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Chronology

Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Literature

Chronology

Date

Literary Works and Authors

Historical Context

1607

Colony of Jamestown established in Virginia

1619

First slaves arrive in America

1620

The Mayflower, carrying Pilgrims from Plymouth, England, lands at New Plymouth, Mass.

1638

Anne Hutchinson banished from Massachusetts Bay Colony after Puritan clergy find her guilty of heresy

1649

Charles I deposed and executed

1650

Bradstreet, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America

Oliver Cromwell comes to power

1657

ca. William Bradford

1672

d. Anne Bradstreet

1675

Wampanoag Indians destroyed after attacking English colonists in King Philip's War, 1675–1676

ca. 1680

Taylor, God's Determinations Touching His Elect

1682

Mary Rowlandson, The Captivity Narrative

Taylor, Preparatory Meditations begun (1682–1725)

1692

Witch trials in Salem, Mass., result in 20 executions

1693

Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World

1711

1724

Jewish settlers exiled from Louisiana colony

1728

d. Cotton Mather

1729

d. Edward Taylor

1734

1735

John Peter Zenger, editor of New York Weekly, acquitted of sedition and libel, establishing doctrine of freedom of the press

1739

War of Jenkins's Ear, between England and Spain over control of seaways, 1739–1748

The “Great Awakening,” a religious revival movement spawned by Jonathan Edwards and others, spreads across American colonies

1741

Edwards, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

1745

King George's War, between England and France for control over North America, 1745–1748

1754

French and Indian War, continued territorial struggle pitting France, its Canadian colonies, and its American Indian allies against Britain and its American colonies, 1754–1763

1758

d. Jonathan Edwards

1761

Slavery abolished in mainland Portugal

1765

Stamp Act, a tax imposed by Britain on American colonies, provokes movement against “taxation without representation”

1766

Daniel Boone explores Kentucky Territory

1768

Sampson Occom, A Short Narrative of My Life

1770

Freneau, Father Bombo's Pilgrimage to Mecca

British soldiers fire into a crowd, killing five persons in the Boston Massacre

1772

Freneau, “A Poem on the Rising Glory of America”

1773

Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

Colonists destroy British tea at Boston Tea Party, signaling American opposition to the Tea Act of 1773

1775

Clashes between American troops and British army at Lexington and Concord, Mass. Begin Revolutionary War

Second Continental Congress meets in Philadelphia

British defeat Americans at Bunker Hill, near Boston

1776

Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense

Second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence

George Washington's army defeats British at Trenton, New Jersey

First state constitutions written

1777

Articles of Confederation adopted

1780–1781

Americans defeat British in Battle of Cowpens, in South Carolina

Articles of Confederation ratified

1782

Crèvecoeur, Letters from an American Farmer

1783

Treaty of Paris with Great Britain recognizes American independence

1784

d. Phillis Wheatley

1786

1787

Daniel Shays leads armed rebellion of debtor farmers against courts in western Mass., spurring drive for stronger national government

Constitutional Convention, meeting in Philadelphia, adopts Constitution

The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays supporting the United States Constitution and the idea of a strong federal government, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay under the pseudonym “Publius,”, published in New York City newspapers, 1787–1788

States ratify Constitution, 1787–1788

1789

First elections held under Constitution

George Washington becomes first president

Bill of Rights adopted by Congress

French Revolution, abolishing the monarchy and establishing a republican form of government, 1789–1799

1790

d. Benjamin Franklin

First American cotton mill established in Pawtucket, R.I.

1791

Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

1794

Whiskey Rebellion, an uprising against the federal excise tax on corn liquor in western Pennsylvania, put down by federal troops

1796

Washington leaves presidency

1798

Alien and Sedition Acts, imposing far-reaching restrictions on freedom of speech and of the press, passed by Congress

1801

Thomas Jefferson becomes president

1802

The Library of Congress established

1803

Supreme Court rules in Marbury v. Madison that the court has the power to invalidate acts of Congress when they are determined to be unconstitutional

Louisiana Purchase, the acquisition by the United States of more than 800,000 square miles of territory from France, extends U.S. holdings from Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains

Lewis and Clark begin expedition to investigate the territory added by the Louisiana Purchase (1803–1806)

1806

First edition of Webster's Dictionary

1807

Embargo Act bans all foreign trade

1812

U.S. declares war on Britain, beginning War of 1812

1813

d. J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur

British erect naval blockade

1814

British troops capture and burn Washington

Treaty of Ghent ends war between U.S. and Britain

1819

Irving, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. (1819–1820)

1821

Cherokee language transcribed

1823

James Monroe issues Monroe Doctrine, declaring that any military incursions by European nations into the Americas would be considered a threat to U.S. sovereignty.

