THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT: CHRONOLOGY
OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT, 1954 - 1968
May 17 In Oliver Brown et al. v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that
segregated schools are unconstitutional.
July 11 First White Citizens Council is formed in Indianola, Mississippi.
August 28 Emmett Till, a Chicago youth visiting relatives in the South, is lynched in Money, Mississippi, after
he flirts with a white shopkeeper.
September 21-23 Till's uncle, Moses Wright, is the first black to testify against a white in a Mississippi murder
trial. The murderers are acquitted.
December 1 Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for violating segregation laws on a city bus.
December 5 A black boycott of Montgomery buses begins. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is elected to lead the
Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA).
February-March Autherine Lucy is the first black student to attend the University of Alabama. After white
students riot, she is expelled.
March 12 The Southern Manifesto condemning the Brown v. Board decision is signed by 102 southern
members of the U.S. Congress.
June 11 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is banned in Alabama. In
Birmingham the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) is founded, with Rev. Fred
Shuttlesworth as president.
November 13 The Supreme Court rules that Montgomery buses must be integrated.
December 21 Montgomery buses are integrated; the boycott ends.
January 10-11 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) emerges from an Atlanta meeting of
southern civil rights leaders, mostly ministers. King becomes its president.
August 29 The Civil Rights Act of 1957 is passed. It sets up a civil rights commission and strengthens the U.S.
Justice Department's authority in voting rights violations.
September The Little Rock Nine seek to enter Little Rock Central High School but are kept out by rioting
whites. President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends in the National Guard to enforce the school's integration.
February 1 Four black college students ask for service at a whites-only F. W. Woolworth's lunch counter in
Greensboro, North Carolina, sparking the sit-in movement, which rapidly spreads to all the southern states.
February-May Nashville students stage the biggest, best-organized sit-in demonstrations and eventually win
legal integration of lunch counters throughout the city.
April 15-17 The Temporary Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (later SNCC) is established at an
SCLC meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina.
October 19-27 Jailed for an Atlanta sit-in, King is aided by presidential candidate John F. Kennedy; King's
support for Kennedy is a factor in his election.
May 4 The first "Freedom Riders" leave Washington, D.C., aboard two buses in an attempt to desegregate
southern bus terminals.
May 14 Freedom Riders are beaten by mobs outside Anniston, Alabama, and at the Anniston and Birmingham
May 20 Freedom Riders are beaten by a mob at a Montgomery bus terminal. Federal marshals are sent in.
May 24-26 Freedom Riders travel from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi, escorted by National Guardsmen.
In Jackson they are arrested and sent to jail.
July In McComb, Mississippi, near the Louisiana border, Robert Moses establishes the first SNCC voter-
registration outpost, a model for future efforts.
August Albany, Georgia, is chosen by a SNCC national conference to be the site of an intensive
antidiscrimination and voting rights drive.
November The first demonstrations are held in Albany, Georgia. A coalition of black organizations, the Albany
Movement, is formed.
September When James Meredith attempts to become the first black to study at the University of Mississippi,
rioting ensues, eventually quashed by federal troops. Meredith attends his first class on October 1.
April 3 Project C is launched in Birmingham. A comprehensive attack on the city's discriminatory practices, it is
meant to have national repercussions.
April 12 King is arrested in Birmingham for violating an injunction against demonstrations.
May 2-7 Phase III of Project C puts thousands of trained protesters on Birmingham's streets. The Commissioner
of Public Safety, Bull Connor, stages brutal attacks with police dogs and water cannons, which become an
May 10 After King and Shuttlesworth announce an accord with white city leaders in Birmingham, King's motel
room is bombed; black rioting ensues.
June 11 Governor George Wallace stages his "stand in the schoolhouse door," an unsuccessful gesture to block
integration of the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. President Kennedy makes an impassioned televised civil
June 12 Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers is murdered outside his Jackson home by Byron de la
Beckwith, who is not convicted until his third trial, in 1994.
