Modern Civil Rights Movement

Events

Missouri v. ex. rel. Gaines

1939

Required University of Missouri Law School either to admit African Americans or build another fully equal law school. Example of the NAACP's early strategy of making segregation prohibitively expensive.

Formation of the Congress of Racial Equality

1942

Civil rights group devoted to interracial, nonviolent direct action. Led by A Philip Randolph in the 40s who planned the first March on Washington, organized the 1961 Freedom Rides.

Morgan v. Virginia

1946

Ruled that segregation on interstate buses violated federal law and created an "undue burden" on interstate commerce.

Executive Order 9981

1948

President Truman desegregated the armed forces.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

1954

Unanimously declared "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal," thus overturning Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) as it applied to public schools

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka II

1955

Ordered school desegregation to begin with "all deliberate speed," but devolved enforcement back to local level and offered no timetable, allowing Southern states to largely avoid compliance.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

1955 - 1956

More than 30,000 participants refused to ride the Montegomery city buses in protest of Rosa Parks' arrest. Reduced bus company's revenue by 2/3. Catapulted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr into noteriety as a new leader of the civil rights movement.

Integration of Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas

1957

Eisenhower sent in the 101st Airborne Division and the Arkansas National Guard to enforce the integration and protection of the school's 9 black students after the Governor's opposition. Demonstrated the capacity and will of the federal government to defend civil rights.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

1957

Civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King Jr and 100 other black ministers dedicating to using the power of non-violence protest and southern black churches to effect change. Made a nuanced view of white southerners key to their political strategy.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

1960

Civil rights organization led by young African American activists. Advocated direct confrontation, mass action, and civil disobedience. Decentralized and autonomous operations, distrusted bureaucracy.

Election of 1960

1960

John F. Kennedy praised sit-in movement and reformist spirit, won 70% of black vote, which carried him to a narrow victory. Kennedy appointed Thurgood Marshall as a federal judge, established a Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, and empowered the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.

Greensboro Sit-Ins

1960

Thousands of black college students protested segregation by staging sit-ins at local restaurants and businesses. Showcased black youth as leaders independent of an establishment and the effectiveness of direct-action protest at gaining public attention and a more dignified self-image. Business leaders eventually gave in and endorsed ending segregation.

Freedom Riders

1961

Black and white activists sponsored by the CORE rode interstate buses in mixed racial groups through the segregated South to challenge the non-enforcement of Morgan v. Virginia (1946). The violence they experienced drew attention and sympathy to their cause. Eventually forced the ICC to issues clearer directives against segregation.

Albany Movement

1961

Coalition of activists from NAACP and SNCC who got 1000s to march, sit in, and boycott over the span of several months to protest for integrated public facitilities and voting rights. Made minimal gains because of infighting between the SNCC and NAACP, skepticism about the helpfulness of King's prescence, and the strategy of the Albany police chief.

Integration of the University of Missouri

1962

MO governor blocked black student from attending and refused to promise his safety. AG Robert Kennedy dispatched federal marshals and later President John Kennedy ordered 5,000 troops to stop riot and ordered a guard for the student.

Selma Pt. II

1963

Murder of Unitarian minister protesting at Selma by white supremacist gang brought new calls for federal action. LBJ delivered a stirring televised address supporting the Civil Rights Movement and calling for a voting rights bill; he pressured a judge to allow the march to proceed and warned AL governor not to interfere.
MLK Jr. led 30,000, including prominent politicians, celebrities, and black leaders out of Selma toward Montgomery and the AL statehouse.

Selma Pt. I

1963

King, the SCLC staff, and SNCC workers led daily marches on the Dallas County Courthouse protesting for voter registration. Thousands were imprisoned, a Reverand was beaten, a demonstrator was killed, but it failed to arouse sufficient national indignation. On "Bloody Sunday," protestors blocking a bridge were clubbed and gassed, prompting demands for a second march on Montegomery that was stayed by a federal court. King's compliance and compromise sharpened division and distrust between the SNCC and SCLC.

John F. Kennedy and Civil Rights

1963

Cold War pushed him toward support for civil rights, as segregation was being used as Soviet propaganda to discredit American democracy.
- Deployed National Guard troops to ensure a black students' safety at the University of Alabama
- Endorsed civil rights activism on national television
- Asked Congress for a broad law encompassing voting rights, prohibition of segregation, greater federal authority to deny funding to discriminatory organizations.

Birmingham Campaign

1963

Martin Luther King Jr and the SCLC needed a major victory after Albany's failure, chose America's most segregated city as their target. Filled city jails with protesters, boycotted city businesses, involved youth, provoked Public Safety Commissioner. Arrest of MLK and the broadcasting of the police's brutal tactics raised profile and drew in white allies, as well as working and lower class blacks. Eventually led to public desegregation.

March on Washington

1963

Followed assassination of Medgar Evars, concieved by A Philip Randolph, organized by the SCLC, NAACP, SNCC, Urban League, and CORE, advocated "jobs and freedom". Live network television coverage of the powerful visuals of more than 250,000 people, linked, singing "We Shall Overcome" and MLK's "I Have a Dream" Speech, immortalized the event.

Freedom Summer Project

1964

SNCC launched ambitious project in rural MS to register black voters, build "freedom schools" and a "freedom party," and bring the state's backwardness to light. Educated thousands of children in 40 freedom schools, registered 60,000 black voters in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, led by Fannie Lou Hamer and Ella Baker. LBJ denied the MFDP seats at the Democratic National Convention, adding to black distrust of the Democratic establishment.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

1964

LBJ capitalized on the Civil Rights Movement as a means of united the Democratic party. Bill passage ensured by his negotiating skill and his administration's sophisticated and coordinated lobbying effort.
Prohibited discrimination in public accommodation, outlawed employment discrimination on basis of gender/race/religion/nationality, authorized DOJ to pursue lawsuits to desegregate public facitilies, created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, appropriated aid to communities desegregating schools.

Malcom X assassinated

1965

Malcom X, who championed a more militant and "by any means necessary" approach, had become the spokesman for the sect of civil rights activists frustrated with the limits of non-violence. His legacy began the idea of a Black Power movement that tapped into a new black consciousness that celebrated black history and culture, African heritage, and black self-sufficiency.
Associated with the Nation of Islam, then the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Voting Rights Act

1965

Authorized federal supervision of registration in states and counties where fewer than half of eligible residents were registered. Outlawed discriminatory tests. Number of southern black voters tripled, surge especially strong in rural communities. Marked the Civil Rights Movement's peak of national influence and interracial unity.