Timeline of the civil rights movement  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

This is a timeline of the African-American Civil Rights Movement of 1954-1968, a nonviolent freedom movement to gain legal equality and enforcement of constitutional rights for African Americans. The goals of the movement included securing equal protection of the laws, ending legally established racial discrimination, and gaining equal access to public facilities, education reform, fair housing, and the ability to vote.


  • May 3 - In Hernandez v. Texas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that Mexican Americans and all other racial groups in the United States are entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • May 17 - In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. and in Bolling v. Sharpe, the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the "separate but equal" doctrine, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson and saying that segregation of public schools is unconstitutional.
  • July 30 - At a special meeting in Jackson, Mississippi called by Governor Hugh White, T.R.M. Howard of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, along with nearly one hundred other black leaders, publicly refuse to support a segregationist plan to maintain "separate but equal" in exchange for a crash program to increase spending on black schools.
  • 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 7 - The District of Columbia ends segregated education; Baltimore, Maryland follows suit on September 8
  • 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 19 - Federal judge upholds an Oklahoma law requiring African-American candidates to be identified on voting ballots as "negro".
  • October 30 - Desegregation of U.S. Armed Forces said to be complete.
  • Frankie Muse Freeman is the lead attorney for the landmark NAACP case Davis et al. v. the St. Louis Housing Authority, which ended legal racial discrimination in the city's public housing. Constance Baker Motley was an attorney for NAACP: it was unusual to have two women attorneys leading such a high-profile case.


  • 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.
  • January 20 - Demonstrators from CORE and Morgan State University stage a successful sit-in to desegregate Read's Drug Store in Baltimore, Maryland
  • 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 8 - University of Oklahoma decides to allow black students.
  • 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 11 - Georgia Board of Education orders that any teacher supporting integration be fired.
  • July 14 - A Federal Appeals Court overturns segregation on Columbia, SC buses.
  • August 1 - Georgia Board of Education fires all black teachers who are members of the NAACP.
  • August 13 - Regional Council of Negro Leadership registration activist Lamar Smith is murdered in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
  • August 28 - Teenager Emmett Till is killed for whistling at a white woman in Money, Mississippi.
  • November 7 - The Interstate Commerce Commission bans bus segregation in interstate travel in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company. On the same day, the U.S. Supreme Court bans segregation on public parks and playgrounds. The governor of Georgia responds that his state would "get out of the park business" rather than allow playgrounds to be desegregated.
  • 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. Colvin's was the legal case which eventually ended the practice in Montgomery.
  • Roy Wilkins becomes the NAACP executive secretary.


  • January 9 - Virginia voters and representatives decide to fund private schools with state money to maintain segregation.
  • January 16 - FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover writes a rare open letter of complaint directed to civil rights leader Dr. T.R.M. Howard after Howard charged in a speech that the "FBI can pick up pieces of a fallen airplane on the slopes of a Colorado mountain and find the man who caused the crash, but they can't find a white man when he kills a Negro in the South."
  • 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. Whites riot for days, and she is suspended. Later, she is expelled for her part in filing legal action against the university.
  • February 24 - The policy of Massive Resistance is declared by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr. from Virginia.
  • February/March - The Southern Manifesto, opposing integration of schools, is drafted and signed by members of the Congressional delegations of Southern states, including 19 senators and 81 members of the House of Representatives, notably the entire delegations of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. On March 12, it is released to the press.
  • February 13 - Wilmington, Delaware school board decides to end segregation.
  • 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".
  • March 22 - King sentenced to fine or jail for instigating Montgomery bus boycott, suspended pending appeal.
  • 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.
  • May 28 - The Tallahassee, Florida bus boycott begins.
  • 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. Smaller disturbances occur in Mansfield, Texas and Sturgis, Kentucky.
  • 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. The school board bars the four again on Sep. 17.
  • October 15 - Integrated athletic or social events are banned in Louisiana.
  • November 13 - In Browder v. Gayle, the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Alabama laws requiring segregation of buses. This ruling, together with the ICC's 1955 ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach banning "Jim Crow laws" in bus travel among the states, is a landmark in outlawing "Jim Crow" in bus travel.
  • December 20 - Federal marshals enforce the ruling to desegregate bus systems in Montgomery.
  • December 24 - Blacks in Tallahassee, Florida begin defying segregation on city buses.
  • December 25 - The parsonage in Birmingham, Alabama occupied by Fred Shuttlesworth, movement leader, is bombed. Shuttlesworth receives only minor injuries.
  • December 26 - The ACMHR tests the Browder v. Gayle ruling by riding in the white sections of Birmingham city buses. 22 demonstrators are arrested.
  • Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission formed.
  • Director J. Edgar Hoover orders the FBI to begin the COINTELPRO program to investigate and disrupt "dissident" groups within the United States.