1825

Erie Canal opens, linking the Great Lakes to the Hudson River

1826

Cooper, The Last of the Mohicans

1827

Poe, Tamerlane and Other Poems

First railroad tracks laid on American soil

1830

Indian Removal Act, giving the president power to negotiate the removal of Indian tribes from areas east of the Mississippi River, passed by Congress and signed by President Andrew Jackson

1831

Prince, The History of Mary Prince, A West Indian Slave

William Lloyd Garrison begins publishing abolitionist newspaper The Liberator

1832

d. Philip Freneau

1834

Slavery abolished in British Colonies

1835

Simms, The Yemasee

1836

Emerson, Nature

Transcendentalist movement (ca. 1836–1882), promoting intuitive idealism, the divinity of humankind, and the importance of the individual's own moral insight as opposed to the rule of the many, becomes major influence in American literature, theology, and social thought

1838

Cherokee Nation forced to move from Georgia to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in Trail of Tears, 1838–1839

1839

Very, Essays and Poems

1840

Dana, Two Years before the Mast

Poe, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque

Tocqueville, Alexis de, Democracy in America (1835–1840)

1841

Cooper, The Deerslayer

Emerson, Essays

1843

Poe, “The Tell-Tale Heart”

1844

1845

Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Poe, The Raven

Poe, Tales

1847

Longfellow, Evangeline

1848

Women's rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York demands equal rights for women, including the right to vote

John Humphrey Noyes founds Oneida Perfectionist colony, a Christian socialist society that becomes a leading example of the American Utopian movement, 1848–1900

1849

Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Gold rush in California, 1849–1850

d. Edgar Allan Poe

1850

Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Fugitive Slave Act, part of the Compromise of 1850, denies right of escaped slaves to a trial by jury and authorizes government authorities to return escaped slaves to former owners

1851

Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

Melville, Moby-Dick

d. James Fenimore Cooper

1852

Hawthorne, The Blithedale Romance

Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

1853

Melville, “Bartleby the Scrivener”

1854

Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods

Republican Party formed

1855

Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom

Irving, Life of George Washington (five vols., 1855–1859)

Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha Whitman, Leaves of Grass

1856

Melville, The Piazza Tales

1857

Supreme Court issues decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford case, declaring that a black slave cannot become a citizen under the U.S. Constitution

1858

Longfellow, The Courtship of Miles Standish

1859

d. Washington Irving

John Brown leads raid on U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, hoping to inspire slave uprising

d. Alexis de Tocqueville

1860

Abraham Lincoln elected president

1861

Confederate States of America formed

Fort Sumter, S.C., falls to Confederate forces, beginning Civil War

In first major armed conflict of Civil War, Confederates defeat Union army in (First) Battle of Bull Run in Virginia

1862

d. Henry David Thoreau

Both armies sustain enormous casualties in battles of Shiloh, (Second) Bull Run, Antietam, and Fredericksburg

1863

Thoreau, The Maine Woods

Lincoln issues Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves

1864

d. Nathaniel Hawthorne

Antidraft riots break out in New York City; homes of wealthy looted and scores of African Americans lynched

Union armies victorious at crucial battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg

General Sherman captures Atlanta, begins “March to the Sea” to destroy Confederacy

Lincoln re-elected president

1865

Whitman, Drum Taps

General Lee of the Confederacy surrenders to General Grant of the Union Army at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, ending the Civil War

President Lincoln assassinated; Andrew Johnson becomes president. Thirteenth Amendment outlaws slavery

Freedmen's Bureau established to aid and assimilate freed slaves

1866

Congress approves Fourteenth Amendment, granting citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” and prohibiting states from reducing the “privileges and immunities of citizens”

Ku Klux Klan formed in South

1868

Alcott, Little Women

Military Reconstruction Act outlines plan of Reconstruction, placing the South under temporary military occupation, enfranchising African Americans and disenfranchising former Confederate leaders

Alger, Ragged Dick

Andrew Johnson impeached but not convicted

Fourteenth Amendment ratified

Ulysses S. Grant elected president

1869

Twain, The Innocents Abroad

Congress passes Fifteenth Amendment

Transcontinental railroad completed

1870

Harte, The Luck of Roaring Camp and Other Sketches

John D. Rockefeller founds Standard Oil

d. William Gilmore Simms

1871

Great Chicago Fire destroys large portion of city's central district

1872

Twain, Roughing It

First national park, Yellowstone, established

1873

Andrew Carnegie founds Carnegie Steel

1874

Financial panic disrupts national economy

1876

Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

General George Custer dies in battle with Sioux at Little Big Horn (Montana)

Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone

Baseball's National League founded

1877

Last federal troops withdrawn from South after “Compromise of 1877,” an agreement between Southern Democrats and Republicans to end federal intervention in South

