The Civil Rights Movement

Civil Rights Timeline 

1865:  Confederate Surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; the end of the Civil War

End of 1865:  13th Amendment Ratified:  abolishes slavery

1866:  14th Amendment:  prevents states from denying rights to any US citizen

15th Amendment: guarantees all men who are US citizens and of the legal voting age the right to vote

1896:  Plessy v. Ferguson—Supreme court case that set the precedent of Separate but equal doctrine.  This makes segregation legal in the US.

1920’s:  Harlem Renaissance: Time period of great creativity where African Americans write and compose music about the struggles of their lives.   Many African Americans moved North of the Mason Dixon line due to Jim Crow laws still in place in the South.  This is known as The Great Migration.

1954:  Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas—overturns the separate but equal doctrine and calls for desegregation of US public schools.

1955:  The murder of Emmett Till and Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat in the front of the bus.

1957: Martin Luther King, Charles K. Steele, and Fred L. Shuttlesworth establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which King is made the first president.

Little Rock 9 are the first African American students to try to integrate.  They attend Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas

1960: (Greensboro, N.C.) Four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College begin a sit-in at a segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter.

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded at Shaw University, providing young blacks with a place in the civil rights movement. The SNCC later grows into a more radical organization, especially under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael (1966–1967).

1961: Freedom Riders:  Over the spring and summer, student volunteers begin taking bus trips through the South to test out new laws that prohibit segregation in interstate travel facilities, which includes bus and railway stations.

1962:  James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi


April 16

Martin Luther King is arrested and jailed during anti-segregation protests in Birmingham, Ala.; he writes “Letter from Birmingham Jail,”


During civil rights protests in Birmingham, Ala., Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor uses fire hoses and police dogs on black demonstrators. These images of brutality, which are televised and published widely, are instrumental in gaining sympathy for the civil rights movement around the world.

June 12

(Jackson, Miss.) Mississippi’s NAACP field secretary, 37-year-old Medgar Evers, is murdered outside his home. Byron De La Beckwith is tried twice in 1964, both trials resulting in hung juries. Thirty years later he is convicted for murdering Evers.

Aug. 28, D.C.) About 200,000 people join the March on Washington. Congregating at the Lincoln Memorial, participants listen as Martin Luther King delivers his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Sept. 15

(Birmingham, Ala.) Four young girls (Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins) attending Sunday school are killed when a bomb explodes at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a popular location for civil rights meetings.

1964:  President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1965:  Malcolm X is assassinated

March 7

(Selma, Ala.) Blacks begin a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights but are stopped at the Pettus Bridge by a police blockade.

Aug. 10

Congress passes the Voting Rights Act of 1965, making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting are made illegal.

Aug. 11–17, 1965

(Watts, Calif.) Race riots erupt in a black section of Los Angeles.

Sept. 24, 1965

President Johnson issues Executive Order 11246, which enforces affirmative action for the first time.

1966:  Oct:  Black Panthers are founded

1968:  April 4th Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated