December 1st’s Five Greatest Milestones in Civil Rights!

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A Brief History

Apparently there is something about the first day of December that makes it significant to the history of civil rights concerning persons of African ancestry.

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper we find, first, that in 1768 the former slave ship Fredensborg sank from unknown causes (maybe cosmic karma?) of the coast of Tromoy, Norway.  Although not carrying slaves at that time, it had previously been involved in the “triangular trade” of slaves and goods in the Caribbean.

Second, in 1834 in accordance with the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, slavery was abolished in the Cape Colony (now South Africa).

Third, in 1862, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln delivered a State of the Union speech in which he reaffirmed the need to abolish slavery as stated in his Emancipation Proclamation 10 weeks prior.

Fourth, in 1865 just after the end of the American Civil War, which ultimately resulted in the end of state-sanctioned slavery in the United States of America, Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina was established by Reverend H.M. Turner of the American Baptist Home Mission Society as the first primarily “colored” (term used then for African-Americans) university in the southern U.S.

Fifth, finally, and most famously, in 1955, Rosa Parks, the celebrated civil rights pioneer, triggered the “Montgomery Bus Boycott” in Alabama by refusing to sit in the back of the bus as decreed by segregation laws of that time.  She held her nerve even when threatened with arrest.  She later recalled, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true.  I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then.  I was forty-two.  No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”  For her courageous actions, she has been hailed as “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of the freedom movement”, while being labeled the fourth most influential woman in history.

So there you have it: five groundbreaking events in civil rights history all of which happened on December 1st!  Now, what will be the next milestone in civil rights to occur on that day?  Perhaps some of our readers may be brave and noble enough to help bring about such changes!

Historical Evidence

Most of the above events have been the subject of numerous scholarly works.  For some good starting places, please consider our suggestions below to be preferably read in the order listed below:


The Slave Ship Fredensborg (Hardcover)

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Matthew Zarzeczny

Matthew graduated with a B.A. in French and history from Baldwin-Wallace College. At BW, Matthew minored in political science. He earned a Master’s in History at Kent State University and a Ph.D. in History from the Ohio State University. He teaches history at Ashland University, John Carroll University, and Kent State University at Stark.

  • Breann G.

    My favorite and the most interesting was Rosa Parks. She was so brave and so bold. She stood up for what she believed in regardless of the consequences.

  • Melissa Smith

    I think the most interesting was, by far, Rosa Parks. She was incredibly brave for doing what she did. It is something that just about every person knows about and was very influential.

  • Brent F.

    I think that Rosa Parks was the most interesting. She risked everything over a seat on the bus. That was a very gutsy move by her.

  • Kia T

    I believe that Rosa Parks was the most interesting because she risked her own life over a seat on the bus to prove a point.

  • T Goff

    Although I can see the significance in all of these milestones, I would agree with the other students thus far. Rosa Park’s bravery and actions caused quite the domino effect. Her single action showed other “ordinary” individuals (those who were not in the news like Martin Luther King) they could make a difference.

  • Kathryn R.

    I’m going to hop on the bandwagon and say that Rosa Parks is the most interesting milestone on the list. Though the others all contributed to the civil rights movement if you asked people to identify one of the events on the list I guarantee most people aren’t likely to remember the other four.

  • Lynnette B.

    I had no idea that South Africa ever had slaves, so I found that bit of information very interesting. All of the events are significant, however, as they helped to shape history.

  • Shelby R.

    I think that the first milestone, the slave ship sinking, is the most interesting. I think it is ironic that it sunk for unknown reasons after being a part in slave trading.

  • Brooke K.

    I think Rosa Parks and the bus boycott was the most interesting because it really shows how one person can make a difference.

  • T Harvey

    I do believe that Rosa Parks and the bus boycott were the most important. This is important events that helped lead up to desegregation in the US.

  • Mallory M.

    I believe that Rosa Parks and the bus boycott was the most interesting. She was a black woman standing up for what she believed in and I personally think that is pretty awesome.

  • Tyler Cates

    I think that Rosa Parks and the bus boycott was the most important. She stood up for what she thought was right and I think that she did the right thing.

  • A. Byers

    I was surprised to hear of the fourth milestone, that colored universities began as far back as 1865. I think that was a big step in African American progress because it gave former slaves a place to go to find better work.

  • K Hummel

    I think that Rosa Parks and the bus incident was the most important. She stood up for what she believed and she made a difference, whether it was legal or not.

  • cbierman

    How come the establishment of colored universities are not in history books? That along with Abe Lincoln’s emancipation proclamation were huge milestones.

  • Andrea O.

    I think that Rosa Parks and the bus boycott was the most important. She stood up for what she believed in and faught her battle.

  • Gabe V

    I agree that the fifth point, the Rosa Parks point, was the most important. She actively stood up to the law at that time and gave morale to the entire cause. There’s a reason she was picked as the fourth most influential person in the world.

  • Jillian S.

    I believe that the fifth point made above, about Rosa Parks, was the most significant. I feel this way because all the previous points made led Rosa Parks to have the courage to stand up for what she thought was right, and give people around the nation to stand up for what they believed in!

  • Ethan R.

    I thought that the most important point made was the ending of the Civil War. If the war had not ended and the Union lost there’s no way of telling what would have happened in history.

  • Carie E.

    I choose President Lincoln’s State of the Union Speech, he set foot many of the equality rights movements that continue today. All of those would not be as important as they are without his empowering speech.

  • CLM

    I think that the little paragraph on Rosa Parks was the most interesting event. She stood up for herself and I believe what she did was encouraging and led more blacks to stand up for themselves. Instead of going on with their lives being mistreated.

  • Shelby K

    I liked the point made about Rosa Parks, my favorite part was the full quote. “…the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” This is a good representation of how she was feeling during this time.

  • RSiburt

    I think the most interesting of the five is Rosa Parks refusing to move on the bus. It was a great turning point in desegregating the South.

  • A.Dunn

    The most interesting part is Rosa Parks. Just imagine being a female african american woman and standing up for was right even though others were against you? She was truly a hero .

  • LY

    I will have to go with Rosa Parks as well. Maybe it is because of the publicity surrounding the events, but that is a very well known incident and most school age children know the story of Rosa Parks so it continues to influence, even today.

  • N Craig

    The most amazing part is Rosa Parks. She was such a strong woman who fought for what she believed in.

  • HB

    Rosa Parks was an amazing person, and definitely the most interesting of the article. To be able to stand up for herself and others and be so strong and empowering takes a lot of guts. She is truly inspiring.