1878

James, Daisy Miller

1879

Edison invents the light bulb

1880

Harris, Uncle Remus

d. Jones Very

1881

Alger, From Canal Boy to President

President Garfield assassinated

James, The Portrait of a Lady

1882

Howells, A Modern Instance

Congress passes Chinese Exclusion Act, outlawing immigration from China

Lazarus, Songs of a Semite

d. Richard Henry Dana

d. Ralph Waldo Emerson

d. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

1883

Twain, Life on the Mississippi

Brooklyn Bridge opens

1884

Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

First steel girder “skyscraper” built in Chicago

1885

Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham

1886

d. Emily Dickinson

1887

d. Emma Lazarus

1888

Bellamy, Looking Backward

d. Louisa May Alcott

1889

Jane Addams opens Hull House in Chicago to help assimilate immigrants

1890

Dickinson, Poems of Emily Dickinson

Battle of Wounded Knee (S. Dakota), the last major clash between federal troops and American Indians, results in massacre of hundreds of Sioux

Sherman Antitrust Act outlaws contracts, combinations, and conspiracies “in restraint of trade”

“Jim Crow” laws establishing strict segregation passed throughout South (ca. 1890s)

1891

d. Herman Melville

1892

Gilman, The Yellow Wallpaper

People's Party formed in Omaha on behalf of debtor farmers, launching “Populist” movement

d. Walt Whitman

1893

Depression begins

Chicago World's Fair

Anti-Saloon League founded

1894

Garland, Crumbling Idols

Twain, The Tragedy of Puddn'head Wilson

1895

Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

First Coney Island amusement park opens

d. Frederick Douglass

Insurrection against Spanish begins in Cuba

1896

Dunbar, Lyrics of Lowly Life

William Jennings Bryan wins Democratic nomination after “Cross of Gold” speech denouncing gold standard

Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs

d. Harriet Beecher Stowe

William McKinley elected president

Yukon Gold Rush

Plessy v. Ferguson upholds racially segregated railroad cars; further discriminatory (Jim Crow) laws follow

1897

The advent of sensationalistic newspaper reporting known as “Yellow Journalism”

1898

Crane, The Open Boat and Other Tales of Adventure

Spanish-American War, 1898–1899; Treaty of Paris cedes Puerto Rico, Philippines, and other Spanish possessions to U.S. and recognizes Cuban independence

James, The Turn of the Screw

U.S. battleship Maine explodes in Havana harbor

Revolt against American rule begins in Philippines (1898–1902)

1899

Chesnutt, The Conjure Woman

Chopin, The Awakening

Norris, McTeague

d. Horatio Alger

1900

Baum, The Wizard of Oz

Eugene Debs runs for president as candidate of Socialist Party

Chesnutt, The House behind the Cedars

Dreiser, Sister Carrie

Hawaii becomes U.S. territory

d. Stephen Crane

1901

President McKinley assassinated; Theodore Roosevelt becomes president

J. P. Morgan creates United States Steel Corporation

Baseball's American League founded

1902

Hapgood, The Spirit of the Ghetto

James, The Wings of the Dove

Wister, The Virginian

d. Bret Harte

d. Frank Norris

1903

Du Bois, W. E. B., The Souls of Black Folk

Ford Motor Company founded

James, The Ambassadors

Wright brothers launch first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

London, The Call of the Wild

First motion picture debuts in America

1904

Henry, Cabbages and Kings

Construction of Panama Canal begins

James, The Golden Bowl

d. Kate Chopin

1905

Wharton, The House of Mirth

Roosevelt elected president

1906

London, White Fang

San Francisco earthquake and fire destroy much of the city

Sinclair, The Jungle

d. Paul Laurence Dunbar

Meat Inspection Act, requiring government inspection of slaughterhouses, passed by Congress

Pure Food and Drug Act, restricting sale of dangerous or ineffective medicines, passed by Congress

Henry Ford produces his first automobiles

1907

Adams, The Education of Henry Adams

Sinn Fein, an Irish nationalist movement, founded

1909

d. Sarah Orne Jewett

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) founded

Admiral Peary reaches North Pole

1910

d. O. Henry

Boy Scouts of America founded

d. Mark Twain

1911

Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary

Standard Oil Company declared a monopoly and broken up

Wharton, Ethan Frome

1912

Lindsay, Rhymes to Be Traded for Bread

Titanic sinks

Girl Guides (later Girl Scouts of America) founded

Woodrow Wilson elected president

1913

Cather, O Pioneers!

Frost, A Boy's Will

1914

Pound, Des Imagistes

Panama Canal opens

Stein, Tender Buttons

Austria invades Serbia, beginning World War I

Tarkington, Penrod

First federal income tax established by Congress

d. Ambrose Bierce

1915

Lindsay, The Art of the Moving Picture

D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation features stereotypical images of African Americans and negative portrayal of Reconstruction

Masters, Spoon River Anthology

Great Migration of African Americans from the South to Northern cities begins

1916

Lardner, You Know Me, Al

The Easter Rebellion in Dublin, Ireland; Irish Republican Army is established

d. Henry James

d. Jack London

Margaret Sanger opens first birth control clinic in Brooklyn

Wilson re-elected

1917

Eliot, Prufrock and Other Observations

Russian Revolution, 1917–1921

Lowell, Tendencies in Modern American Poetry

Soviet Union established

Millay, Renascence and Other Poems

U.S. enters World War I

Sinclair, King Coal

Puerto Ricans granted U.S. citizenship

1918

Cather, My Ántonia

Spanish flu epidemic kills millions (1918–1919)

