Civil Rights Timeline


James Meredith Enrolled in University of Mississippi

October 1, 1962

James Meredith was the first African-American man admitted to the University of Mississippi (commonly called "Ole Miss"). Thanks to Brown v. Board of Education 8 years earlier, the NAACP was able to file a suit that allowed Meredith in after this third application. Meredith would later go on to become a powerful figure in the Civil Rights protest movements of the era.

Thurgood Marshall Appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court

October 2, 1967

Thurgood Marshall had been nominated by Lyndon B. Johnson for the role of Associate Justice. Before this he had also served as Solicitor General and Court of Appeals Judge for several years. Marshall argued for the famous Brown v. Board of Education, as a lawyer in the early days of his career. Marshall was the first African-American justice in history once appointed.

Court Decisions

Brown v. Board of Education Decided

May 17, 1954

The Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark court case which resulted in segregated public schools being deemed unconstitutional. The southeastern states of America were up until this point strictly segregated, the court decision would immediately dispel both public school and university segregation permanently.

Interstate Transportation Officially Desegregates

September 22, 1961

Thanks to movements such as the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, and pressure from Robert Kennedy, the Interstate Commerce Commission officially enforces desegregation on its buses. The ICC had already banned segregation in suits settled in the fifties, but the rules were solidly enacted (with bus certificates) in 1961.

Protest Movements

Montgomery Bus Boycotts

December 1, 1955 - December 20, 1956

On December 1st, Rosa Parks refused to get up in response to a white passenger who wanted her seat. She was immediately kicked off of the bus and arrested. In response, the African-American community of the city all joined together to boycott the bus system. Eventually the district court was able to rule that the segregation laws were unconstitutional and they were repealed.

Greensboro Sit-Ins

February 1, 1960 - July 25, 1960

After being denied service in Woolworth's five-and-dime store lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, four African-American college freshmen simply refused to leave the establishment until it closed. Dozens upon dozens of African-Americans joined in with time until over 300 were participating across Greensboro by the fourth day. Media and Government attention was solely fixed on the city. The Woolworth's store finally gave in on July 25th, serving its black employees at the counter as the first black customers.

First Freedom Ride

May 4, 1961

Less than five years after the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, civil rights activists rode interstate buses into the South to test the bus segregation bans in place. Riders would often be harassed by opponents violently on their trip. The rides developed a strong media following and traveled all over the southern states, campaigning for Civil Rights.

Birmingham, AL Demonstrations

April 3, 1963 - May 10, 1963

In the Spring of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. and the SCLC launched their plan called "Project C" (for 'confrontation') involving an entire peaceful occupation of Birmingham. The campaign took a bad turn when Public Safety Commissioner T. Eugene "Bull" Connor had police dogs loosed and fire hoses sprayed on protestors. The media caught up on the story quickly, and national support influenced the final passage of the Civil Rights Act.

March on Washington

August 28, 1963

One of the largest rallies in United States history, this march took place in Washington, D.C. where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Over 200,000 people came to the event, over three quarters of which were black. The march was probably one of the final events that helped pass the Civil Rights Act.

Freedom Summer

June 1964

A campaign launched in Mississippi to spread awareness of African-American voting rights. In 1962 alone only 7% of the available black voters were actually voting in the state. Resistance from groups like the KKK were all but harmless, burning houses, beating people and injuring hundreds. The Freedom Summer couldn't get the number of black voters it wanted, but it had a substantial effect on diminishing the power of the Jim Crow laws anyway.

Selma, AL Marches

March 7, 1965 - March 25, 1965

A series of three marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The first march, nicknamed "Bloody Sunday", invoked violent police response and couldn't be completed. The second march could only be completed halfway. Thanks to help from Martin Luther King Jr and the SCLC, the march could finally be retried on March 16th (with protection from the National Guard) to make it to Alabama's Capitol.

Watts Riots

August 11, 1965 - August 17, 1965

After 21 year old Marquette Frye and his family were subdued by police for allegedly driving intoxicated, a crowd began forming in protest of the beating and needless arrest. Unrest continued to increase exponentially for days, until after a week it finally subdued. Millions of dollars of property were destroyed and hundreds were injured.

Black Power Address at UC Berkeley

October 29, 1966

Stokely Carmichael became known for the term "black power" from this speech. Also a participant in the Freedom Rides, here he established himself as a Civil Rights leader and as the chairman of the SNCC.

12th Street Riot

July 23, 1967 - July 31, 1967

In Detroit, Michigan, Police officers raided a bar and arrested about everyone within the premises. Angered because of this, people responded by rioting across Detroit for over a week.


