Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era Timeline
How It All Went Down
More than 250,000 demonstrators, black and white, gather at the nation's capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Klan Bombs Birmingham Church
In Birmingham, Alabama, the Ku Klux Klan bombs the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four young girls attending Sunday school. Only one suspect is tried: Klansman Thomas Blanton Jr. is convicted for the crime in 2001, 38 years after the murder.
Freedom Day in Selma
"Freedom Day": In Selma, Alabama, SNCC workers accompany black would-be voters to the courthouse to help them register. Selma sheriff Jim Clark and his deputies use force to prevent them from entering.
While riding in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy is shot and killed. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumes the presidency.
Johnson Pushes Civil Rights
In his first address before Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson calls for the immediate passage of civil rights legislation. "No memorial or eulogy," he says, "could more eloquently honor President Kennedy's memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill for which he fought."
In Mississippi, several civil rights organizations, under the collective title Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), launch the "Freedom Vote" mock election to give black citizens, many who had never voted, practice in casting a ballot.
Rumford Fair Housing Act
In California, the Rumford Fair Housing Act is signed into law, forbidding landlords and property owners from discriminating against potential homeowners or renters based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, marital status, or physical handicap.
War on Poverty
President Johnson delivers his first State of the Union Address and calls for a war on poverty. "Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope—some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both," he says. "Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity."
Twenty-Fourth Amendment Ratified
The Twenty-Fourth Amendment is passed, eliminating polling taxes on voters in federal elections.
Malcolm X Leaves Nation of Islam
Malcolm X leaves the Nation of Islam due to conflict with the group's leader, Elijah Muhammad.
Mississippi Freedom Democrats Founded
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party is founded.
Freedom Summer Begins
In Ohio, the first wave of "Freedom Summer" recruits—primarily black activists, but also many white volunteers—board buses headed for Mississippi.
Freedom Summer Volunteers Disappear
Three "Freedom Summer" volunteers—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—disappear while working in Mississippi.
The fatal shooting of a fifteen-year-old African-American boy by a white police officer sparks a riot in Harlem, New York. One person is killed, 100 injured, and several hundred are arrested.
Police arrest a nineteen-year-old black man for public drunkenness at a block party in Rochester, New York. Rumors of a more vicious police attack spark a violent riot involving several thousand people. Of the nearly 1,000 people arrested, most are black, between the ages of 20 and 40 years old, employed, and with no prior police record.
Civil Rights Act
President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, which outlaws segregation in all public places, requires employers to provide equal opportunity for those of all races, and threatens to pull federal funding from any projects that discriminate based on color, race, ethnicity, or gender.
Gulf of Tonkin
The U.S. Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gives President Lyndon Johnson the power to take whatever actions he sees necessary to defend South Vietnam against Vietcong forces.
The bodies of James Chaney, 21, Andrew Goodman, 21, and Michael Schwerner, 24, are found in an earthen dam on a farm near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Of those suspected of the crimes, only the ringleader is tried; Edgar Ray "Preacher" Killen is convicted on June 21, 2005, 41 years after the murders.
Mississippi Freedom Party Chooses Delegates
In Jackson, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party holds its state convention and selects Aaron Henry, Fannie Lou Hamer, Victoria Gray, Ed King, and Annie Devine as delegates to represent the Party at the Democratic National Convention.
Fannie Lou Hamer Testifies
The Democratic National Convention begins in Atlantic City. As a delegate for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Fannie Lou Hamer testifies before the Democratic Party's Credentials Committee. "If the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now," Hamer states, "I question America...Is this America? The land of the free and the home of the brave?" The testimony appears on a national television broadcast.
Allegations of police brutality spark race riots in Philadelphia in a predominantly black neighborhood. More than 340 people are injured, 774 are arrested.
Democrats Refuse Mississippi Delegation
In Atlantic City, the Democratic National Convention refuses to allow the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to be seated in place of the all-white state delegation.
MLK Wins Nobel
Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Lyndon B. Johnson wins the presidential election in a tremendous landslide. His opponent, Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, wins only 6 states: Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.
California Proposition 14
Two-thirds of California voters approve Proposition 14, which overrides the Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963.
Voting Rights in Selma
Martin Luther King, Jr., launches a voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama, a city where only 355 of 15,000 black residents have managed to register to vote.
Johnson Meets King
President Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. and vows to pass voting rights legislation as soon as possible.
Operation Rolling Thunder
President Lyndon Johnson authorizes a military offensive called Operation Rolling Thunder in order to force North Vietnam to cease supporting the Vietcong forces in South Vietnam.