Tarkington, The Magnificent Ambersons

Armistice ends war

d. Henry Adams

1919

Algonquin Round Table begins meeting, 1919–1932

Paris Peace Conference convenes

Anderson, Winesburg, Ohio

Treaty of Versailles signed by Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Japan, but not ratified by U.S. Senate

Mencken, The American Language

Eighteenth Amendment (Prohibition) ratified

Race riots break out in Chicago and other cities

1920

Lewis, Main Street

In “Red Scare” federal government reacts to radicalism and raids leftist organizations

Wharton, The Age of Innocence

d. William Dean Howells

Prohibition goes into effect

Women given the right to vote (Nineteenth Amendment)

Partition of Ireland

1921

Dos Passos, Three Soldiers

Reader's Digest founded

Robinson, Collected Poems

1922

Cummings, The Enormous Room

Harlem Renaissance, 1922–1929

Eliot, The Waste Land

Motion Picture Association, under Will Hays, founded to regulate film industry

The Fugitive magazine founded, 1922–1925

Garland, A Daughter of the Middle Border

Lewis, Babbitt

1923

Cummings, Tulips and Chimneys

Warren G. Harding dies; Calvin Coolidge becomes president

Frost, New Hampshire

Loy, Lunar Baedeker

Time magazine founded

Millay, The Harp-Weaver and Other Poems

Stevens, Harmonium

1924

Lardner, How to Write Short Stories [with Samples]

Stalin takes power in the Soviet Union after Lenin's death

Melville, Billy Budd, Foretopman

H. L. Mencken cofounds American Mercury

National Origins Act severely restricts immigration from Asia and southern and eastern Europe

Robinson, The Man Who Died Twice

The Ku Klux Klan reaches peak membership

1925

Dreiser, An American Tragedy

Scopes trial in Dayton, Tennessee, highlights attempts by religious fundamentalists to forbid the teaching of evolution

Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Lowell, What's O'Clock?

d. Amy Lowell

The New Yorker begins publication

1926

Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises

National Broadcasting Company (NBC) formed

Hughes, Weary Blues

Parker, Enough Rope

Tate, Ode to the Confederate Dead

1927

Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Sacco and Vanzetti, Italian immigrants and admitted anarchists, executed

Lewis, Elmer Gantry

Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop

Charles Lindbergh's solo flight across the Atlantic

Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) formed

1928

Benét, John Brown's Body

Herbert Hoover elected president

Jackson, Anarchism Is Not Enough

Alexander Fleming discovers penicillin

Sandburg, Good Morning, America

1929

Aiken, Selected Poems

Stock market crash

Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Great Depression begins, 1929–1939

Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms

Wolfe, Look Homeward, Angel

1930

Auden, Poems

The Dust Bowl, a decade of severe drought and dust storms in U.S. Plains, begins

Crane, The Bridge

Eliot, Ash Wednesday

Faulkner, As I Lay Dying

The Fugitives publish I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition

1931

Buck, The Good Earth

Scottsboro case attracts national attention when a group of black teenagers is convicted and sentenced to death for the rape of two white women on a train near Scottsboro, Alabama

Wilson, Axel's Castle

Louis Zukofsky edits objectivist issue of Poetry magazine

d. Vachel Lindsay

1932

Faulkner, Light in August

Franklin Delano Roosevelt elected president

Caldwell, Tobacco Road

Tuskegee syphilis project begins

d. Charles W. Chesnutt

d. Hart Crane

1933

Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas

New Deal begins

West, Miss Lonelyhearts

Adolf Hitler becomes chancellor of Germany

d. Ring Lardner

Twenty-first Amendment ends prohibition

U.S. recognizes USSR

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) created to revitalize the region

1934

Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night

Revised Production Code mandates self-censorship among Hollywood studios

Miller, Tropic of Cancer

Pound, Make It New

Roth, Call It Sleep

1935

Moore, Selected Poems

Works Progress Administration and other relief agencies, including Federal Writers' Project and Federal Arts Project, created to keep millions of people employed

O'Hara, Butterfield 8

Wolfe, Of Time and the River

d. Charlotte Perkins Gilman

d. Edwin Arlington Robinson

Social Security Act creates pension system for working Americans and provides government assistance to the poor and elderly

National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) encourages collective bargaining between employers and employees, fostering union growth

1936

Barnes, Nightwood

Roosevelt re-elected president

Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Spanish civil war, 1936–1939

Sandburg, The People, Yes!