Medgar Evers Assassinated

June 12, 1963

Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was walking inside his house after a NAACP meeting when he was shot by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the KKK. Evers left a large legacy and was given a posthumous Sprigarn Medal by the NAACP.

Mississippi Civil Rights Workers Murders

June 21, 1964 - June 22, 1964

During the tail end of the Freedom Summer in Mississippi, Members of the local Ku Klux Klan chapter kidnapped three workers for civil rights and tortured and killed them. Their martyrdom was another catalyst to the signing of the Civil Rights and Voting rights Act.

Malcolm X Assasinated

February 21,1965

In Manhattan, as he was about to give an address to a 400 person audience, a man took the stage and shot him in the chest. Two other shooters assisted the murderer and shot X several more times. His legend had gone on to show his inspiration and influence on African-Americans in years to come.

James Meredith Shot

Jun 6, 1966

During a March from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi on this day, James Meredith was shot. He was shot by Aubrey James Norvell. Meredith was able to recover and rejoin the march in time before Jackson was reached.

Newark, NJ Race Riots

July 12 1967 - July 17, 1967

After two white policemen apprehended John Weerd Smith and took him to a precinct for passing a police car, an angry mob formed and attacked the police. Because the police officers had an African-American minority as well, the riots were basically enabled to continue. The riots lasted for six days, racking up $10 million in damage and over 25 deaths.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated

April 4, 1968

In Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King was standing on the balcony of his motel room when he was shot. He was allegedly shot by James Earl Ray, a Missouri convict. There are some conspiracies that suggest the government had something to do with his death, however. Regardless, it meant the end of an era for Civil rights, one that made the tradition of protest nonviolence difficult to continue.

Civil Rights Organizations/Committees

SCLC Founded

January 10, 1957

After the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott, King assembled a team of about 60 African-American citizens. As president, King established his Southern Christian Leadership Committee. The SCLC was present in nearly every major movement in the following years, especially King's famed March on Washington.

SNCC Established


Founded by Ella Baker, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee after being inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins. The Committee organized peaceful protesting for civil rights. The most successful of these protests was the March on Washington, D.C., which helped the nation root for the inevitable Civil Rights Act.

Fannie Lou Hamer delivers MFDP speech

August 22, 1964

Hamer, daughter of a sharecropper, sparked mass support for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party after delivering a powerful testimony for African-American rights. Four years later she succeeded, earning herself a seat at a national party convention.

Founding of The Black Panther Party

October 15, 1966

In Oakland, California, Bobby Seale and friend Huey P. Newton formed a social group and political party based upon Stokely Carmichael's call for separate black political parties. It was strongly sided with the "Black Power" Movement and had a focus on preventing police brutality within African-American neighborhoods.

Kerner Commission Appointed

July 28, 1967

President LBJ established the Kerner Commission on this date to understand the ongoing race riots better and how the government can prevent them. The commission was named after its head, Illinois governor Otto Kerner. The report was largely ineffective and ignored by LBJ, and rejected their findings.

Legislation or Government Actions

Little Rock Nine Admitted to Central High School

September 25, 1957

On this date, thanks again to Brown v. Board of education, nine African-American children were selected to begin the segregation process of public schools in Arkansas. The "Little Rock Nine" had to be escorted by military troops to avoid attacks from the protesting white crowd outside of the school.

Thurgood Marshall Appointed Supreme Court Justice

May 19, 1961

After a long period of serving underneath LBJ, the President appointed Thurgood Marshall the role of associate justice of the Supreme Court. In his early days of law he was a lawyer for the famous Brown v. Board of Education suit. He was the first black judge to serve on the Court.

Twenty-fourth Amendment Approved

January 23, 1964

The 24th Amendment officially removed the right to pay a poll tax to restrict African-Americans from voting. The claim was that blacks could not pay their poll tax so they can't vote, keeping white vote the majority. As of today thirty eight states have ratified the amendment.

Civil Rights Act Enacted

July 2, 1964

Introduced a year before, the Civil Rights Act was the definitive result of protests and movements over the sixties and fifties. It outlawed segregation of all kinds. The removal of segregation was not fast at first, but over time gave way to a truly equal American society.

Voting Rights Act Enacted

August 6, 1965

The Voting Rights Act banned discrimination in the polls and the general disfranchisement of African Americans. It prohibits states to deny or diminish the right of any citizen to vote regardless of their skin color.

Fair Housing Amendment Added to Civil Rights Act

April 11, 1968

Also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Amendment illegalized discrimination in housing. Housing discrimination is the refusal to sell or rent land or a home to anyone because of their skin color, religion, and so on.