Civil Rights Timeline


Brown v. the Board of Ed. of Topeka, KS

May 17, 1954

Brown v. Board of Education was a court case in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students unconstitutional. The decision overturned the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896 which allowed state-sponsored segregation. This occurred when Oliver Brown attempted to enroll his daughter in a white school, that was closer to their home.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

December 1, 1955

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a political and social protest campaign against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system of Montgomery, Alabama. The campaign lasted from December 1, 1955, when Rosa Parks, was arrested for refusing to surrender her seat to a white person, to December 20, 1956, when a federal ruling, Browder v. Gayle, took effect, and led to a United States Supreme Court decision that declared the Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses to be unconstitutional.

Establishment of SCLC

January 1957 - February 1957

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.

Central High School in Little Rock Arizona

September 1957

At Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, 9 black students were initially prevented from entering the previously segregated school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus. President Eisenhower intervened with troops of the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army to escort the kids into the school. The incident, called the Little Rock Crisis, is considered to be one of the most important events in the African-American Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957

September 9, 1957

Originally proposed by Attorney General Herbert Brownell, the Act marked the first occasion since Reconstruction that the federal government undertook significant legislative action to protect civil rights. Although influential southern congressman whittled down the bill’s initial scope, it still included a number of important provisions for the protection of voting rights.


February 1, 1960

took place in Greensboro, North Carolina. 4 freshman from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College went into an F. W. Woolworth Company store and purchased some school supplies. Then they waited at the lunch counter to be served. They knew the lunch counter was segregated and didn’t expect to be served but still waited. By the time they were forced to leave (as the store was closing) they had still not been served. This sit-in had very little effect. However, as the Civil Rights Movement progressed and sit-ins became more popular, they became more effective.

Establishment of the SNCC

April 1960

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded at Shaw University, providing young blacks with a place in the civil rights movement.

Freedom Riders

May 4, 1961

Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and following years to test the United States Supreme Court decisions Boynton v. Virginia (1960) and Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946). The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.

Federal Transportation Commission desegregates Interstate transportation

Sept. 22, 1961

On September 22nd, 1961, the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered an end to segregation on interstate transportation and within transportation facilities. The new rules prohibited segregation in interstate travel and required interstate buses to post signs reading “Seating aboard this vehicle is without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin by order of the Interstate Commerce Commission.”

Ole Miss is forced to admit James Meredith

October 1, 1962

James Meredith became the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. when white students and anti-desegrigationists broke into a riot Robert Kennedy called in 500 U.S. Marshals to take control, who were supported by the 70th Army Engineer Combat Battalion from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama


The Birmingham campaign was a strategic movement organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to bring attention to the unequal treatment that black Americans endured in Birmingham, Alabama. The campaign ran during the spring of 1963, culminating in widely publicized confrontations between black youth and white civic authorities, that eventually pressured the municipal government to change the city's discrimination laws.

Assassination of Medgar Evers

June 12, 1963

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.

The March on Washington

August 28, 1963

An interracial march by 250,000 blacks and whites on August 28, 1963, in Washington D.C., protesting segregation and job discrimination against blacks in the nation. where MLK then gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Freedom Summer


Freedom Summer was a highly publicized campaign in the Deep South to register blacks to vote during the summer of 1964.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s speech of the MDFP


Hamer co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). In 1964, the MDFP challenged the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Convention. Hamer spoke in front of the Credentials Committee in a televised proceeding that reached millions of viewers. She told the committee how African-Americans in many states across the country were prevented from voting through illegal tests, taxes and intimidation. As a result of her speech, two delegates of the MFDP were given speaking rights at the convention and the other members were seated as honorable guests.

Ratification of the 24th Amendment

January 23,1964

The 24th amendment prohibits both Congress and the states from conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on payment of a poll tax or other types of tax. The amendment was proposed by Congress to the states on August 27, 1962, and was ratified by the states on January 23, 1964.

The murders of Michael Schwerner, James Cheyney, and Andrew Goodman

June 21, 1964

These men were lynched by members of the MIssissippi KKK. They were threatened, beaten, shot and buried by the KKK members. This was because of their encouragement for blacks to vote. Their bodies were found 44 days later after an intense search.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

July 2, 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities, and women. It ended unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.

The Voting Rights Act


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is a landmark piece of national legislation in the United States that outlawed discriminatory voting practices that had been responsible for the widespread disenfranchisement of African Americans in the U.S

The Assassination of Malcolm X

February 21,1965

On February 21, 1965, as Malcolm X prepared to address the Organization of Afro-American Unity in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, a disturbance broke out in the 400-person audience—a man yelled, "Nigger! Get your hand outta my pocket!"As Malcolm X and his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man seated in the front row rushed forward and shot him once in the chest with a double-barreled sawed-off shotgun. Two other men came forward and shot him again several times. Malcolm was pronounced dead at 3:30 pm. His autopsy reported that he had 21 gunshot wounds to his chest, left shoulder, and arms and legs.

March on Selma AL

March 21, 1965

about 3,200 marchers set out for Montgomery, walking 12 miles a day and sleeping in fields. By the time they reached the capitol on Thursday, March 25, they were 25,000-strong. Less than five months after the last of the three marches, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965--the best possible redress of grievances.

 Race Riots in Watts, Los Angeles, CA

August 11, 1965 - August 17, 1965

The Watts Riots (or Watts Rebellion) took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles from August 11 to 17, 1965. The six-day riot resulted in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries, 3,438 arrests, and over $40 million in property damage. It was the most severe riot in the city's history until the Los Angeles riots of 1992.

The Attempted Murder of James Meredith

June 6, 1966

James H. Meredith, who in 1962 became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi, is shot by a sniper shortly after beginning a lone civil rights march through the South. Known as the "March Against Fear," Meredith had been walking from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, in an attempt to encourage voter registration by African Americans in the South.

Formation of the Black Panthers

October 15, 1966

The Black Panther Party (originally the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense) was an African-American revolutionary socialist organization active in the United States from 1966 until 1982. The Black Panther Party achieved national and international notoriety through its involvement in the Black Power movement and U.S. politics of the 1960s and 1970s.

Stokely Carmichael’s Black Power Speech

October 29, 1966

After the attempted murder of James Meredith, Carmichael gave a speech questioning the effectiveness of nonviolent protests, and advocating ‘Black Power’. His speech earned many supporters to the cause of ‘Black Power’.

Race Riots in Newark, NJ and Detroit MI

July 1967

Two of the largest Race riots in the summer of 1967 out of eight total occurrences.

The Creation of the Kerner Commission

July 28, 1967

The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission after its chair, Governor Otto Kerner, Jr. of Illinois, was an 11-member commission established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to investigate the causes of the 1967 race riots in the United States and to provide recommendations for the future.

Thurgood Marshall appointed first black Supreme Court Justice

October 2, 1967

Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American to be confirmed as a Supreme Court justice. He would remain on the Supreme Court for 24 years before retiring for health reasons, leaving a legacy of upholding the rights of the individual as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

April 4, 1968

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.

Passage of the fair housing act

April 11, 1968

prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, and handicap and family status.