Civil rights

Civil Rights Timeline

  • Brown v Board of Education

    Brown v Board of Education
    Unanimously agreed that segregation in public
    schools is unconstitutional. The ruling paved the way for large-scale desegregation. The decision overturned the 1896 Plessy v Ferguson ruling that sanctioned "separate but equal" segregation of the races, ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.“ It is a victory for NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, who will later return to the Supreme Court as the nation's first black justice.
  • White Citizens Council

    White Citizens Council
    In response to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision ending school segregation, white segregationists throughout the South created the White Citizens’ Councils (WCC). These local groups typically drew a more middle and upper-class membership than the Ku Klux Klan and, in addition to using violence and intimidation to counter civil rights goals, they sought to economically and socially oppress blacks.
  • Brown v Board of Education II

    Brown v Board of Education II
    Brown v Board of Education II (often called Brown II) was a Supreme Court case decided in 1955. The year before, the Supreme Court had decided Brown v. Board of Education, which made racial segregation in schools illegal. ... In Brown II, the Court ordered them to integrate their schools "with all deliberate speed."
  • Lynching of Emmett Till

    Lynching of Emmett Till
    Fourteen-year-old Chicagoan Emmett Till is visiting family in Mississippi when he is kidnapped, brutally beaten, shot, and dumped in the Tallahatchie River for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Two white men, J. W. Milam and Roy Bryant are arrested for the murder and acquitted by an all-white jury. They later boast about committing the murder in a Look magazine interview.
  • Rosa Parks Arrested

    Rosa Parks Arrested
    NAACP member Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the "colored section" of a bus to a white passenger, defying a southern custom of the time. In response to her arrest, the Montgomery black community launches a bus boycott, which will last
    for more than a year, until the buses are desegregated Dec. 21, 1956. As the newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., was instrumental in leading the boycott.
  • Montgomery bus boycott

    Montgomery bus boycott
    African Americans refused to ride city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, to protest segregated seating. The boycott took place from December 5, 1955, to December 20, 1956, and is regarded as the first large-scale U.S. demonstration against segregation. Four days before the boycott began, Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was arrested and fined for refusing to yield her bus seat to a white man. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately ordered Montgomery to integrate its bus system
  • Martin Luther King House Bombing

    Martin Luther King House Bombing
    On January 30, 1956, an unidentified white supremacist terrorist bombed the Montgomery home of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. No one was harmed, but the explosion outraged the community and was a major test of King’s steadfast commitment to non-violence. King addresses a large crowd that gathers outside the house, pleading for nonviolence.
  • The Bombing of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth

    The Bombing of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth
    On December 25, 1956, Ku Klux Klan members in Alabama bombed the home of civil rights activist Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth. Shuttlesworth was home at the time of the bombing with his family and two members of Bethel Baptist Church, where he served as pastor. The 16-stick dynamite blast destroyed the home and caused damage to Shuttlesworth’s church next door but no one inside the home suffered any serious injuries.
  • SCLC Founded

    SCLC Founded
    Martin Luther King, Charles K. Steele, and Fred L. Shuttlesworth establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which King is made the first president. The SCLC becomes a major force in organizing the civil rights movement and bases its principles on
    nonviolence and civil disobedience. According to King, it is essential that the civil rights movement not sink to the level of the racists and
    hatemongers who oppose them.
  • Eisenhower sends in federal troops

    Eisenhower sends in federal troops
    Formerly all-white Central High School learns that integration is easier said than done. Nine black students are blocked from entering the school on the orders of Governor Orval Faubus. President Eisenhower sends federal troops and the National Guard to intervene on behalf of the students, who become known as the "Little Rock Nine."
  • Greensboro Sit-ins

    Greensboro Sit-ins
    Four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. Although they are refused service, they are allowed to stay at the
    counter. The event triggers many similar nonviolent protests throughout the South. Six months later the original four protesters are served lunch at the same Woolworth's counter.
  • SNCC Formed

    SNCC Formed
    The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded at Shaw University, providing young blacks with a place in the civil rights movement. The SNCC later grows into a more radical organization, especially under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael.
  • White mob attacks federal marshals in Montgomery

    White mob attacks federal marshals in Montgomery
    Attorney General Kennedy sent 600 federal marshals to stop the violence happening in Montgomery. The following night, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. led a service at the First Baptist Church in Montgomery. A riot ensued outside the church, and King called Robert Kennedy to ask for protection. Kennedy summoned the federal marshals, who used teargas to disperse the white mob attacking them to get into the church. Martial law was declared in the city to get things under control.
  • Freedom Rides

    Freedom Rides
    The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) begins sending student volunteers on bus trips to test the implementation of new laws prohibiting segregation in interstate travel facilities. One of the first two groups of "freedom riders," as they are called, encounters its first problem two weeks later, when a mob in Alabama sets the riders'
    bus on fire. The program continues, and by the end of the summer 1,000 volunteers, black and white, have participated.
  • Albany Georgia “failure”

    Albany Georgia “failure”
    The Albany Movement aimed to end all forms of racial segregation in the city, focusing initially on desegregating travel facilities, forming a biracial committee to discuss further desegregation, and the release of those jailed in segregation protests. The city failed to uphold the agreement made with MLK, and protests and subsequent arrests continued into 1962. News reports across the country portrayed the failure of early Albany protests as “one of the most stunning defeats” in King’s career.
  • Bailey v Patterson