Jesse Owens wins four gold medals in Berlin Olympics

Life begins publication

1937

Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Hindenburg hydrogen airship explodes in Lakehurst, New Jersey

Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

d. Edith Wharton

1938

Dos Passos, U.S.A. trilogy (collected)

Germany annexes Austria and Czech Sudetenland

Wilder, Our Town

Munich Conference

Wright, Uncle Tom's Children

d. Thomas Wolfe

1939

Hellman, The Little Foxes

Germany invades Poland

Miller, Tropic of Capricorn

World War II begins, 1939–1945

Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

New York World's Fair

Thurber, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”

West, Nathanael, The Day of the Locust

1940

Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Roosevelt re-elected president

McCullers, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter

O'Hara, Pal Joey

O'Neill, The Iceman Cometh

Wright, Native Son

d. Hamlin Garland

d. F. Scott Fitzgerald

d. Nathanael West

1941

Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Japan attacks Pearl Harbor

Glasgow, In This Our Life

U.S. enters World War II

Ransom, The New Criticism

d. Sherwood Anderson

1942

Frost, A Witness Tree

News of the Holocaust reaches U.S.

Kazin, On Native Grounds

Japanese Americans interned

Stevens, Notes toward a Supreme Fiction

Manhattan Project, government-sponsored research that produced atomic bomb, begins

White, One Man's Meat

1943

Eliot, Four Quartets

Zoot-suit riots break out in Los Angeles when white sailors attack Mexican-American youth

d. Stephen Vincent Benét

1944

Williams, The Glass Menagerie

Roosevelt re-elected president

d. Hutchins Hapgood

Allied forces storm the beaches at Normandy (D day)

GI Bill of Rights provides financial and educational support to U.S. WWII veterans

1945

White, Stuart Little

Franklin D. Roosevelt dies; Harry S. Truman becomes president

Wright, Black Boy

d. Theodore Dreiser

Mussolini killed by rioters

d. Ellen Glasgow

Hitler commits suicide

Germany surrenders, ending WWII

America drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan

Japan surrenders

United Nations founded

1946

Lowell, Lord Weary's Castle

Literary figures develop New Criticism, which focuses on text and language in literary analysis

Warren, All the King's Men

Welty, Delta Wedding

Benjamin Spock, pediatrician and pacifist, publishes Baby and Child Care

d. Gertrude Stein

d. Booth Tarkington

1947

Kees, The Fall of Magicians

Jackie Robinson plays with Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball's color line

Stafford, The Mountain Lion

Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) begins its investigation of communists in the Hollywood Motion Picture Industry

d. Willa Cather

Construction begins on Levittown, New York, symbolizing suburban growth

1948

Jackson, “The Lottery”

Truman signs Economic Cooperation Act (the Marshall Plan), sending financial aid to European countries suffering the effects of WWII

Jarrell, Losses

Mailer, The Naked and the Dead

Pound, The Pisan Cantos

State of Israel established

Roethke, The Lost Son and Other Poems

Vidal, The City and the Pillar

1949

Algren, The Man with the Golden Arm

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established

Brooks, Annie Allen

Mao Zedong declares People's Republic of China a communist state

Miller, Death of a Salesman

d. Margaret Mitchell

1950

Sandburg, Complete Poems

North Korea invades South Korea, beginning Korean War (1950–1953)

Trilling, The Liberal Imagination

d. Edgar Lee Masters

UN troops, led by U.S. General Douglas MacArthur, launch counterattack against North Korea

d. Edna St. Vincent Millay

China enters Korean War

Senator Joseph McCarthy alleges that certain State Department members hold communist loyalties

1951

Hughes, Montage of a Dream Deferred

Julius and Ethel Rosenberg convicted as Soviet spies (executed 1953)

McCullers, The Ballad of the Sad Café

Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Styron, Lie Down in Darkness

d. Sinclair Lewis

1952

Ellison, Invisible Man

U.S. tests hydrogen bomb

Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Dwight D. Eisenhower elected president

Malamud, The Natural

O'Connor, Wise Blood

Steinbeck, East of Eden

White, Charlotte's Web

1953

Baldwin, Go Tell It on the Mountain

Watson and Crick document DNA

Bellow, The Adventures of Augie March

Korean war ends in stalemate

Jarrell, Poetry and the Age

Miller, The Crucible

Roethke, The Waking: Poems, 1933–1953

d. Eugene O'Neill

1954

Stevens, Collected Poems

Supreme Court decides Brown v. Board of Education case, ruling against racial segregation in public schools and declaring separate education facilities unequal

Swenson, Another Animal

Robert Creeley founds The Black Mountain Review

North and South Vietnam divided after communists under Ho Chi Minh defeat French colonials

Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) established

1955

Baldwin, Notes of a Native Son

Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott sparked by Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat

Bishop, Poems: North and South—A Cold Spring

Miller, A View from the Bridge

American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations merge to become the AFL-CIO

Nabokov, Lolita

O'Connor, A Good Man Is Hard to Find

O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night

Williams, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

d. James Agee

d. Weldon Kees

d. Wallace Stevens

1956

Barth, The Floating Opera

Eisenhower re-elected president

Ginsberg, Howl

Wilbur, Things of This World

d. H. L. Mencken

1957

Agee, A Death in the Family

Soviet Union launches satellite Sputnik

Cheever, The Wapshot Chronicle

European Economic Community (Common Market) established

Kerouac, On the Road

McCarthy, Memories of a Catholic Girlhood

Federal courts order desegregation of Central High School in Little Rock, Ark.

