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Timeline and Facts of The Civil Rights Movement


The civil rights movement, a nonviolent freedom movement to gain legal equality and the enforcement of constitutional rights for African Americans. The goals of the movement included securing equal protection under the law, ending legally established racial discrimination, and gaining equal access to public facilities, education reform, fair housing, and the ability to vote.

  • September 2 – In Montgomery, Alabama, 23 black children are prevented from attending all-white elementary schools, defying the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
  • September 15 – Protests by white parents in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia force schools to postpone desegregation another year.
  • September 16 – Mississippi abolishes all public schools with an amendment to its State Constitution; private segregation academies are founded for white students.
  • September 30 – Integration of a high school in Milford, Delaware collapses when white students boycott classes.
  • October 4 – Student demonstrations take place against integration of Washington, DC public schools.
  • October 30 – Desegregation of U.S. Armed Forces said to be complete.
  • January 15 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10590, establishing the President‘s Committee on Government Policy to enforce a nondiscrimination policy in Federal employment.
  • April 5 – Mississippi passes a law penalizing white students by jail and fines who attend school with blacks.
  • May 7 – NAACP and Regional Council of Negro Leadership activist Reverend George W. Lee is killed in Belzoni, Mississippi.
  • May 31 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in “Brown II” that desegregation must occur with “all deliberate speed”
  • June 23 – Virginia governor and Board of Education decide to continue segregated schools into 1956.
  • June 29 – The NAACP wins a U.S. Supreme Court suit which orders the University of Alabama to admit Autherine Lucy.
  • July 14 – A Federal Appeals Court overturns segregation on Columbia, SC buses.
    Carolina Coach Company. On the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court bans segregation on public parks and playgrounds.
  • December 1 – Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus, starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This occurs nine months after 15-year-old high school student Claudette Colvin became the first to refuse to give up her seat.
  • January 16 – FBI Director J.
  • January 24 – Governors of Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia agree to block integration of schools.
  • February 1 – Virginia legislature passes a resolution that the U.S. Supreme Court integration decision was an “illegal encroachment”
  • February 3 – Autherine Lucy is admitted to the University of Alabama.
  • February 24 – The policy of Massive Resistance is declared by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. from Virginia.
  • February 22 – Ninety black leaders in Montgomery, Alabama are arrested for leading a bus boycott.
  • February 29 – Mississippi legislature declares U.S. Supreme Court integration decision “invalid” in that state.
  • March 1 – Alabama legislature votes to ask for federal funds to deport blacks to northern states.
  • March 12 – U.S. Supreme Court orders the University of Florida to admit a black law school applicant “without delay”
  • April 23 – U.S. Supreme Court strikes down segregation on buses nationwide.
  • May 26 – Circuit Judge Walter B. Jones issues an injunction prohibiting the NAACP from operating in Alabama.
  • June 5 – The Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) is founded at a mass meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.
  • September 2–11 – Teargas and National Guard used to quell segregationists rioting in Clinton, Tennessee; 12 black students enter high school under Guard protection.
  • September 10 – Two black students are prevented by a mob from entering a junior college in Texarkana, Texas. Schools in Louisville, Kentucky are successfully desegregated.
  • September 12 – Four black children enter an elementary school in Clay, Kentucky under National Guard protection; white students boycott.
  • December 24 – Blacks in Tallahassee, Florida begin defying segregation on city buses.
    Director J.
  • April 18 – Florida Senate votes to consider U.S. Supreme Court’s desegregation decisions “null and void”
  • May 17 – The Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington, DC is at the time the largest nonviolent demonstration for civil rights.
  • September 2 – Orval Faubus, governor of Arkansas, calls out the National Guard to block integration of Little Rock Central High School.
  • September 6 – Federal judge orders Nashville public schools to integrate immediately.
  • September 24 – President Dwight Eisenhower federalizes the National Guard and also orders US Army troops to ensure Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas is integrated.
  • September 27 – Civil Rights Act of 1957 signed by President Eisenhower.
  • October 7 – The finance minister of Ghana is refused service at a Dover, Delaware restaurant. President Eisenhower hosts him at the White House to apologize October 10.
  • October 9 – Florida legislature votes to close any school if federal troops are sent to enforce integration.
  • October 31 – Officers of NAACP arrested in Little Rock for failing to comply with a new financial disclosure ordinance.
  • June 29 – Bethel Baptist Church (Birmingham, Alabama) is bombed by Ku Klux Klan members, killing four girls.
  • June 30 – In NAACP v. Alabama, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the NAACP was not required to release membership lists to continue operating in the state.
  • September 2 – Governor J.
  • September 4 – Justice Department sues under Civil Rights Act to force Terrell County, Georgia to register blacks to vote.
  • September 8 – A Federal judge orders Louisiana State University to desegregate; sixty-nine African-Americans enroll successfully on September 12.
