Civil Rights Movement Timeline

Civil Rights Movement Timeline

  • July 1948
    • Executive Order 9981
      • President Truman signs Executive Order 9981 abolishing discrimination in the U.S. Armed Forces. Executive Order 9981 was the first major blow to segregation, giving hope to African-American activists that change was possible.
  • May 1854
    • Brown V. Board of Education Topeka, Kanas
      • Supreme Court rules on the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans., unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. The ruling paves 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.
  • December 1955
    • Montgomery Bus Boycott
      • 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 newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., is instrumental in leading the boycott.
  • Sep 1957
    • Little Rock Nine
      • Little Rock, Arkansas – 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.”
  • February 1960
    • Greensboro Sit-in
      • 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. Student sit-ins would be effective throughout the Deep South in integrating parks, swimming pools, theaters, libraries, and other public facilities.
  • May 1961
    • Freedom Riders
      • Over the spring and summer, student volunteers begin taking bus trips through the South to test out new laws that prohibit segregation in interstate travel facilities, which includes bus and railway stations. Several of the groups of “freedom riders,” as they are called, are attacked by angry mobs along the way. The program, sponsored by The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), involves more than 1,000 volunteers, black and white.
  • April 1963
    • MLK Jailed ┬áin Birmingham
      • Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala.; he writes his seminal “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” arguing that individuals have the moral duty to disobey unjust laws.
  • August 1963
    • March on Washington
      • 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.
  • September 1963
    • 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing
      • Four young girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins) 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
  • January 1964
    • 24th Amendment
      • The 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax, which originally had been instituted in 11 southern states after Reconstruction to make it difficult for poor blacks to vote
  • July 1964
    • Johnson signs 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
  • February 1965
    • Malcom X Murdered
      • 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.
  • March 1965
    • Selma to Montgomery Marches
      • Blacks begin a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights but are stopped at the 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. The march is considered the catalyst for pushing through the voting rights act five months later.
  • August 1965
    • Voting Rights Act 1965
      • Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal.

 

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