Study Guide

I Have a Dream Timeline

By Martin Luther King, Jr.

Timeline

May 1954

Brown v. Board of Education

This landmark Supreme Court case ruled that segregation in public schools was illegal. It reversed the precedent of "separate but equal," and declared that segregated schools are inherently unequal, and thus discriminatory. (Oh, you think?)

The ruling made the modern Civil Rights Movement blast off. School boards can be some of the most contentious political spheres in America, since it's the kids we're talking about.

December 1955

Rosa Parks Bus Protest

An African American woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the front of a bus to a white woman. This moment proved that the Civil Rights movement was not just for protesters and activist organizers; anybody could participate, anytime.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

In Alabama, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a boycott of the bus system, protesting white demands that blacks move to the back…so they wouldn't obstruct the view of traffic? Sometimes segregation was played out in the pettiest of ways.

June 20, 1963

Kennedy Meets With Civil Rights Leaders

Fearing a violent backlash to the March on Washington, the president sought to call off the whole thing. No dice, Jack.

Eventually, Kennedy's fears were calmed when the march's organizers convinced him that it would be non-violent.

August 28, 1963

"I Have a Dream" Delivered

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew a huge crowd, and MLK gave his "I Have a Dream" speech to around 200,000 people. The New York Times reported no violence, an orderly protest, and enthusiastic participants. The freaked-out politicians were oh-so wrong.

April 16, 1963

Letter From Birmingham Jail

Arrested for protesting, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote an open letter defending civil disobedience. It's awesome and well worth checking out.

The only downside? Now people write open letters seemingly every day, on every conceivable topic (an open letter to George Lucas, anyone?).

November 22, 1963

Kennedy Assassination

In Dallas, Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy during a motorcade event. Vice Prez Lyndon Johnson succeeded JFK as president. The '60s, folks: they were turbulent times.

July 2, 1964

Civil Rights Act

Johnson signed the civil rights legislation that Kennedy had advocated before his death. The sweeping new bill outlawed segregation and discriminatory hiring.

Now, being racist was pretty much a crime. (We'll let Grumpy Cat summarize our feeling on that.)

August 6, 1965

Voting Rights

President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, which curtailed discriminatory policies preventing African Americans from voting in elections. Before this, polls operators would come up with any lame excuse to stop African Americans from voting. For example, pollsters would make voters take literacy tests and claim that they failed.

No; we're not making this up. Yes; humanity can be awful.

April 4, 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated

A racist gunman murdered the civil rights leader, then only thirty-nine years old. Protests and riots erupt across the country in response. The same year, presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Sadly, this was the era of assassinations.

April 11, 1968

Johnson Signs Civil Rights Bill

President Lyndon Johnson signed "The Civil Rights Act of 1968," which makes discrimination illegal in housing. Well done, LBJ.

Another of the major gains of the Civil Rights Movement, the 1968 law capped off the work of MLK's short life. During his speech on the act, Johnson spoke out against the assassination.

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