  • February 8 - Georgia Senate votes to declare the 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution null and void in that state.
  • February 14 - Southern Christian Leadership Conference is formed; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is named its chairman.
  • 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 15 - New York Times reports that in three years since the decision, there has been minimal progress toward integration in four southern states, and no progress at all in seven.
  • 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. Federal and National Guard troops escort the Little Rock Nine.
  • 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 Oct. 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.
  • November 26 - Texas legislature votes to close any school where federal troops might be sent.


  • 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.
  • July - NAACP Youth Council sponsored sit-ins at the lunch counter of a Dockum Drug Store in downtown Wichita, Kansas. After three weeks, the movement successfully got the store to change its policy and soon afterward all Dockum stores in Kansas were desegregated.
  • August 19 - Clara Luper and the NAACP Youth Council conduct the largest successful sit-in to date, on drug store lunch-counters in Oklahoma City. This starts a successful six-year campaign by Luper and the Council to desegregate businesses and related institutions in Oklahoma City.
  • September 2 - Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. of Virginia threatens to shut down any school if it is forced to integrate.
  • 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 Sep. 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 Sep. 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.
  • January 31 - Member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and nine students were arrested in Rock Hill, South Carolina for a sit-in at a McCrory's lunch counter.
  • March 6 - President Kennedy issues Executive Order 10925, which establishes a Presidential committee that later becomes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • May 4 - The first group of Freedom Riders, with the intent of integrating interstate buses, leaves Washington, D.C. by Greyhound bus. The group, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), leaves shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed segregation in interstate transportation terminals.
  • 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. The Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, and spend forty to sixty days in Parchman Penitentiary.
  • May 17 - Nashville students, coordinated by Diane Nash, John Lewis, and James Bevel, take up the Freedom Ride, signaling the increased involvement of SNCC.
  • May 20 - Freedom Riders are assaulted in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Greyhound Bus Station.
  • May 21 - MLK, the Freedom Riders, and congregation of 1,500 at Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church in Montgomery are besieged by mob of segregationists; RFK as Attorney General sends federal marshals to protect them.
  • 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. Virginia, petitions the ICC to enforce desegregation in interstate travel.
  • June–August - U.S. Dept. of Justice initiates talks with civil rights groups and foundations on beginning Voter Education Project.
  • July - SCLC begins citizenship classes; Andrew J. Young hired to direct the program. Bob Moses begins voter registration in McComb, Mississippi. He leaves because of violence.
  • September - James Forman becomes SNCC’s Executive Secretary.
  • September 23 - The Interstate Commerce Commission, at RFK’s insistence, issues new rules ending discrimination in interstate travel, effective November 1, 1961, six years after the ICC's own ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company.
  • September 25 - Voter registration activist and NAACP member Herbert Lee is shot and killed by a white state legislator in McComb, Mississippi.
  • November 1 - All interstate buses required to display a certificate that reads: “Seating aboard this vehicle is without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin, by order of the Interstate Commerce Commission.”
  • 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.
  • November 17 - SNCC workers help encourage and coordinate black activism in Albany, Georgia, culminating in the founding of the Albany Movement as a formal coalition.
  • November 22 - Three high school students from Chatmon’s Youth Council arrested after using “positive actions” by walking into white sections of the Albany bus station.
  • November 22 - Albany State College students Bertha Gober and Blanton Hall arrested after entering the white waiting room of the Albany Trailways station.
  • December 10 - Freedom Riders from Atlanta, SNCC leader Charles Jones, and Albany State student Bertha Gober are arrested at Albany Union Railway Terminal, sparking mass demonstrations, with hundreds of protesters arrested over the next five days.
  • December 11–15 - Five hundred protesters arrested in Albany, Georgia.
  • December 15 - King arrives in Albany, Georgia in response to a call from Dr. W. G. Anderson, the leader of the Albany Movement to desegregate public facilities.
  • December 16 - King is arrested at an Albany, Georgia demonstration. He is charged with obstructing the sidewalk and parading without a permit.
  • December 18 - Albany truce, including a 60-day postponement of King's trial; King leaves town.
  • Whitney Young is appointed executive director of the National Urban League and begins expanding its size and mission.
  • 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.


