Civil Rights Movement Timeline


Brown v Board of Education

December 9, 1952 - May 17, 1954

Brown v Board of Education was a court case in Topeka, Kansas, where African American parents, in conjunction with the NAACP, argued that segregated public schools were unconstitutional. TH\he Supreme Court unanimously ruled that "legal segregation" was, in fact, illegal. The significance of this was that the court case marked the end of making any form of segregation legal.

Malcolm X, Black Nationalism, and Assassination

1954 - February 21, 1965

Malcolm X was a Muslim minister of the Nation of Islam who founded the Organization of Afro-American Unity and the Muslim Mosque Inc. He taught black nationalism, which advocated for the separation of black and white Americans, rather than agreeing with the civil right movement's emphasis of integration. He stressed Pan-Africanism, black self-determination, and self-defense. He was assassinated on February 21, 1965 by a person at one of his speeches for the Organization of Afro-American Unity.

Murder of Emmett Till

August 28, 1955

Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old African American teenager, was murdered by the family of 21-year-old Carolyn Bryant, who was married. Till reportedly flirted with the white woman, and as a result, Till was kidnapped and beaten before he was shot and thrown into a river with a weight to hold him down. Till's mother held an open-casket funeral so that people would know what happened to his body; this generated white sympathy and black support as a result of the media coverage. However, later on, local newspapers began to support the killers as a response to national criticism.

Montgomery Bus Boycotts

December 1, 1955 - December 20, 1956

The Montgomery Bus Boycotts started when Rosa Parks, an African American woman, was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white person. When the US Supreme Court decision was made to outlaw segregated buses, the boycott stopped. Leaders such as Dr. King were active participants in the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.

Little Rock Nine Crisis

September 1957

The Little Rock Nine was a group of African American students who were prevented by the governor of Arkansas from entering an all-white school. After the Brown vs. Board of Education resulted in segregated schools being declared unconstitutional, the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) wanted to send African American students to all-white schools, which were generally more resourceful. When the Arkansas governor deployed the National Guard to block out the students, President Eisenhower warned Arkansas that this was against the constitution.

Student Lunch Counter Sit-ins (Greensboro)

February 1, 1960 - July 25, 1960

The Greensboro sit-ins started when four African-American men sat at the lunch counter in a store in Greensboro, and store policy required that they not serve the men who sat at the "whites only" counter. When asked to leave, the men instead stayed for the entire day. Throughout the days, the number of people began to increase, and students from other towns began to stage their own sit-ins. The sit-ins finally stopped when the Greensboro store was desegregated on July 25, and black and whites were served at the lunch counter.

Formation of SNCC

1961 - 1963

The SNCC started as an organization after a conference that united student delegates from various organizations, such as the Congress of Racial Equality and the National Student Association. SNCC played a significant role in many civil rights movements, such as the March on Washington.

Freedom Rides

May 4, 1961

Freedom Rides were when civil rights leaders and activists challenged the law that segregated buses were unconstitutional. They rode on interstate buses into segregated portions of the U.S. and challenged laws that enforced segregation in seating by traveling in mixed racial groups. The Freedom Rides brought forward violent reaction, but this only helped to highlight the federal law that outlawed such segregation.

James Meredith & University of Mississippi

October 1, 1962

James Meredith became the first African American student to attend the University of Mississippi, which had been segregated. After John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, Meredith decided to apply to the University of Mississippi as a result of his constitutional rights, and this would also add an incentive for the Kennedy administration to push civil rights for African Americans.

Crisis/Violence in Birmingham


The campaign in Birmingham, organized by the SCLC, brought attention to the racial inequality in Alabama. Birmingham, which was one of the most racially separated cities, saw nonviolent protests and confrontations that were staged by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights activists. The city government was forced to change many discriminatory laws due to the popular protests by black youth against authorities.