Singer, Gimpel the Fool and Other Stories

Martin Luther King Jr. establishes the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta

1958

Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) established

Kerouac, Dharma Bums

Kunitz, Selected Poems: 1928–1958

Williams, Paterson (five volumes, 1946–1958)

1959

Albee, The Zoo Story

Revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro overthrow Fulgencio Batista in Cuba

Burroughs, Naked Lunch

Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun

Alaska and Hawaii become states

Lowell, Life Studies

Paley, The Little Disturbances of Man

Roth, Goodbye, Columbus

Schwartz, Summer Knowledge

Thurber, The Years with Ross

White, The Elements of Style

1960

Barth, The Sot-Weed Factor

John F. Kennedy elected president

Kinnell, What a Kingdom It Was

U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the birth control pill

Knowles, A Separate Peace

Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Plath, The Colossus and Other Poems

Sexton, To Bedlam and Part Way Back

Updike, Rabbit, Run

d. Zora Neale Hurston

d. Richard Wright

1961

Ginsberg, Kaddish and Other Poems

Attempted invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs ends in defeat of U.S.-led forces

Gunn, My Sad Captains

Heller, Catch-22

Construction of Berlin Wall begins

Salinger, Franny and Zooey

Peace Corps established

d. H.D.

d. Ernest Hemingway

d. James Thurber

1962

Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Soviet Union removes missile sites from Cuba after U.S. threatens military attack

Ashbery, The Tennis Court Oath

Auden, The Dyer's Hand

Socialist writer Michael Harrington publishes The Other America, documenting poverty in America

Baldwin, Another Country

Nabokov, Pale Fire

Stafford, Traveling through the Dark

d. E. E. Cummings

d. William Faulkner

d. Robinson Jeffers

1963

McCarthy, The Group

Martin Luther King Jr. delivers “I Have a Dream” speech at March on Washington

Plath, The Bell Jar

d. W. E. B. Du Bois

President Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon B. Johnson becomes president

d. Robert Frost

d. Sylvia Plath

Betty Friedan publishes The Feminine Mystique, helping launch “second-wave” feminism

d. Theodore Roethke

d. William Carlos Williams

1964

Berryman, 77 Dream Songs

Civil Rights Act legislates against discrimination

Lowell, For the Union Dead

The Beatles come to the U.S.

d. Flannery O'Connor

Free Speech Movement begins at University of California at Berkeley

Gulf of Tonkin resolution gives president power to “take all necessary measures” against communist insurgents in Vietnam

Johnson elected president

1965

Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X

U.S. sends combat troops to Vietnam, beginning Vietnam War (1965–1973)

Matthiessen, At Play in the Fields of the Lord

Plath, Ariel

Malcolm X assassinated

d. T. S. Eliot

National Endowment for the Arts established

d. Lorraine Hansberry

Race riot breaks out in Watts, Los Angeles

d. Randall Jarrell

Voting Rights Act (Civil Rights Act of 1965) passed, providing federal protection to African Americans exercising their right to vote

d. Shirley Jackson

1966

Capote, In Cold Blood

National Organization for Women established

Hayden, A Ballad of Remembrance

Malamud, The Fixer

Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

Sexton, Live or Die

d. Mina Loy

d. Delmore Schwartz

1967

Hecht, The Hard Hours

Israel and Arabs clash over territory in Six-Day War

Levertov, The Sorrow Dance

Thurgood Marshall becomes first African-American Supreme Court Justice

McPhee, Oranges

Reed, The Free-lance Pallbearers

Race riots break out in Detroit and Newark

Stone, A Hall of Mirrors

Styron, The Confessions of Nat Turner

Tate, The Lost Pilot

d. Langston Hughes

d. Carson McCullers

d. Dorothy Parker

d. Carl Sandburg

1968

Didion, Slouching towards Bethlehem

Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated

Momaday, House Made of Dawn

Robert Kennedy assassinated

d. Upton Sinclair

Viet Cong launch Tet offensive, intensifying war with U.S.

d. John Steinbeck

Richard Nixon elected president

1969

Bukowski, Notes of a Dirty Old Man

Stonewall Riot in New York City launches gay rights movement

Howard, Untitled Subjects

Oates, them

Americans land on the moon

Roth, Portnoy's Complaint

Woodstock music festival

Stafford, Collected Stories

Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

d. Jack Kerouac

1970

Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

National Guard soldiers shoot antiwar protesters at Kent State University in Ohio, killing four

