Timeline of the civil rights movement

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This is a timeline of the 1947 to 1968 civil rights movement in the United States, a nonviolent mid-20th century freedom movement to gain legal equality and the enforcement of constitutional rights for People of Color. 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.








  • January 2 – Georgia Tech president Blake R Van Leer stands up to Governor Griffin's threats to fire him, bar Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh player Bobby Grier over segregation.
  • 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 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."[2]
  • January 24 – Governors of Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia agree to block integration of schools.
  • February 1 – The Virginia General Assembly 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 members of the Senate 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's school board decides to end segregation.
  • February 22 – Ninety black leaders in Montgomery, Alabama, are arrested for leading a bus boycott.
  • February 29 – The Mississippi Legislature declares U.S. Supreme Court integration decision "invalid" in that state.
  • March 1 – The 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 – Tear gas 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 September 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 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.



  • June 29 – Bethel Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, is bombed by Ku Klux Klan members.[3]
  • 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 gets the store to change its policy and soon afterward all Dockum stores in Kansas are 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 of Virginia threatens to shut down any school if it is forced to integrate.
  • September 4 – The U.S. 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 Orval 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, Virginia, rules that public money may not be used for segregated private schools.
  • October 20 – Thirteen black Alabamans 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 bus registers to comply.
  • January 19 – Federal Appeals court overturns Virginia's closure of the schools in Norfolk; they reopen January 28 with 17 black students.
  • April 18 – Martin Luther King Jr. 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 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 in Oxford 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.



The Edmund Pettus Bridge on "Bloody Sunday" in 1965.


  • February 18 – After a peaceful protest march in Marion, Alabama, state troopers break it up and one shoots Jimmie Lee Jackson. Jackson dies on February 26. Though not prosecuted at the time, James Bonard Fowler is indicted for his murder in 2007.
  • 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. Many marchers are injured. This march, initiated and organized by James Bevel, becomes the visual symbol of the Selma Voting Rights Movement.
  • March 9 – Joined by clergy from all over the country who responded to his urgent appeals for reinforcements in Selma, King leads a second attempt to cross the Pettus Bridge. Although amassed law enforcement personnel are ordered to draw back when the protesters near the foot of the bridge on the other side, King responds by telling the marchers to turn around, and they return to Brown Chapel nearby. He thereby obeys a just-minted federal order prohibiting the group from walking the highway to Montgomery.[25]
  • March 11 – Rev. James Reeb, a white Unitarian minister who had heeded King's call for clergy to come to Selma, is beaten by Klansmen. Reeb dies of his injuries. Reeb's murder shocks the nation.[26]
  • March 15 – President Lyndon Johnson uses the phrase "We Shall Overcome" in a speech before Congress to urge passage of the voting rights bill.[27]
  • 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.
  • March 25 – After the successful completion of the Selma to Montgomery March, and after King has delivered his "How Long, Not Long" speech on the steps of the state capitol, a white volunteer, Viola Liuzzo, is shot and killed by KKK members in Alabama, one of whom was an FBI informant.
  • June 2 – Black deputy sheriff Oneal Moore is murdered in Varnado, Louisiana.
  • July 2 – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission begins operations.
  • August 6 – Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed by President Johnson. It provides for federal oversight and enforcement of voter registration in states and individual voting districts with a history of discriminatory tests and underrepresented populations. It prohibits discriminatory practices preventing African Americans and other minorities from registering and voting, and electoral systems diluting their vote.[27]
  • August 11–15 – Following the accusations of mistreatment and police brutality by the Los Angeles Police Department towards the city's African-American community, Watts riots erupt in South Central Los Angeles which last over five days. Over 34 are killed, 1,032 injured, 3,438 arrested, and cost over $40 million in property damage.
  • 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.