Murder of Medgar Evers

June 12, 1963

Medgar Evers, an African American who was also a civil rights activist in Mississippi, was also in efforst to overturn segregation in Mississippi. He was assassinated by a member of the White Citizens' Council. Evers applied to law school at the University of Mississippi, but he was rejected; he then resubmitted his application through help of the NAACP. He was shot after having met with NAACP lawyers, hours after John F. Kennedy's national speech in support of civil rights.

March on Washington

August 28, 1963

The March on Washington started at the Washington Monument and ended at the Lincoln memorial. It was organized by A. Philip Randolph, and it was an important part of the Civil Rights Movement. The leaders were chosen from a combination of organizations, and leaders included Martin Luther King, Jr. and Roy Wilkins. Although not all civil rights activists supported the march, the NAACP and other organizations viewed the march as a way to support the civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy administration.

President Kennedy's Assassination

November 22, 1963

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald, who acted alone. Many thought that Kennedy's assassination was the result of a conspiracy, and many polls concluded that as many as 80% thought that the assassination was a plot.

Freedom Summer

June 1964

Freedom Summer was a project that tried to set up houses, schools, and other public works projects that would aid the African Americans in Mississippi. Organized by the SNNC, CORE, NAACP, and SCLC, the project was a success because the Freedom Vote demonstrated the will of the African Americans to vote, and African Americans displayed their will for more equal rights in Mississippi.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

July 2, 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed most forms of discrimination, including anything based on race, ethnicity, and religion. Furthermore, it ended racial segregation in public facilities, schools, and the workplace, as well as changed the voter registration requirements. Although enforcing the act had some weak power, this power was strengthened over the years.

"Bloody Sunday" and Selma to Montgomery Marches

March 7, 1965

Civil rights activists marched out of Selma led by John Lewis and Reverend Hosea Williams, and the protest was peaceful and went as planned until the marchers met state troopers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Although Williams tried to talk to the officers, the troopers began to attack the demonstrators, and many were left severely injured and some were nearly dead from gassing and tear gas.

Voting Rights Act of 1965

August 6, 1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 reaffirmed the 15th Amendment and outlawed voting practices that discriminated against African Americans in the U.S. It prohibited states from imposing any type of voting qualification to deny or abridge the right of a citizen of the U.S. to vote due to race.

Watts Riots

August 11, 1965 - August 17, 1965

The Watts Riot was one of the most severe riots in Los Angeles, and it resulted in numerous deaths, injuries, arrests, and expenses for the damages that occurred. In the Secong Great Migration, many African Americans moved to the West Coast, including LA, but LA had rules that prevented minority races from renting or buying houses in certain areas, and the entire city was geographically divided by ethnicity. The LAPD also discriminated against minorities, and when a racially-implied arrest occurred on the charge of drunken driving, many were upset and the unrest started.

Black Panthers Formation and Rallies

October 15, 1966

The Black Panthers were an organization of African-Americans that called for the fair treatment of blacks. First, they petitioned for the protection of African-American neighborhoods from police brutality, and then the Black Panther Party protested against weapons.

Poor People's March on Washington

May 1967 - June 1968

The Poor People's March on Washington focused on specific events in Washington. Led by civil rights activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr., the first event they focused on was the Memphis Sanitation Strike. Next, the Minority Meeting in Atlanta tried to organize racial minorities into a group to collectively resistance to racism. After King was assassinated, the Poor People's March on Washington did continue to participate, although it was weaker without Dr. King.

MLK Assassination and Riots

April 4, 1968 - April 8, 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. The Kennedy family believed that the assassination was a planned conspiracy by the U.S. government. One of the various responses to King's assassination was the Riots. King's followers believed that a riot of non-violence would best honor his life, and there were riots in over 100 cities in the U.S.

Robert Kennedy's Assassination

June 6, 1968

Robert Kennedy was assassinated on June 6, 1968 after he won the California and South Dakota Democratic Primary elections in the presidential race. His death affected the 1968 election in that although he was behind fellow Democratic contender Hubert Humphrey, some believed that Kennedy would have been able to win the Democratic nomination.