Dickey, Deliverance

Didion, Play It As It Lays

Merwin, The Carrier of Ladders

Morrison, The Bluest Eye

d. John Dos Passos

d. John O'Hara

1971

Bukowski, Post Office

Gardner, Grendel

Stegner, Angle of Repose

Wright, Collected Poems

1972

Welty, Optimist's Daughter

Nixon re-elected president

d. John Berryman

Watergate break-in

d. Marianne Moore

Israeli athletes killed at Munich Olympics

d. Ezra Pound

Congress approves Equal Rights Amendment, supporting the women's movement

d. Edmund Wilson

Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (SALT I agreement) between U.S. and Soviet Union

Bloody Sunday sets off civil unrest in Ireland

1973

Jong, Fear of Flying

Roe v. Wade case invalidates anti-abortion laws

Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow

Paris Peace Accords produce cease-fire in Vietnam

Rich, Diving into the Wreck

U.S. withdraws from Vietnam

Vidal, Burr

Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) occupy town of Wounded Knee

Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

d. Conrad Aiken

Arab oil embargo and OPEC price increase creates spurring energy crisis

d. W. H. Auden

d. Pearl S. Buck

1974

Ammons, Sphere: The Form of a Motion

Impeachment proceedings begin against Nixon

Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Nixon resigns; Gerald Ford becomes president

Snyder, Turtle Island

OPEC raises oil prices

d. John Crowe Ransom

“Stagflation” (recession and inflation together) begins

d. Anne Sexton

1975

Ashbery, Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror

South Vietnam falls to Communists

Bellow, Humboldt's Gift

Doctorow, Ragtime

Levertov, The Freeing of the Dust

Mamet, American Buffalo

Pinsky, Sadness and Happiness

d. Lionel Trilling

d. Thornton Wilder

1976

Beattie, Distortions

Jimmy Carter elected president

Carver, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please?

Viking II space probe lands on Mars

Kingston, The Woman Warrior

Stegner, The Spectator Bird

1977

Hugo, 31 Letters and 13 Dreams

Jordan, Things That I Do in the Dark

King, The Shining

Shepard, Curse of the Starving Class

d. Vladimir Nabokov

d. Robert Lowell

1978

Angelou, And Still I Rise

First test-tube baby born

Gardner, On Moral Fiction

Hayden, American Journal

Irving, The World According to Garp

Lopez, Of Wolves and Men

Matthiessen, The Snow Leopard

Rich, The Dream of a Common Language

1979

Justice, Selected Poems

Ayatollah Khomeini leads revolution in Iran against Shah Reza Pahlavi

Levine, Ashes

Mailer, The Executioner's Song

American diplomats taken hostage in Iran

Styron, Sophie's Choice

SALT II agreement between U.S. and Soviet Union further attempts to control nuclear armaments

d. Elizabeth Bishop

d. Jean Stafford

Soviet troops invade Afghanistan; U.S. backs Muslim guerrilla fighters

d. Allen Tate

Partial meltdown at Three Mile Island nuclear plant

1980

Kingston, China Men

Ronald Reagan elected president

Shepard, True West

U.S. boycotts Moscow Olympics

d. Robert Hayden

d. Henry Miller

d. Katherine Anne Porter

d. Muriel Rukeyser

d. James Wright

1981

Prose, Household Saints

Sandra Day O'Connor becomes first female Supreme Court justice

Silko, Storyteller

d. Nelson Algren

John Hinckley Jr. shoots President Reagan

1982

Kinnell, Selected Poems

First case of AIDS confirmed in America

Merrill, The Changing Light at Sandover

Equal Rights Amendment fails to obtain necessary 38 state ratifications by deadline

Naylor, The Women of Brewster Place

Walker, The Color Purple

U.S. invades Grenada

White, A Boy's Own Story

d. Djuna Barnes

d. John Cheever

d. John Gardner

d. Richard Hugo

1983

Barthelme, Overnight to Many Distant Cities

Carver, Cathedral

Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Kennedy, Ironweed

d. Tennessee Williams

1984

Erdrich, Love Medicine

Reagan re-elected president

Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

Apple Computer introduces the Macintosh, the first personal computer with graphic user interface

Olds, The Dead and the Living

Wolff, The Barracks Thief

d. Truman Capote

d. Lillian Hellman

1985

Banks, Continental Drift

Mikhail Gorbachev becomes leader of Soviet Union

DeLillo, White Noise

Irving, The Cider House Rules

Kincaid, Annie John

Wilson, Fences

d. E. B. White

1986

Erdrich, The Beet Queen

Space shuttle Challenger explodes

Lopez, Arctic Dreams

Iran-Contra affair exposed; U.S. concedes selling weapons to Iran and illegally funding “contra” rebels in Nicaragua