    Bailey v Patterson
    Black living in Jackson, Mississippi, brought this civil rights action in a Federal District Court on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated. They were seeking orders to enforce their constitutional rights to nonsegregated service in interstate and intrastate transportation. The Supreme Court ruled 9-0 stating that the applicants, “as passengers using the segregated
    transportation facilities, they [the applicants] have standing to enforce their rights to non-segregated treatment”.
  • Kennedy sends in federal troops

    Kennedy sends in federal troops
    James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Violence and riots surrounding the incident
    caused President Kennedy to send 5,000 federal troops.
  • MLK goes to a Birmingham jail

    MLK goes to a Birmingham jail
    Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He writes his seminal "Letter From
    Birmingham City Jail," arguing that individuals have the moral duty to disobey unjust laws.
  • Equal Pay Act

    Equal Pay Act
    The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a United States labor law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex. It was signed into law on June 10, 1963, by John F. Kennedy as part of his New Frontier Program.
  • Assassination of Medgar Evers

    Assassination of Medgar Evers
    Mississippi's NAACP field secretary, 37-year-old Medgar Evers, is
    murdered outside his home. Byron De La Beckwith is tried twice in 1964, both trials resulting in hung juries. Thirty years later he is convicted for murdering Evers.
  • March on Washington "I have a dream"

    March on Washington "I have a dream"
    About 200,000 people join the March on Washington. Congregating at the Lincoln Memorial, participants listen as Martin Luther King delivers his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in which he calls for civil and economic rights and an end to racism in the United States.
  • Bombing of a church in Birmingham

    Bombing of a church in Birmingham
    Four young girls attending Sunday school are killed when a bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a popular location for civil rights meetings. Riots erupt in Birmingham, leading to the deaths of two more black youths.
  • Assassination of John F. Kennedy

    Assassination of John F. Kennedy
    Shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. The bullets struck the president's neck and head and he slumped over toward Mrs. Kennedy. The car sped off to Parkland Memorial Hospital just a few minutes away. But little could be done for the President. A Catholic priest was summoned to administer the last rites, and at 1:00 p.m. John F. Kennedy was pronounced dead.
  • XXIV (24th) Amendment

    XXIV (24th) Amendment
    The 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax. The tax originally had been instituted in 11 southern states after Reconstruction to make it difficult for poor blacks to vote.
  • Freedom Summer

    Freedom Summer
    The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a network of civil rights groups that included CORE and SNCC, launched a massive effort to register black voters during what becomes known as the Freedom Summer. It also sends delegates to the Democratic National Convention to protest—and attempt to unseat—the official all-white Mississippi contingent.
  • Killing of Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner

    Killing of Goodman, Chaney, Schwerner
    The bodies of three civil rights workers—two white, one black—are found in an earthen dam six weeks into a federal investigation. James E. Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 21; and Michael Schwerner, 24, had been working to register black voters in Mississippi. On June 21, they had gone to investigate the burning of a black church. They were arrested by the police on speeding charges, incarcerated for several hours, and then released after dark into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, who murdered them.
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964

    Civil Rights Act of 1964
    President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The law also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation.
  • Assassination of Malcolm X

    Assassination of Malcolm X
    Malcolm X, black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American Unity, is shot to death. It is believed the assailants are members of the Black Muslim faith, which Malcolm had recently abandoned in favor of orthodox Islam.
  • Selma to Montgomery March

    Selma to Montgomery March
    Blacks begin a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights but are stopped at the Edmund Pettus Bridge by a police blockade. Fifty marchers are hospitalized after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The incident is dubbed "Bloody Sunday" by the media.
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965

    Voting Rights Act of 1965
    Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal.
  • Black Panthers Formed

    Black Panthers Formed
    The militant Black Panthers are founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Newton saw the explosive rebellious anger of the ghetto as a social force and believed that if he could stand up to the police, he could organize that force into political power.
  • Loving v Virginia

    Loving v Virginia
    In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court rules that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional. Sixteen states that still banned interracial marriage at the time are forced to revise their laws.
  • Minneapolis Riots

    Minneapolis Riots
    On the night of July 19, 1967, racial tension in North Minneapolis erupted along Plymouth Avenue in a series of acts of arson, assaults, and vandalism. The violence, which lasted for three nights, is often linked with other race-related demonstrations in cities across the nation during 1967’s “long hot summer.”
  • Detroit Riots

    Detroit Riots
    A series of violent confrontations between residents of predominantly black neighborhoods of Detroit and the city’s police department began on July 23, 1967, and lasted five days. The riot resulted in the deaths of 43 people, including 33 African Americans and 10 whites. Many other people were injured, more than 7,000 people were arrested, and more than 1,000 buildings were burned in the uprising. The riot is considered one of the catalysts of the militant Black Power movement.
  • Assassination of MLK

    Assassination of MLK
    Martin Luther King, at age 39, is shot as he stands on the balcony outside his hotel room. Escaped convict and committed racist James Earl Ray is convicted of the crime. His assassination led to an outpouring of anger among black Americans, as well as a period of national mourning that helped speed the way for an equal housing bill that would be the last significant legislative achievement of the civil rights era.
  • Assassination of Robert “Bobby” Kennedy

    Assassination of Robert “Bobby” Kennedy
    Senator Robert Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning the California presidential primary. Immediately after he announced to his cheering supporters that the country was ready to end its fractious divisions, Kennedy was shot several times by the 22-year-old Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. He died a day later.