Malcolm X Assassinated
At a protest rally in Harlem, New York, members of the Nation of Islam assassinate Malcolm X.
On "Bloody Sunday" over 600 people leave Selma, Alabama for Montgomery in a march for voting rights. The participants reach Edmund Pettus Bridge where state and local troopers use nightsticks and tear gas to drive them back to Selma.
Martin Luther King leads a march from Selma back to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Johnson Calls National Guard
Under pressure from civil rights leaders, President Johnson commands the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace, to mobilize the state's National Guard units to protect Selma marchers. Wallace refuses, claiming the state is "financially unable" to do so.
“We Shall Overcome”
In a speech before a joint session of Congress, President Johnson calls for the immediate passage of a voting rights bill. His use of the phrase "we shall overcome" is a direct reference to the Civil Rights Movement.
Alabama Voting Rights
Martin Luther King leads 3,200 voting rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama. As they move from town to town, their numbers swell.
Voting Rights March in Montgomery
25,000 voting rights marchers reach Montgomery, Alabama.
Klan Murders Viola Liuzzo
Viola Liuzzo, a white homemaker from Detroit, is murdered by four Klansmen while driving marchers from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama.
Johnson Investigates KKK
Johnson calls for a full investigation of the Ku Klux Klan after the murder of Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights worker. In a nationally televised speech he refers to the KKK as "a hooded society of bigots."
Norman Rockwell paints Murder in Mississippi
Norman Rockwell paints Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi) for a feature in Look magazine detailing the murders of 3 civil rights workers in July 1964.
Moynihan Reports on Black Society
Secretary of Labor Daniel Patrick Moynihan releases a controversial report on the "total breakdown" of black society. He finds that the roots of the problems faced by black families lay in the legacy of slavery, growing urbanization, racial discrimination in employment and education, and a tradition of matriarchy.
Voting Rights Act
President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits the use of literacy tests, gives the federal government the power to register voters, and forbids changes to voting procedures without federal approval.
In the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, a traffic stop and three arrests trigger a six-day riot. 34 are reported dead, 1,100 injured, and over 4,000 are arrested.
Johnson Condemns Watts Riot
President Johnson finds no justification for the Watts Riots, saying, "Neither old wrongs nor new fears can ever justify arson or murder."
King Suggest Watts Reform
In Los Angeles, Martin Luther King suggests reforms to address the problems that led to the Watts Riots. Los Angeles authorities ignore his efforts and the city's black community believes the civil rights leader to be out of touch with their plight.
Affirmative Action Hiring
President Johnson issues Executive Order 11246, which requires all federal employers to take "affirmative action" to hire and promote people without regard to race.
King Moves to Chicago
Martin Luther King moves his family to Chicago.
Stokely Carmichael Chairs SNCC
Stokely Carmichael is elected national chairman of SNCC. He announces that SNCC will no longer send white organizers into black communities, and will move away from nonviolent strategies.
James Meredith Shot
Civil Rights activist James Meredith is shot several times in an ambush during his one-man "walk against fear" through Mississippi. He survives the shootings.
Stokely Carmichael Black Power
In conjunction with a march for James Meredith, Stokely Carmichael gives his first "Black Power" speech in Greenwood, Mississippi.
NAACP Rejects Black Power
The NAACP officially rejects the doctrine of "Black Power" advocated by other organizations, including SNCC.
SCLC launches a series of marches in Chicago, Illinois, calling for fair housing. Martin Luther King leads demonstrators through white neighborhoods where residents throw bricks and shout, "White power!"
Black Panthers Founded
In Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and David Hilliard found the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.
National Organization for Women
Betty Friedan founds the National Organization for Women, modeling it after black civil rights groups.
Edward Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts and a moderate on civil rights, becomes the first black U.S. senator elected since Radical Reconstruction.
Americans in Vietnam in 1966
By the end of 1966, American forces stationed in and around Vietnam reach 445,000. More than 6,000 Americans have been killed and 30,000 wounded in 1966 alone.
Aretha Franklin records a cover of an Otis Redding song entitled "Respect." Her version will become an anthem for those frustrated with discrimination of all sorts.
King Assails Vietnam War
Martin Luther King leads thousands of demonstrators to the United Nations building in New York where he delivers a speech attacking U.S. foreign policy in Vietnam. Over 100,000 people attend the rally.
Armed Demonstration at California State Assembly
Huey Newton leads members of the Black Panther Party in an armed demonstration before the California State Assembly.
Brown Replaces Carmichael
H. Rap Brown replaces Stokely Carmichael as chairman of SNCC and announces that the organization will continue its commitment to black power.