Ostriker, The Imaginary Lover

Taylor, Summons to Memphis

d. Bernard Malamud

Chernobyl nuclear power accident

1987

Morrison, Beloved

U.S. stock market crashes

McNally, Frankie and Johnny at the Claire de Lune

Stevenson, Selected Poems

d. James Baldwin

1988

White, The Beautiful Room Is Empty

George H. Bush elected president

d. Raymond Carver

Soviet troops withdraw from Afghanistan

1989

Banks, Affliction

Berlin Wall falls; end of the Cold War

Irving, A Prayer for Owen Meany

Exxon Valdez runs aground in Alaska

Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book

Chinese military massacres pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square, Beijing

Ozick, The Shawl

Wolff, This Boy's Life

U.S. invades Panama

d. Donald Barthelme

d. Mary McCarthy

d. May Swenson

d. Robert Penn Warren

1990

O'Brien, The Things They Carried

Nelson Mandela released after 27 years in South African prison

Simic, The World Doesn't End

Styron, Darkness Visible

Walcott, Omeros

Wideman, Philadelphia Fire

Wilson, The Piano Lesson

1991

Alvarez, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

U.S. and allies force Iraq out of Kuwait in (first) Persian Gulf War

Berry, Standing on Earth

Elkin, The MacGuffin

START I agreement between U.S. and Soviet Union calls for reduction and eventual dismantling of each country's nuclear weapons

McNally, Lips Together, Teeth Apart

d. Laura Riding Jackson

d. Isaac Bashevis Singer

Soviet Union collapses

Launch of the World Wide Web

Official end of Apartheid in South Africa

1992

Gioia, Can Poetry Matter?

Los Angeles race riot sparked by acquittal of police officers accused in the Rodney King beating

Glück, The Wild Iris

Kushner, Angels in America (1992–1995)

War breaks out in Yugoslavia as a result of ethnic tensions

McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Bill Clinton elected president

1993

Ammons, Garbage

First bombing of New York's World Trade Center by Islamic terrorists

Proulx, The Shipping News

d. Wallace Stegner

START II agreement between U.S. and Russia

d. William Stafford

Federal agents besiege and later burn Waco, Texas, compound of the Branch Davidians religious cult after a 51-day standoff

1994

Hacker, Winter Numbers

Proposition 187 denies social services to illegal immigrants in California

Levine, Simple Truth

d. Charles Bukowski

Russian military begins suppression of Chechnyan secessionists

d. Ralph Ellison

d. Peter Taylor

Genocide in Rwanda leaves 800,000 dead

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) eliminates trade barriers between U.S., Canada, and Mexico

1995

Carruth, Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey: 1991–1995

Oklahoma City bombing kills 169

Ford, Independence Day

O. J. Simpson criminal trial ends in acquittal

Kunitz, Passing Through: The Later Poems

Bosnia, Serbia, and Croatia sign peace treaty

Soto, New and Selected Poems

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin assassinated

d. Stanley Elkin

Partial shutdown of U.S. government over budget disputes

d. James Merrill

d. Henry Roth

1996

Brodkey, This Wild Darkness

Montana militia members (freemen) surrender to FBI after 81-day standoff

Kincaid, Autobiography of My Mother

Matthews, Time & Money

U.S. missile strike against Iraq

Ostriker, The Crack in Everything

Bill Clinton re-elected

Pinsky, The Figured Wheel

Snyder, Mountains and Rivers without End

d. Harold Brodkey

1997

Beattie, My Life, Starring Dara Falcon

Diana, Princess of Wales, dies in car accident

DeLillo, Underworld

Kyoto conference addresses global warming

Wright, Black Zodiac

d. William S. Burroughs

d. James Dickey

d. Allen Ginsberg

d. Denise Levertov

d. William Matthews

1998

McPhee, Annals of the Former World

Lewinsky scandal and the Starr Report lead to impeachment of Bill Clinton

Ponsot, The Bird Catcher

Stern, This Time: New and Selected Poems

India and Pakistan begin nuclear testing

Strand, Blizzard of One

d. Alfred Kazin

1999

Ellison, Juneteenth

Columbine High School shootings

d. Joseph Heller

The Euro is officially launched in 11 countries

2000

Oates, Blonde

2000 Census indicates Hispanic Americans become largest minority group in the U.S.

Williams, Leap

d. Gwendolyn Brooks

Controversy over U.S. presidential election ends in victory for George W. Bush

Class-action suit against tobacco industry

Microsoft charged in violation of antitrust laws

Dot-com crash

2001

Collins, Sailing Alone around the Room

Enron scandal disclosed

d. A. R. Ammons

Islamic terrorists destroy twin towers of New York's World Trade Center, damage Pentagon, and kill thousands in September 11 attacks

d. Eudora Welty

Anthrax powder mailed to media and political targets

China joins World Trade Organization

2002

McClatchy, Hazmat

Sniper attacks in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

d. June Jordan

2003

U.S.-led troops invade Iraq; Saddam Hussein regime falls

SARS epidemic strikes Asia and other regions

Space shuttle Columbia breaks apart

North Korea reactivates nuclear program