Civil Rights Timeline 1945-1975

  • April 10, 1947

    April 10, 1947
    Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, thereby breaking the modern color line in major league baseball.
  • May 3, 1948

    In Shelley v. Kraemer, the United States Supreme Court ruled that lower courts could not enforce restrictive housing covenants.
  • July 26, 1948

    July 26, 1948: President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981 to end segregation in the Armed Services.
  • May 17, 1954

    May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board of Education, a consolidation of five cases into one, is decided by the Supreme Court, effectively ending racial segregation in public schools. Many schools, however, remained segregated.
  • August 28, 1955

    August 28, 1955
    Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago is brutally murdered in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman.
  • December 1, 1955

    December 1, 1955
    Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Her defiant stance prompts a year-long Montgomery bus boycott.
  • January 1957

    A group of 60 African American ministers formed the Southern Leadership Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration, which was renamed The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) later that year. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the organization's first president. The SCLC, an organization founded on the principles of nonviolence and civil disobedience, became a major force in organizing the civil rights movement.
  • January 10-11, 1957

    Sixty Black pastors and civil rights leaders from several southern states—including Martin Luther King, Jr.—meet in Atlanta, Georgia to coordinate nonviolent protests against racial discrimination and segregation.
  • September 4, 1957

    September 4, 1957
    Nine Black students known as the “Little Rock Nine” are blocked from integrating into Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. President Dwight D. Eisenhower eventually sends federal troops to escort the students, however, they continue to be harassed.
  • September 9, 1957

    Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1957 into law to help protect voter rights. The law allows federal prosecution of those who suppress another’s right to vote.
  • February 1, 1960

    February 1, 1960
    Four African American college students in Greensboro, North Carolina refuse to leave a Woolworth’s “whites only” lunch counter without being served. The Greensboro Four—Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil—were inspired by the nonviolent protest of Gandhi. The Greensboro Sit-In, as it came to be called, sparks similar “sit-ins” throughout the city and in other states.
  • November 14, 1960

    November 14, 1960
    November 14, 1960: Six-year-old Ruby Bridges is escorted by four armed federal marshals as she becomes the first student to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.
  • Period: to


    Throughout 1961, Black and white activists, known as freedom riders, took bus trips through the American South to protest segregated bus terminals and attempted to use “whites-only” restrooms and lunch counters. The Freedom Rides were marked by horrific violence from white protestors, they drew international attention to their cause.
  • June 11, 1963

    Governor George C. Wallace stands in a doorway at the University of Alabama to block two Black students from registering. The standoff continues until President John F. Kennedy sends the National Guard to the campus
  • August 28, 1963

    August 28, 1963
    Approximately 250,000 people take part in The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King gives his “I Have A Dream” speech as the closing address in front of the Lincoln Memorial, stating, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.’”
  • September 15, 1963

    A bomb at 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama kills four young girls and injures several other people prior to Sunday services. The bombing fuels angry protests.
  • July 2. 1964

    President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, preventing employment discrimination due to race, color, sex, religion or national origin. Title VII of the Act establishes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help prevent workplace discrimination.
  • February 12, 1965

    Black religious leader Malcolm X is assassinated during a rally by members of the Nation of Islam.
  • March 7, 1965

    March 7, 1965
    Bloody Sunday. In the Selma to Montgomery March, around 600 civil rights marchers walk to Selma, Alabama to Montgomery—the state’s capital—in protest of Black voter suppression. Local police block and brutally attack them. After successfully fighting in court for their right to march, Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders lead two more marches and finally reach Montgomery on March 25.
  • August 6, 1965

    President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent the use of literacy tests as a voting requirement. It also allowed federal examiners to review voter qualifications and federal observers to monitor polling places.
  • April 4, 1968

    April 4, 1968
    Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray is convicted of the murder in 1969.
  • April 11, 1968

    President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, providing equal housing opportunity regardless of race, religion or national origin.
  • November 5, 1968

    November 5, 1968
    Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman, was elected by New York's Twelfth Congressional District
  • August, 1970