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allsup, V. Carl. [2010] 2019. "Delgado v Bastrop I.S.D." Handbook of Texas Online. Austin: Texas State Historical Association.
  2. ^ David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009, pp.154-55.
  3. ^ Staff, From Times; Reports, Wire (April 28, 2005). "J.B. Stoner, 81; White Supremacist Bombed Black Church". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  4. ^ "The Virginia Center for Digital History". Vcdh.virginia.edu. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  5. ^ Clayborne Carson (1998). The autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Grand Central Publishing. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-446-52412-4.
  6. ^ a b c d The King Center, The Chronology of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "1961". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. Retrieved October 20, 2007.
  7. ^ Catsam, Derek Charles (2009). Freedom's Main Line: The Journey of Reconciliation and the Freedom Rides. Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813138862.
  8. ^ Arsenault, Raymond (2006). Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. Oxford Univ. Press. p. 439. ISBN 0-19-513674-8.
  9. ^ a b c d Branch, Taylor (1988). Parting the Waters: America in the King Years. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. pp. 527–530. ISBN 978-0-671-68742-7.
  10. ^ Branch, pp.533–535
  11. ^ Branch, pp. 555–556
  12. ^ Branch, pp. 756–765
  13. ^ Branch, pp. 786–791
  14. ^ United States of America and Interstate Commerce Commission v. The City of Jackson, Mississippi, Allen Thompson, Douglas L. Lucky and Thomas B. Marshall, Commissioners of the City of Jackson, and W.D. Rayfield, Chief of Police of the City of Jackson, United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit, May 13, 1963.
  15. ^ "Northern City Site of Most Violent Negro Demonstrations". Rome News-Tribune (CWS). May 30, 1963.
  16. ^ "Tear Gas Used to Stall Florida Negroes, Drive Continues". Evening News (AP). May 31, 1963.
  17. ^ "Medgar Evers". Olemiss.edu. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  18. ^ The Dirksen Congressional Center. "Proposed Civil Rights Act". Archived from the original on August 23, 2014. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  19. ^ "March on Washington". Abbeville.com. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  20. ^ Cook, Karen (2008). Freedom Libraries in the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project: A History.
  21. ^ "RIOTS MAR PEACE IN CHESTER, PA.; Negro Protests Continue - School Policy at Issue". www.nytimes.com. Retrieved July 13, 2018.
  22. ^ a b "Civil Rights Act of 1964Zwebsite=Finduslaw.com". Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  23. ^ Loevy, Robert. "A Brief History of the Civil Rights Act of 1964". Retrieved December 31, 2007.
  24. ^ "Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech". Nobelprize.org. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  25. ^ Branch, Taylor (2006). At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68. Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, pp. 75-77.
  26. ^ https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/reeb-james
  27. ^ a b Gavin, Philip. "The History Place, Great Speeches Collection, Lyndon B. Johnson, "We Shall Overcome"". Historyplace.com. Retrieved December 31, 2007.
  28. ^ "James L. Bevel The Strategist of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement" by Randall Kryn, published in David Garrow's 1989 book We Shall Overcome, Volume II, Carlson Publishing Company
  29. ^ "Randy Kryn: Movement Revision Research Summary Regarding James Bevel - Chicago Freedom Movement". Cfm40.middlebury.edu. Retrieved October 27, 2017.
  30. ^ James R. Ralph, Jr. Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement (1993) Harvard University Press ISBN 0-674-62687-7
  31. ^ Patrick D. Jones (2009). The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee. Harvard University Press. pp. 1–6, 169ff. ISBN 978-0-674-03135-7.

Further reading[edit]

  • Richardson, Christopher M.; Luker, Ralph E., eds. (2014). Historical Dictionary of the Civil Rights Movement (2nd ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780810880375.
  • Finkelman, Paul. ed. Encyclopedia of African American History, 1896 to the Present (5 vol. 2009).
  • Hornsby, Jr., Alton, ed. Chronology of African American History (2nd Ed. 1997) 720pp.
  • Hornsby, Jr., Alton, ed. Black America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia (2 vol 2011) excerpt
  • Lowery, Charles D. and John F. Marszalek Encyclopedia of African-American civil rights: from emancipation to the present (Greenwood, 1992).

External links[edit]