington DC, because she is African-American. Anderson performs at the Lincoln Memorial instead, before an audience of 75,000.
1940: Richard Wright publishes Native Son, a fierce protest novel about race relations in the States that becomes a bestseller. In the same year, Benjamin O. Davis Snr becomes the first African-American general in the US army.
1941: The role of African-Americans in the military expands as the US enters the Second World War.
1942: The inter-racial Congress of Racial Equality (Core) is formed in Chicago. It will become famous for organising the Freedom Rides of 1961. The project involved the sending of "Freedom Riders" through the South to test segregation laws.
1947: Baseball great Jackie Robinson becomes the first African-American to break the colour barrier and be allowed to play in the major leagues
1948: President Truman issues an executive order that desegregates the military. Until this date, blacks and whites were divided into separate units.
1954: US Supreme Court declares school segregation unconstitutional in the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka ruling. It overturns its 1896 decision in Plessy v Ferguson.
The court rules unanimously that racial segregation in public schools violates the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which says that no state may deny equal protection of the laws to any person within its jurisdiction. The decision declares that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
The move kickstarts a campaign of civil disobedience to secure civil rights for Americans of African descent.
1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white person, right, triggering a successful, year-long African-American boycott of the bus system. The action of Parks, a black American civil rights activist, and the "Montgomery bus boycott" across Alabama, are recognised as the sparks that ignite the US Civil Rights Movement.
1956: The US Supreme Court rules that the segregation of Montgomery buses is unconstitutional. But a coalition of Southern congressmen calls for massive resistance to Supreme Court desegregation rulings.
1957: Arkansas Governor Orval Rubus uses the National Guard to block nine black students from attending a Little Rock High School. Following a court order, President Eisenhower sends in federal troops to ensure compliance.
Meanwhile, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jnr helps found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to work for full equality for African- Americans.
1960: Four black college students begin sit-ins at the lunch counter of a Greensboro, North Carolina, restaurant where black patrons are not served. Congress approves a watered-down voting rights act after a filibuster by Southern senators.
1962: African-American radical Malcolm X rejects the non-violent civil rights movement and becomes a champion of separatism and black pride. He states that equal rights should be secured "by any means necessary," although he revises his position later.
President Kennedy sends federal troops to the University of Mississippi to quell riots so that James Meredith, the school's first black student, can attend classes. The Supreme Court rules that segregation is unconstitutional in all transportation facilities.
At the same time, the Department of Defence orders full integration of military reserve units, but excluding the National Guard.
1963: More than 200,000 people march on Washington DC, in the largest ever civil rights demonstration, and the Rev Martin Luther King gives his famous "I have a dream" speech, left. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1929, the black Baptist minister led the civil-rights movement from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and his leadership was crucial to the movement's success in ending the legal segregation of blacks in the South and other areas of the United States.
1964: The Civil Rights Act becomes law and aims to halt discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, religion and nationality.
Three civil rights workers disappear in Mississippi after being stopped for speeding. They are found buried six weeks later. Riots break out in Harlem and Philadelphia.
In the same year, Cassius Clay wins the world heavyweight boxing championship.
Shortly afterwards, he announces he has joined the Nation of Islam and taken the name Muhammad Ali.
1965: The black nationalist leader Malcolm X is shot dead as he makes a speech in New York, a year after splitting from the Nation of Islam.
King organises a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, for African-American voting rights. A shocked nation watches on television as police club and teargas protesters.
Race riots break out in the Watts area of Los Angeles, leaving 34 dead and a thousand injured.
1966: Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican, is elected the first black US senator in 85 years.
Stokely Carmichael, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee, calls for "black power" in a speech, ushering in a more militant civil rights stance.
The Black Panther Party, a radical black power group, is founded in Oakland, California.
1967: Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American justice on the Supreme Court. More riots break out in Detroit and Newark, New Jersey. Carl Stokes (Cleveland) and Richard G. Hatcher (Gary, Indiana) are elected the first black mayors of major US cities.
1968: Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, sparking a week of riots across the country. James Earl Ray is later convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison. The Poor People's March on Washington – planned by King before his death – goes on.
1970: The African-American business magazine Black Enterprise begins publication, aimed at the growing African- American middle class.
1971: The Rev Jesse Jackson founds Operation Push (People United to Serve Humanity), an influential movement emphasising black African-American economic advancement and education.
1972: The Equal Employment Opportunity Act is passed, preventing job discrimination on the grounds of race.
1973: Maynard Jackson (Atlanta), is the first black elected mayor of a major Southern US city.
1978: The Supreme Court rules that medical school admission programmes that set aside positions based on race are unconstitutional.
1979: A shoot-out in Greensboro, North Carolina, leaves five anti-Ku Klux Klan protesters dead, and 12 Klansmen are charged with murder.
1984: Jesse Jackson is the first African-American man to make a serious bid for the US presidency, vying for the Democratic Party nomination. He will try again in 1988 but lose to Michael Dukakis.
1985: The Philadelphia police bomb a house in Philadelphia occupied by an African-American activist organisation, Move. The bombing kills 11 occupants of the house and triggers a fire that destroys a neighbourhood, leaving more than 300 people homeless.
1986: Martin Luther King's birthday is made into a national holiday.
1989: Army General Colin Powell, left, becomes first black man to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
And Ron Brown becomes the first African-American to head a major national political party, as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
1989: L. Douglas Wilder (Virginia) becomes the first black elected governor.
1990: President Bush vetoes a civil rights bill that he says would impose quotas or positive discrimination for employers.
1991: The Civil Rights Act makes it easier for employees to sue their employers over job discrimination.
1992: Rioting in Los Angeles, right, follows the acquittal of four white policemen caught on videotape beating an African- American motorist, Rodney King.
1995: Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, organises the Million Man March of African- American men in Washington, DC.
1996: Amid growing racial tension in the South, nearly 40 primarily African-American churches are burned.
1999: Amadou Diallo, an unarmed black immigrant, is mistakenly shot and killed by four white policemen in New York City, raising a national outcry.
2000: In the largest settlement ever in a US racial discrimination suit, the Coca-Cola company agrees to pay out $192.5 million to roughly 2,000 African-American employees.
2002: The Slavery Reparations Co-ordinating Committee, led by prominent African- American lawyers and activists, announces plans to sue companies that profited from slavery.
2006: Members of the Ku Klux Klan are allowed to demonstrate at the bloodiest battlefield of the American Civil War for the first time, after Supreme Court rulings on freedom of expression. About 30 Klansmen, some in white robes and others in military uniform, gather at the site of the Battle of Antietam, where more than 23,000 men had died.
2008: Democratic Senator Barack Obama is elected the first black president of the US, prompting celebrations across the country as he promises that "change has come to America".