  • September 12 – In Cooper v. Aaron the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the states were bound by the Court’s decisions. Governor Faubus responds by shutting down all four high schools in Little Rock, and Governor Almond shuts one in Front Royal, Virginia.
  • September 18 – Governor Lindsay closes two more schools in Charlottesville, Virginia, and six in Norfolk on September 27.
  • September 29 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that states may not use evasive measures to avoid desegregation.
  • October 8 – A Federal judge in Harrisonburg, VA rules that public money may not be used for segregated private schools.
  • October 20 – Thirteen blacks arrested for sitting in front of bus in Birmingham.
  • November 28 – Federal court throws out Louisiana law against integrated athletic events.
  • December 8 – Voter registration officials in Montgomery refuse to cooperate with US Civil Rights Commission investigation.
  • January 9 – One Federal judge throws out segregation on Atlanta, Georgia, buses, while another orders Montgomery registrars to comply with the Civil Rights Commission.
  • January 19 – Federal Appeals court overturns Virginia’s closure of the schools in Norfolk; they reopen January 28 with 17 black students.
  • April 18 – King speaks for the integration of schools at a rally of 26,000 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.
  • November 20 – Alabama passes laws to limit black voter registration.
  • January 11 – Rioting over court-ordered admission of first two African-Americans (Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault) at the University of Georgia leads to their suspension, but they are ordered reinstated.
  • May 6 – Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy delivers a speech to the students of the University of Georgia School of Law in Athens, Georgia, promising to enforce civil rights legislation.
  • May 14 – The Freedom Riders’ bus is attacked and burned outside of Anniston, Alabama. A mob beats the Freedom Riders upon their arrival in Birmingham.
  • May 29 – Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, citing the 1955 landmark ICC ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company and the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1960 decision in Boynton v.
    June–August – U.S. Dept.
  • September – James Forman becomes SNCC’s Executive Secretary.
  • November 1 – SNCC workers Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon and nine Chatmon Youth Council members test new ICC rules at Trailways bus station in Albany, Georgia.
    Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin, a white southerner who deliberately darkened his skin to pass as a Negro in the Deep South, is published, describing “Jim Crow” segregation for a national audience.
  • February 26 – Segregated transportation facilities, both interstate and intrastate, ruled unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court.
  • September 9 – Two black churches used by SNCC for voter registration meetings are burned in Sasser, Georgia.
  • September 20 – James Meredith is barred from becoming the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.
  • September 30-October 1 – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black orders James Meredith admitted to Ole Miss.
  • January 14 – Incoming Alabama governor George Wallace calls for “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” in his inaugural address.
  • April 3–May 10 – The Birmingham campaign, organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, protests segregation in Birmingham by daily mass demonstrations.
  • April 23 – CORE activist William L. Moore is killed in Gadsden, Alabama.
  • May 2–4 – Birmingham’s juvenile court is inundated with African-American children and teenagers arrested after James Bevel, SCLC’s Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education, launches his “D-Day” youth march.
  • June 11 – “The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door”: Alabama Governor George Wallace stands in front of a schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama in an attempt to stop desegregation by the enrollment of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. Wallace stands aside after being confronted by federal marshals, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and the Alabama National Guard.
  • June 11 – President Kennedy makes his historic civil rights address, promising a bill to Congress the next week.
  • June 19 – President Kennedy sends Congress (H. Doc. 124, 88th Cong., 1st session. ) his proposed Civil Rights Act.
  • August 28 – March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is held. Martin Luther King gives his I Have a Dream speech.
  • September 10 – Birmingham, Alabama City Schools are integrated by National Guardsmen under orders from President Kennedy.
  • June 28 – Organization of Afro-American Unity is founded by Malcolm X, lasts until his death.
  • February 21 – Malcolm X is assassinated in Manhattan, New York, probably by three members of the Nation of Islam.
  • March 7 – Bloody Sunday: Civil rights workers in Selma, Alabama, begin the Selma to Montgomery march but are attacked and stopped by a massive Alabama State trooper and police blockade as they cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge into the county.
  • March 15 – President Lyndon Johnson uses the phrase “We Shall Overcome” in a speech before Congress to urge passage of the voting rights bill.
  • March 21 – Participants in the third and successful Selma to Montgomery march stepped off on a five-day 54-mile march to Montgomery, Alabama’s capitol.
  • June 2 – Black deputy sheriff Oneal Moore is murdered in Varnado, Louisiana.
  • August 6 – Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed by President Johnson.
  • September – Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong become the first African-American students to attend the University of Southern Mississippi.
  • September 24 – President Johnson signs Executive Order 11246 requiring Equal Employment Opportunity by federal contractors.
  • April 11 – Civil Rights Act of 1968 is signed.
  • October 16 – In Mexico City, African-American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in a black power salute after winning, respectively, the gold and bronze medals in the Olympic men’s 200 meters.