Civil Rights


Brown v. Board of Education

May 17, 1954

This court case ordered the desegregation of public schools. In this case, the father of eight-year old Linda Brown had charged the board of education of Topeka, Kansas, with violating Linda's rights by denying her admission to an all-white elementary school four blocks from her house.

Emmett Till killed

August 28, 1954

Emmett Till, a 14 year old boy from Chicago, was visiting his relatives in Mississippi when he was snatched from his great-uncle's home. He was beaten, shot in the head, and then thrown into Tallahatchie River. Evidently, he was murdered because he whistled at a white woman.

Rosa Parks

December 1, 1955

Rosa Parks took a seat in the front row of the "colored" section of a Montgomery bus. The driver ordered Parks and three other African-American passengers to empty the row they were occupying so that a white man could sit down without having to sit next to an African-Americans. As Parks stared out the window, the bus driver said, "If you don't stand up, I'm going to call the police and have you arrested." The soft-spoken Parks replied, "You may do that."

Montgomery Bus Boycott

December 1, 1955

The Montgomery Bus Boycott was a 13-month mass protest that ended with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public buses is unconstitutional.

Little Rock 9

September 27, 1957

Nine African American students attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. A white mob tried to stop them from entering the school.

1960 Greensboro Sit-In

February 1, 1960

African-American students from North Carolina's Agricultural and Technical College staged a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter at a Woolworth's store in Greensboro. Television covered the protests and captured the beatings for all of America to see.

1961 Freedom Rides

May 4, 1961

The first Freedom Ride took place on May 4, 1961 when seven blacks and six whites left Washington D.C., on two public buses bound for the Deep South. They intended to test the Supreme Court ruling which declared segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional.

MLK Arrested

April 12, 1963

After days of performing demonstrations in order to try to desegregate the city of Birmingham, MLK and a small band of marchers were arrested during a demonstration on Good Friday.

March on Washington

August 28, 1963

More than 250,000 people, including about 75,000 whites, gathered on the nation's capital. They assembled on the grassy lawn of the Washington Monument and marched to the Lincoln Memorial. There, people listened to speakers demand the immediate passage of the civil rights bill.

Freedom Summer

June 1964

CORE and SNCC workers in the South began registering as many African Americans as they could to vote. They hoped their campaign would receive national publicity, which would in turn influence Congress to pass a voting rights act.

Civil Rights workers killed

June 21, 1964

Three civil rights workers disappeared in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Investigators later learned that Klansmen and local police had murdered the men, two of whom were white.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

July 2, 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Malcolm X Assassinated

February 21, 1965

After Malcolm X's split with the Black Muslims, he believed his life might be in danger. While giving a speech in Harlem, the 39 year-old Malcolm X was shot and killed.

Selma Campaign

March 7, 1965

This was a major voting rights campaign. By the end of 1965, more than 2,000 African Americans had been arrested in SCLC demonstrations.

Voting Rights Act of 1965

August 6, 1965

The act eliminated the so-called literacy tests that had disqualified many voters. It also stated that federal examiners could enroll voters who had been denied suffrage by local officials.

Watts Riot

August 11, 1965 - August 17, 1965

The Watts Riots 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.

Black Panthers


Huey Newton and Bobby Seale founded a political party known as the Black Panthers to fight police brutality in the ghetto. The party advocated self-sufficiency for African-American communities, as well as full employment and decent housing.

Black Power coined

June 1966

Stokely Carmichael said that Black Power was a "call for black people to begin to define their goals...[and] to lead their own organizations." King urged him to stop using the phrase because he believed it would provoke African Americans to violence and antagonize whites.

Riots in over 100 cities

April 4, 1968

Rage over King's death led to the worst urban rioting in United States history. Over 100 cities exploded in flames.

MLK's assassination

April 4, 1968

On April 3, 1968, MLK addressed a crowd in Memphis, where he had gone to support the city's striking garbage workers. The next day as King stood on his hotel balcony, James Earl Ray shot and killed him.

Civil Rights Act of 1968

April 11, 1968

This act ended discrimination in housing.