The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

1919 CE


Woodrow Wilson and the
American peace commissioners

At the end of the Great War (World War I), The Treaty of Versailles requires that Kaiser Wilhelm II be placed on trial for a "supreme offense against international morality and the sanctity of treaties." Kaiser Wilhelm seeks exile in Holland, which refuses demands to extradite him. Regardless, for the first time in history, nations seriously considered imposing criminal penalties on heads of state for violations of fundamental human rights. During the Paris Peace Conference other treaties stress minorities' rights, including the right of life, liberty, freedom of religion, right to nationality of state of residence, complete equality with other nationals of the same state, and the exercise of civil and political rights.

During the Paris Peace Conference the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is established to advocate for human rights represented in labor law, encompassing concerns such as employment discrimination, forced labor and worker safety.

The Pan-African Congress meets and petitions the Paris Peace Conference that Africans take part in governing their land "as fast as their development permits" until African colonies are granted home rule.

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom is established.

The League of Nations Covenant is signed as part of the Treaty of Versailles. The mission of the League is "to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security." For the first time in history, collective security is introduced on an international scale.

1919-1920 CE

The U.S. Senate rejects the Treaty of Versailles.

1920 CE

The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution grants women the right to vote.

1921 CE

The U.S. Congress passes the Snyder Act, which grants all Native Americans born in the United States full U.S. citizenship.

1922 CE

The International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, composed of fourteen national human rights organizations, is established.

1924 CE

The Immigration Act of 1924 passes in the U.S. Congress, barring "aliens ineligible to citizenship," effectively excluding Asians from entry, and stipulating that only whites may be naturalized as U.S. citizens.

1926 CE

The Geneva Conference passes a Slavery Convention, demonstrating international agreement to end all conditions of slavery worldwide.

1928 CE


Frank Kellogg

In the Kellogg-Briand Pact, 15 nations renounce the "recourse to war for the solution of international controversies."

British women gain the right to vote.

1930 CE

The ILO passes the Convention Concerning Forced or Compulsory Labour, in which each of the member states agree "to suppress the use of forced or compulsory labour in all its forms within the shortest possible time."

1932 CE

In Brazil, women gain the right to vote.

1934 CE

The U.S. Congress passes the Indian Reorganization Act, which restores tribal ownership of reservation lands and establishes a credit fund for land purchases by Native Americans.

1933-1939 CE

A series of discriminatory laws pass in Germany (the "Laws of April" and the "Nuremberg Laws"), which progressively exclude people of Jewish ancestry from employment, education, housing, healthcare, marriages of their choice, pension entitlements, professions such as law and medicine, and public accommodations. In addition, Germany begins murdering physically and mentally disabled people by gas, lethal injection and forced starvation.

1935-1953 CE


Joseph Stalin

Joseph Stalin uses the murder of Sergei Kirov, probably ordered by Stalin himself, to launch a reign of terror. During the Russian Purges, it is estimated that some 20 million Russian citizens were killed or died in the Gulags, a vast majority for crimes they never committed.

1939-1945 CE

During World War II, an estimated 6 million European Jews are exterminated by Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime. Millions of civilians (Gypsies, Communists, Soviet POWs, Poles, Ukrainians, people with disabilities, labor unionists, "Habitual" criminals, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, Free Masons and indigent people such as vagrants and beggars) are forced into concentration camps, subjected to "medical" experiments, starved, brutalized and/or murdered.

1941 CE

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill adopt the Atlantic Charter, in which they state their hope "that all men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from want and fear" and that all nations shall enjoy self-determination.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his State of the Union Address identifies "Four Freedoms" as essential for all people: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

1942 CE


Exclusion order posted
in San Francisco

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which forcibly moves over 110,000 Japanese Americans from the coastal regions of the western U.S. to isolated inland internment camps. Their detention lasts almost four years.

René Cassin of France urges that an international court be created to punish those guilty of war crimes.

1943 CE

The Magnuson Act passes the U.S. Congress, lifting the prohibitions of citizenship for people of Asian descent.

1944 CE

Representatives from the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and China meet at Dumbarton Oaks to create the foundation for the United Nations.

1945 CE

The United Nations (UN) is established. The Charter of the UN states that one of the primary purposes of the UN is the promotion and encouragement of "respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion." Unlike the League of Nations Covenant, the UN Charter underscores the principle of individual human rights.

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