August 28 The March on Washington brings 200,000- 500,000 demonstrators together for the biggest protest
assembly in the United States to date.
September 15 Four black schoolgirls are murdered in the dynamiting of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in
June The Mississippi Freedom Summer Project brings hundreds of volunteers into the state to aid voter-
registration campaigns and set up "freedom schools."
June 21 Three Freedom Summer workers are murdered in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Attorney General
Robert Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson order an intensive search for their bodies and their assailants.
July 2 The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed, outlaw- ing discrimination in voting, public accommodations,
August 4 The bodies of the three murdered civil rights workers are found. Twenty men, some of them police,
are eventually charged with conspiracy to murder James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner;
seven are convicted.
August 22-26 The Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City is attended by delegates of the Mississippi
Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), who attempt to replace the all-white regular delegation. After Fannie Lou
Hamer's televised speech, President Johnson proposes a compromise seating, which is rejected by the MFDP.
December 10 King is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
January-February A full-scale voter-registration drive begins in Selma, Alabama. Hundreds of demonstrators
are arrested by Sheriff Jim Clark.
February 18 In Marion, near Selma, protester Jimmie Lee Jackson is shot dead by a state trooper.
February 21 Malcolm X is assassinated by Black Muslim hitmen at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem.
March 7 On "Bloody Sunday" the first Selma march is beaten back at Edmund Pettus Bridge by state troopers
and Sheriff Clark's deputies. The nation is outraged by photographs and film of the attack. Washington responds
by expediting voting rights legislation. King calls for clergymen from across the nation to join a second march.
March 9 On "Turnaround Tuesday," King leads the second Selma march over the Pettus Bridge and then right
back to Selma. That evening Rev. James Reeb is clubbed to death.
March 21-25 Under the protection of a federalized National Guard, the Selma to Montgomery march proceeds
to the state capitol, where a rally of 50,000 people is held.
August 6 The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed into law. It bans voter examinations and provides for federal
registrars to be sent to recalcitrant counties. It prompts a huge rise in black registration.
August 11-16 Rioting breaks out in the Los Angeles ghetto of Watts, the most devastating racial uprising in the
United States to date.
January The SCLC joins a campaign for better housing and schooling in Chicago.
June 6-26 James Meredith is wounded by a sniper on the second day of his solo March Against Fear. Leaders of
SNCC, CORE, and the SCLC continue the 220-mile march from Memphis to Jackson. The notion of "Black
Power" comes to prominence.
July 10 King leads a large march to Chicago's city hall.
July 12-15 As rioting breaks out in Chicago, King negotiates with Mayor Richard Daley.
August Marchers in outlying Chicago neighborhoods are attacked by "White Power" mobs. A compromise
Accord is signed by black leaders and white politicians.
October The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense is founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland,
April 4 King condemns the U.S. war in Vietnam in a speech at New York's Riverside Church.
July Large-scale rioting in Newark, Detroit, and other cities. The worst outbreak of urban rebellions in U.S.
history leaves scores dead, hundreds wounded, thousands arrested, and millions of dollars' worth of property
August 25 FBI director J. Edgar Hoover officially targets civil rights groups for his Counterintelligence
Program (COINTELPRO) of surveillance and neutralization.
December 4 King announces his plan to bring thousands of poor people of all races to Washington, D.C., to
press for jobs and income.
March 28 King leads a march in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis. After youths at the rear of
the march turn violent, King vows to return for another, more peaceful march.
April 4 King is assassinated by a white sniper on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Black rioting
erupts in more than one hundred cities.
April-June Led by the new head of the SCLC, Ralph Abernathy, the Poor People's Campaign erects
Resurrection City near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. About twenty-five hundred protesters, mostly
African American, Hispanic, and Native American, take up residence in tents and shacks. They demonstrate to
little effect; the last of the demonstrators are evicted by the police and the National Guard on June 24.