Reitman v. Mulkey
In Reitman v. Mulkey, the U.S. Supreme Court rules California's Proposition 14 violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
Loving v. Virginia
In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that state laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional. The ruling affects sixteen states that ban the practice.
Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American appointed to the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in America.
Riots rage in Newark, New Jersey; 23 people are killed and over 1,100 are wounded.
A police raid on an illegal drinking establishment sparks riots in Detroit, Michigan; 43 people are killed,1,189 are injured, and more than 7,000 people are arrested.
President Johnson appoints the Kerner Commission to study the causes of urban rioting.
First Metropolitan Mayors
Carl Stokes, in Cleveland, Ohio, and Richard Hatcher, in Gary, Indiana, become the first black mayors elected in major U.S. cities.
MLK Against Poverty
At Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King announces plans for a mass campaign against poverty in Washington, DC.
On the Vietnamese Tet holiday, Vietcong forces shock U.S. troops with a wave of attacks supported by North Vietnamese troops. Tet is a catastrophe for the Vietcong, which loses 37,000 fighters, but for the United States, which loses 2,500 men, it is also a serious blow. Public support for the war in the U.S. plummets.
King Strikes in Memphis
Martin Luther King, Jr., joins the sanitation workers' strike in Memphis, Tennessee. He is rushed from the event when violence and looting break out.
Johnson Will Not Seek Reelection
President Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection in 1968.
Segregation and Poverty
The Kerner Commission releases a report that blames rioting on "segregation and poverty" and "white racism," but offers no clear solution to these problems.
“I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”
Martin Luther King returns to Memphis determined to lead a peaceful strike. There he delivers what will become his final speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop."
Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. His assassin, James Earl Ray, pleads guilty and is sentenced to 99 years in prison.
Following the murder of Martin Luther King, rioting breaks out in several cities including Washington, DC, Chicago, Baltimore, and Kansas City. 46 deaths are reported.
Bobby Hutton Killed
In a shoot-out between Oakland police and members of the Black Panther Party, seventeen-year-old Bobby Hutton, the first Panther recruit, is killed.
Housing Discrimination Prohibited
President Johnson signs a civil rights bill prohibiting racial discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing.
Poor People’s March
Reverend Ralph Abernathy leads the Poor People's March on Washington, which Martin Luther King had planned before his death. Protesters build "Resurrection City," a plywood shantytown near the Washington Monument.
Robert Kennedy Assassination
Just minutes after claiming victory in the California Democratic primary election, Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.
In Washington, D.C., police dismantle "Resurrection City."
Republican Richard Nixon is elected president of the United States.
First African-American Congresswoman
Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Vietnam Deaths Exceed Korea
American combat deaths in Vietnam exceed 33,629, the number lost in the Korean War.
Equal Employment Opportunity
President Nixon issues Executive Order 11478, which requires all federal agencies to adopt "affirmative programs for equal employment opportunity."
In Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, the Supreme Court rules unanimously to order immediate desegregation of 33 Mississippi school districts. The Court's previous plan to administer these changes with "all deliberate speed," they agree, is no longer acceptable.
African-American filmmaker Gordon Parks releases Shaft.
In Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education the Supreme Court rules in favor of busing students as a way to achieve the integration of public schools.
National Black Political Convention
The first National Black Political Convention meets in Gary, Indiana, a city with a large black population and a black mayor. Participants, including Baptists, Muslims, elected officials, black nationalists, and integrationists, announce goals including community control of schools, national health insurance, and the elimination of the death penalty. Whites are excluded from the convention.
Hiring Discrimination Prohibited
The Equal Employment Opportunity Act is passed, prohibiting discrimination in hiring.
First African-American Southern Congresswoman
Barbara Jordan, a Democrat from Texas, becomes the first African-American woman from a Southern state to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Tuskegee Experiments Discoverred
The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, described by one reporter as an experiment that "used human beings as laboratory animals in a long and inefficient study of how long it takes syphilis to kill someone," ends after 40 years.
A ceasefire is declared by all warring parties in the Vietnam War.
Vietnam War Ends
The Vietnam War officially ends for the United States. The last U.S. combat soldier leaves Vietnam, but military advisors and some Marines remain. Over 3 million Americans have served in the war, nearly 60,000 are dead, some 150,000 are wounded, and at least 1,000 are missing in action.
First Black Mayor in Los Angeles
Tom Bradley becomes the first black mayor elected in the city of Los Angeles.
First Southern Black Mayor
Maynard Jackson becomes the first black mayor of Atlanta, and the first African-American mayor of a major southern city.
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the Supreme Court rules that quotas for minority students in college admissions are unconstitutional.