Ossie & Ruby's Journey Through the 20th & 21st Centuries

Timeline 1903 – 1939


Vaudeville and Broadway star Bert Williams becomes the first black performer to sign on with the Ziegfield Follies.


Marcus Garvey founds the United Negro Improvement Association.


The Great Migration begins as thousands of African Americans flee the Jim Crow South

Fueled by the runaway success of D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, the Klu Klux Klan, dormant since 1871, is revived in Stone Mountain, GA.


The U.S. enters World War I. The first black regiment to go, the 369th Infantry (a.k.a. "the Harlem Hellfighters"), led by James Reese Europe, wins accolades from the French for their fighting— and their band introduces jazz to Europe.

A race riot in East St. Louis, IL leaves forty black people dead and drives 6,000 from their homes. In the first major civil rights protest of the century, the NAACP stages a "silent parade" of thousands in Harlem to protest the East St. Louis riot as well as lynching, racial violence, and discrimination across the United States.

December 18 Ossie Davis is born in Cogdell, Georgia to Kince and Laura Davis.

Hear Ossie's birth story


World War I ends.


In what becomes known as "Red Summer," race riots erupt in 26 U.S. cities.


The 19th Amendment is ratified, giving women the right to vote.


In Tulsa, the single worst incidence of racial violence in U.S. history leaves hundreds dead and the thriving black business district of Greenwood in ruins.


October 27 Ruby Ann Wallace is born in Cleveland, Ohio to Edward and Gladys (Hightower) Wallace.


Ossie is sent to live with his grandparents and attend elementary school in Waycross, Georgia. His parents move to Waycross the following year.

Edward Wallace and his second wife, Emma, moves the family to Harlem.


A. Philip Randolph, organizes the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.


Mordecai Johnson becomes the first black president of Howard University.

Langston Hughes publishes The Weary Blues, his first book of poetry.

Carter G. Woodson establishes Negro History Week.


The Stock Market crashes, signaling the beginning of the Great Depression.


Nine black youths who become known as the Scottsboro Boys are accused of raping two white women in Alabama.


Leon J. Davis founds the Pharmacists Union of Greater New York (later Local 1199). Father Divine moves his Peace Mission movement to Harlem.


States and implements his New Deal economic program to put Americans back to work.


The Apollo Theater in Harlem opens its doors to African-American audiences.


Ossie hitchhikes from Georgia to Washington, D.C. and enrolls at Howard University.

A riot in Harlem leaves three dead and over one hundred injured.


Joe Louis becomes the heavyweight boxing champion of the world. Zora Neale Hurston publishes Their Eyes Were Watching God.


Barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing at Constitution Hall, Marian Anderson sings at the Lincoln Memorial for an audience of 75,000 - including one Ossie Davis.

See Marian Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial.

Following the advice of Alain Locke (albeit prematurely), Ossie leaves Howard for Harlem and joins the Rose McClendon Players, where he makes his stage debut in Joy Exceeding Glory, a play about Father Divine.

Ruby graduates from Hunter High School, enters Hunter College in the fall.

Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African American actor to receive an Academy Award for her role in Gone with the Wind.