  • January 18–20 - Student protests over sit-in leaders’ expulsions at Baton Rouge’s Southern University, the nation’s largest black school, close it down.
  • February - Representatives of SNCC, CORE, and the NAACP form the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). A grant request to fund COFO voter registration activities is submitted to the Voter Education Project (VEP).
  • February 26 - Segregated transportation facilities, both interstate and intrastate, ruled unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court.
  • March - SNCC workers sit-in at US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's office to protest jailings in Baton Rouge.
  • March 20 - FBI installs wiretaps on NAACP activist Stanley Levison’s office.
  • April 3 - Defense Department orders full racial integration of military reserve units, except the National Guard.
  • June - SNCC workers establish voter registration projects in rural southwest Georgia.
  • July 10 - August 28 SCLC renews protests in Albany; MLK in jail July 10–12 and July 27 – August 10.
  • August 31 - Fannie Lou Hamer attempts to register to vote in Indianola, Mississippi.
  • 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.; he enrolls and a white riot ensues. French photographer Paul Guihard and Oxford resident Ray Gunter are killed.
  • October - Leflore County, Mississippi, supervisors cut off surplus food distribution in retaliation against voter drive.
  • October 23 - FBI begins Communist Infiltration (COMINFIL) investigation of SCLC.
  • November 20 - Attorney General Kennedy authorizes FBI wiretap on Stanley Levison’s home telephone.
  • November 20 - President Kennedy upholds 1960 presidential campaign promise to eliminate housing segregation by signing Executive Order 11063 banning segregation in Federally funded housing.


  • January 18 - 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 - Mary Lucille Hamilton, Field Secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality, refuses to answer a judge in Gadsden, Alabama, until she is addressed by the honorific "Miss". /at the time, it was southern custom to address white people by honorifics and people of color by their first names. Jailed for contempt of court Hamilton refused to pay bail. The case Hamilton v. Alabama is filed by the NAACP. It reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in 1964 that courts must address persons of color with the same courtesy extended to whites.
  • April 7 - Ministers John Thomas Porter, Nelson H. Smith and A. D. King lead a group of 2,000 marchers to protest the jailing of movement leaders in Birmingham.
  • April 12 - King is arrested in Birmingham for "parading without a permit".
  • April 16 - Dr. King's Letter from Birmingham Jail is completed.
  • 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. The actions spans three days to become the Birmingham Children's Crusade where over a thousand children and students are arrested. The images of fire hoses and police dogs turned on the protesters are televised around the world.
  • May 9–10 - The Children's Crusade lays the groundwork for the terms of a negotiated truce on Thursday, May 9, which puts an end to mass demonstrations in return for rolling back segregation laws and practices. King and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth announce the settlement terms on Friday, May 10, only after King holds out to orchestrate the release of thousands of jailed demonstrators with bail money from Harry Belafonte and Robert Kennedy.
  • May 11–12 - A double bombing in Birmingham, probably organized by the KKK with help from local police, precipitates rioting, police retaliation, intervention of state troopers, and finally mobilization of federal troops.
  • May 13 - In United States of America and Interstate Commerce Commission v. the City of Jackson, Mississippi et al., the United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit rules the city's attempt to circumvent laws desegregating interstate transportation facilities by posting sidewalk signs outside Greyhound, Trailways and Illinois Central terminals reading "Waiting Room for White Only — By Order Police Department" and "Waiting Room for Colored Only - By Order Police Department" to be unlawful.
  • May 24 - A group of Black leaders (assembled by James Baldwin) meets with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to discuss race relations.
  • May 29 - Violence escalates at NAACP picket of Philadelphia construction site.
  • May 30 - Police attack Florida A&M anti-segregation demonstrators with tear gas; arrest 257.
  • June 9 - Fannie Lou Hamer is among several SNCC workers badly beaten by police in the Winona, Mississippi, jail after their bus stops there.
  • 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. Later in life he apologizes for his opposition to racial integration.
  • June 11 - President Kennedy makes his historic civil rights address, promising a bill to Congress the next week. About civil rights for "Negroes", in his speech he asks for "the kind of equality of treatment which we would want for ourselves."
  • June 12 - NAACP worker Medgar Evers is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi. (His killer is convicted in 1994.)
  • Summer - 80,000 blacks quickly register to vote in Mississippi by a test project to show their desire to participate in the political system.
  • June 19 - President Kennedy sends Congress (H. Doc. 124, 88th Cong., 1st session.) his proposed Civil Rights Act. White leaders in business and philanthropy gather at the Carlyle Hotel to raise initial funds for the Council on United Civil Rights Leadership
  • August 28 - ( Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Northwest Baltimore, County, Maryland is desegregated.
  • August 28 - March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is held. MLK gives his I Have a Dream speech.<ref>March on Washington.</ref>
  • September 10 - Birmingham, Alabama City Schools are integrated by National Guardsmen under orders from President Kennedy.
  • September 15 - 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham kills four young girls. That same day, in response to the killings, James Bevel and Diane Nash begin the Alabama Project, which will later develop as the Selma Voting Rights Movement.


[[File:Bloody Sunday-officers await demonstrators.jpeg|thumb|right|The Edmund Pettus Bridge on "Bloody Sunday" in 1965.]] 1965




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Timeline of the civil rights movement" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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