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- May 17
- The 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. It is a victory for NAACP
Marshall, who will later return to the Supreme Court as the
nation's first black justice.
- Dec. 1
Ala.) NAACP member Rosa
Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the 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.
- Rev. 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.
Rock, Ark.) Formerly all-white Central High School learns that integration
is easier said than done. Nine black students are blocked from
entering the school by crowds organized by Governor Orval
Eisenhower sends federal troops and the National Guard to
intervene on behalf of the students.
- Feb. 1
N.C.) 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.
N.C.) The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is
founded at Shaw University, providing young blacks a more organized
place in the civil rights movement. The SNCC later grows into a more
radical organization, especially under the leadership of Stokely
- May 4
- 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.
- June 12
Miss.) 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.
- Aug. 28
D.C.) About 250,000 people join the March on Washington.
Congregating at the Lincoln
Memorial, participants listen as Reverend King delivers his famous
"I Have a Dream" speech.
- Sept. 15
Ala.) 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.
- The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), a network of civil
rights groups that includes CORE and SNCC, launches 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.
- July 2
Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making segregation
in public facilities and discrimination in employment illegal.
- Aug. 5
- Three Mississippi civil-rights
workers are officially declared missing, having disappeared on June
21. The last day they were seen, James E. Cheney, 21; Andrew
Goodman, 21; and Michael Schwerner, 24, had been arrested,
incarcerated, and then released on speeding charges. Their murdered
bodies are found after President
Johnson sends military personnel to join the search party. It is
later revealed that the police released the three men to the Ku
Klux Klan. The trio had been working to register black voters.
- Feb. 21
- Malcolm X,
black nationalist and founder of the Organization of Afro-American
Unity, is shot to death in Harlem. It is believed the assailants are
members of the Black
Muslim faith, which Malcolm had recently abandoned.
- March 7
- (Selma, Ala.)
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.
- Aug. 10
- 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 tended to restrict black voting become
- April 4
Tenn.) Reverend King, at age 39, is shot as he stands on the
balcony outside his hotel room. Although escaped convict James
Earl Ray later pleads guilty to the crime, questions about the
actual circumstances of King's
assassination remain to this day.
*Copyright given by Elissa Haney of http://www.infoplease.com/spot/civilrightstimeline1.html