Civil Rights Timeline


Declaration of Independence

July 4, 1776

Announced the 13 American Colonies were independent states from Great Britain.

Dred Scott vs. Sanford

March, 1857

Dred Scott, a slave, asked the court for freedom because he was moved to a slavery-free state.
Two main rulings:
1. African Americans were not citizens, and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court.
2. Federal government had no power to regulate slavery in any territory acquire subsequent creation of the United States

Emancipation Proclamation

January 1, 1862

Issued by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War that proclaimed all slaves in the South were free.

13th Amendment

December 6, 1865

Outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude

14th Amendment

July 9 ,1868

African Americans can be citizens of the US.

15th Amendment

February 3, 1870

African Americans can vote

Plessy vs. Ferguson


"Separate but equal."
Segregation was constitutional as long as it was equal.

Congress of Racial Equality


Civil Rights organization that played a pivotal role for African-Americans in the Civil Rights Movement.

Executive Order 9981

July 26, 1948

Abolished racial discrimination in the armed forces

Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka


Established that separate public schools for black and white students is unconstitutional.

Emmett Till

August 28, 1955

An African-American boy who was murdered in Mississippi at the age of 14 after reportedly flirting with a white woman.

Rosa Parks refuses to agree to segregation

December 1, 1955

Parks refused to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

December 1, 1955 - December 20, 1956

Political and social protest campaign against the policy of racial segregation on the public transit system of Montgomery, Alabama.

Little Rock Nine


A group of African American students enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957, in which they were initially racially segregated from.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference

January 10, 1957

The SCLC is an African-American civil rights organization. Associated with its first president, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sit-ins (Woolworth's- Greensboro, NC)


A series of nonviolent protests in 1960 which led to Woolworth's department store chain reversing its policy of racial segregation.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

April, 1960

One of the organizations of the American Civil Rights Movement. Emerged from a series of student meetings, and grew into a large organization with many supporters from the North.

Freedom Riders


Civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States to challenge the non-enforcement of the Supreme Court.

Council of Federated Organizations


COFO was a coalition of the major Civil Rights Movement organizations operating in Mississippi.

James Meredith


An American civil rights movement figure, writer, and a political adviser. First African American student admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi.

Letter from Birmingham Jail

April 16, 1963

An open letter written by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Defends the strategy of nonviolent resistance to racism arguing that people have a moral responsibility to break unjust laws.

Medgar Evers is Killed

June 12, 1963

Medgar Evans- an African-American civil rights activist from Mississippi. He was assassinated. He was a veteran, so he got full military honors.

"I have a dream" speech

August 28, 1963

Public speech by Martin Luther King Jr. He called for an end to racism in the US.

March on Washington

August 28, 1963

One of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history. "I have a dream" speech.

Sixteenth Street Baptist Church explosion

September 15, 1963

An act of racially motivated terrorism. Killed four girls, marked a turning point in the Civil Rights Movement.

The Civil Rights Act is passed

July 2, 1964

Outlawed major forms of discrimination against racial, ethnic, national and religions minorities, and women.

Executive Order 11246

September 24, 1965

Established requirements for non-discriminatory practices in hiring and employment on the part of U.S government contractors.

Black Panthers

October 15, 1966

An African-American revolutionary socialist organization active in the US.

Race Riots (Detroit, LA)

July 23, 1967

A police raid of unlicensed, after-hours bar. Police confrontations with patrons and observers on the street evolved into one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in U.S. history.

Thurgood Marhsall

October, 1967

First African-American Supreme Court Justice.

Martin Luther King is assassinated

April 4, 1968

Assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Killed by James Earl Ray.