|NAME OF DATE
|NAME OF EVENT
|Brown v. Board of Education
|On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The decision effectively overturned the “separate but equal” ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had allowed Jim Crow laws that mandated separate public facilities for whites and African Americans to prevail throughout the South during the first half of the 20th century. While the Brown ruling applied only to schools, it implied that segregation in other public facilities was unconstitutional as well.
|Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
|On December 1, 1955, African American civil rights activist Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. Her subsequent arrest initiated a sustained bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. The protest began on December 5, led by Martin Luther King, Jr., then a young local pastor, and was so successful that it was extended indefinitely. In the ensuing months, protestors faced threats, arrests, and termination from their jobs. Nonetheless, the boycott continued for more than a year. Finally, the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that segregated seating was unconstitutional, and the federal decision went into effect on December 20, 1956.
|The Little Rock Nine and the Little Rock Central High School Integration
|In September 1957 nine African American students attended their first day at Little Rock Central High School, whose entire student population had until that point been white. The Little Rock Nine, as they came to be called, encountered a large white mob and soldiers from the Arkansas National Guard, sent by Arkansas Gov. Orval Eugene Faubus, blocking the entrance of the school. For the next 18 days Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gov. Faubus, and Little Rock’s mayor, Woodrow Mann, discussed the situation. The Little Rock Nine returned on September 23, but were met with violence. The students were sent home and returned on September 25, protected by U.S. soldiers. Although the students were continually harassed, eight of the nine completed the academic year. The entire confrontation drew international attention not only to civil rights in the United States but also to the struggle between federal and state power.
|The Greensboro Four and the Sit-In Movement
|On February 1, 1960, a group of four freshmen from the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina (now North Carolina A&T State University), a historically black college, began a sit-in movement in downtown Greensboro. After making purchases at the F.W. Woolworth department store, they sat at the “whites only” lunch counter. They were refused service and eventually asked to leave. The Greensboro Four, as they came to be called, however, remained seated until closing and returned the next day with about 20 other African American students. The sit-in grew in the following weeks with protestors taking every seat in the establishment and spilling out of the store. As protestors were arrested, others would take their places so that the establishment was unceasingly occupied. The protest spread to other cities, including Atlanta and Nashville. After months of protests, facilities began to desegregate throughout the country, and the Greensboro Woolworth’s started to serve African American patrons in July.
| Ruby Bridges and the New Orleans School Integration
|On November 14, 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges was escorted to her first day at the previously all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans by four armed federal marshals. They were met with angry mobs shouting their disapproval, and, throughout the day, parents marched in to remove their children from the school as a protest to desegregation. Every subsequent day of that academic year Bridges was escorted to school, enduring insults and threats on her way, and then learning her lessons from her young teacher, Barbara Henry, in an otherwise empty classroom. Her bravery later inspired the Norman Rockwell painting, The Problem We All Live With (1964)
|The Freedom Rides began on May 4, 1961, with a group of seven African Americans and six whites, who boarded two buses bound for New Orleans. Testing the Supreme Court’s ruling on the case Boynton v. Virginia (1960), which extended an earlier ruling banning segregated interstate bus travel (1946) to include bus terminals and restrooms, the so-called Freedom Riders used facilities for the opposite race as their buses made stops along the way. The group was confronted by violence in South Carolina, and, on May 14, when one bus stopped to change a slashed tire, the vehicle was firebombed and the Freedom Riders were beaten. Unable to travel farther, the original riders were replaced by a second group of 10, partly organized by the SNCC, originating in Nashville. As riders were either arrested or beaten, more groups of Freedom Riders would take their place. On May 29 U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy ordered the Interstate Commerce Commission to enforce bans on segregation more strictly, an edict that took effect in September.
|In the spring of 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the SCLC launched a campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, with local Pastor Fred Shuttlesworth and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) to undermine the city’s system of racial segregation. The campaign began on April 3, 1963, with sit-ins, economic boycotts, mass protests, and marches on City Hall. The demonstrations faced challenges from many sides, including an indifferent African American community, adversarial white and African American leaders, and a hostile commissioner of public safety, Eugene (“Bull”) Connor. On April 12 King was arrested for violating an anti-protest injunction and placed in solitary confinement. The demonstrations continued, but, after a month without any concessions, King was convinced to launch the Children’s Crusade. Beginning on May 2, 1963, school-aged volunteers skipped school and began to march.
The demonstrations of 1963 culminated with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28 to protest civil rights abuses and employment discrimination. A crowd of about 250,000 individuals gathered peacefully on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to listen to speeches by civil rights leaders, notably Martin Luther King, Jr. He addressed the crowd with an eloquent and uplifting message that famously became known as the “I Have a Dream” speech.
1964: Civil Rights Act
On July 2, 1964, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Act into law, a stronger version of what his predecessor, President Kennedy, had proposed the previous summer before his assassination in November 1963. The act authorized the federal government to prevent racial discrimination in employment, voting, and the use of public facilities. Although controversial, the legislation was a victory for the civil rights movement.
|March on Washington
|The demonstrations of 1963 culminated with the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28 to protest civil rights abuses and employment discrimination. A crowd of about 250,000 individuals gathered peacefully on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to listen to speeches by civil rights leaders, notably Martin Luther King, Jr. He addressed the crowd with an eloquent and uplifting message that famously became known as the “I Have a Dream” speech.
Civil Rights Act
|On July 2, 1964, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson, signed the Civil Rights Act into law, a stronger version of what his predecessor, President Kennedy, had proposed the previous summer before his assassination in November 1963. The act authorized the federal government to prevent racial discrimination in employment, voting, and the use of public facilities. Although controversial, the legislation was a victory for the civil rights movement.
|Assassination of Malcolm X
|On February 21, 1965, the prominent African American leader Malcolm X was assassinated while lecturing at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York. An eloquent orator, Malcolm X spoke out on the civil rights movement, demanding it move beyond civil rights to human rights and argued that the solution to racial problems was in orthodox Islam. His speeches and ideas contributed to the development of black nationalist ideology and the Black Power movement.
|On March 7, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., organized a march from Selma, Alabama, to the state’s capital, Montgomery, to call for a federal voting rights law that would provide legal support for disenfranchised African Americans in the South. State troopers, however, sent marchers back with violence and tear gas, and television cameras recorded the incident. On March 9 King tried again, leading more than 2,000 marchers to the Pettus Bridge, where they encountered a barricade of state troopers. King led his followers to kneel in prayer and then he unexpectedly turned back. The media attention prompted President Johnson to introduce voting rights legislation on March 15, and on March 21 King once again led a group of marchers out of Selma; this time, they were protected by Alabama National Guardsmen, federal marshals, and FBI agents. Marchers arrived in Montgomery on March 25, where King addressed the crowd with what would be called his “How Long, Not Long” speech. The Voting Rights Act was signed into law on August 6. It suspended literacy tests, provided for federal approval of proposed changes to voting laws or procedures, and directed the attorney general of the United States to challenge the use of poll taxes for state and local elections.
|Civil Rights Act – Voting Rights
|President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent the use of literacy tests as a voting requirement. It also allowed federal examiners to review voter qualifications and federal observers to monitor polling places.
|Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr
|On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed by a sniper while standing on the second-floor balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He had been staying at the hotel after leading a nonviolent demonstration in support of striking sanitation workers in that city. His murder set off riots in hundreds of cities across the country, and it also pushed Congress to pass the stalled Fair Housing Act in King’s honor on April 11.