    August, 1970
    Businessman Earl Graves Sr. publishes the first issue of Black Enterprise.
  • February 18, 1970

    The Chicago Seven, which included Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner, are acquitted of conspiracy charges. However, five of the seven—Davis, Dellinger, Hayden, Hoffman, and Rubin—are convicted of crossing state lines to incite a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. They are sentenced to five years in prison and fined $5,000 each.
  • June 16, 1970

    Kenneth Gibson is elected the first Black mayor of Newark, New Jersey, ousting a two-term White incumbent and becoming the first Black mayor of a major Northeastern U.S. city. During his tenure, Gibson acquires and uses federal funds to build and rehabilitate thousands of housing units in the city. He serves five terms as mayor, leaving office only after being defeated for reelection in 1986.
  • Period: to

    October 5, 1970 — November 8, 1970

    Violent racial clashes connected with school desegregation occurred in northern and southern cities. In Pontiac, Michigan, tensions were high after a court decision ordered desegregation of the public schools. A car near Pontiac Central High School struck down a black student on October 7, as white and black students continued a two-day battle with rocks and bottles.
  • January 14, 1971

    George Ellis Johnson's Johnson Products becomes the first Black-owned company to be listed on a major U.S. stock exchange when it begins trading on the American Stock Exchange. Johnson had started the company—famous for its Afro Sheen and Ultra Sheen hair dressing products—with only a $500 loan.
  • March 30, 1971

    The Congressional Black Caucus is established in Washington, D.C.
  • April 20, 1971

    The United States Supreme Court, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, upheld busing as a legitimate means for achieving the integration of public schools. Although largely unwelcome (and sometimes violently opposed) in local school districts, court-ordered busing plans in cities such as Charlotte, Boston, and Denver continued until the late 1990s.
  • 1972

    The "Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male" ended. Begun in 1932, the United States Public Health Service's 40-year experiment on 399 black men with syphilis was described by news anchor Harry Reasoner as an experiment that "used human beings as laboratory animals in a long and inefficient study of how long it takes syphilis to kill someone."
  • January 25, 1972

    New York Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm is the first Black person to campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. Chisholm’s bid is unsuccessful. Chisholm, who had been the first Black woman in Congress when she was elected to the House of Representatives in 1968, knows she cannot win the nomination, which eventually goes to George McGovern. She is also the first Black person and the first woman to win delegates for a presidential nomination by a major party.
  • February 16, 1972

    February 16, 1972
    Basketball player Wilt Chamberlain becomes the first National Basketball Association player to score more than 30,000 points during his career. Chamberlain, known as "Wilt the Stilt," also scored the most points in a game—100—in a contest in 1962. By comparison, the next best single-game performance was by Michael Jordan, 63, nearly 40 fewer points.
  • Period: to

    March 10–12

    The first National Black Political Convention takes place in Gary, Indiana, and about 10,000 Black people atten
  • November 17, 1972

    Barbara Jordan and Andrew Young become the first African American Congressional representatives from the South since 1898. Young, actually the first Black U.S. congressman from Georgia since Reconstruction, goes on to champion the causes he had as a civil rights activist, including anti-poverty and educational programs.
  • April 8, 1974

    April 8, 1974
    Hank Aaron hits his 715th home run for the Atlanta Braves. Aaron’s breaking Babe Ruth's legendary record makes him the all-time leader in home runs in major league baseball.
  • October 3, 1974

    Frank Robinson is named the player-manager of the Cleveland Indians and the next spring becomes the first Black manager of any Major League Baseball team.
  • February 26, 1975

    The day after Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam dies, and his son Wallace D. Muhammad succeeds him as leader. The younger Muhammad (also known as Warith Deen Mohammed) would define a new direction for the Nation of Islam, ending the separatist philosophy of his father that had banned whites as "white devils" and changing its name to the World Community of Islam in the West.
  • July 5, 1975

    Arthur Ashe becomes the first Black person to win the men’s singles title at Wimbledon, defeating overwhelming favorite Jimmy Connors.