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The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, overturned the 1896 ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson, which had held that segregation was okay in public facilities and institutions so long as everything was "separate but equal." In 1954, the Court decided (9-0) that was clearly against the Fourteenth Amendment.
Emmett Till was a fourteen-year-old black boy from Chicago who was visiting relatives in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman, and was subsequently abducted and murdered by the woman's husband and an accomplice. After being acquitted by an all-white jury, they publicly bragged about doing it. Needless to say, this event galvanized support for the Civil Rights Movement.
The arrest of Rosa Parks (that notorious insurrectionist sitter) started the boycott, which aimed to force the bus companies to integrate by not giving them anymore money. It worked.
Dr. King was arrested, officially for going 30 in a 25 MPH zone, but in reality for carpooling to support the bus boycott. Makes you feel a little bad about using the carpool lane when you're by yourself, huh?
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference was created to coordinate Southern black churches and social organizations in the wake of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Dr. King was elected the president, because duh.
Black students sat down at a Woolworth's lunch counter. It doesn't sound like much, but this form of protest spread from Greensboro, North Carolina to cities all across the South. There had been several sit-ins before, but this one got enough attention to elevate the tactic to national use. Who knew grilled cheese could be such a powerful political tool?
John F. Kennedy narrowly defeated Richard Nixon, a victory largely attributed to their performances in the first ever televised presidential debates. JFK appeared cool and collected, while Nixon looked a bit sweaty.
The Freedom Riders were activists who rode interstate buses into the South to challenge the segregation laws. They were often met with vicious brutality from the KKK and their accommodating police friends.
An economic boycott of segregated businesses had already been going on for a while, but in April the SCLC got directly involved, leading sit-ins and marches. The idea was to overfill the city's jails and to draw national media attention.
BFFs go to jail protesting injustice together, after all. This is when Dr. King wrote "Letter from Birmingham Jail."
How do you arrest hundreds of children at once? The Birmingham Police had to figure that one out. After the second day's blasting of students with water cannons, it was pretty clear the police had lost.
Because of the developments in Birmingham, President Kennedy decided the time had come for Civil Rights legislation.
Medgar Evers was a prominent Civil Rights activist assassinated by a White Citizens' Councilman. Bob Dylan wrote a song about it.
This was undoubtedly the public apotheosis (extra credit, look it up) of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, with hundreds of thousands of people walking to the Lincoln Memorial to hear over a dozen speakers.
Four girls were killed by a bomb planted by the KKK in a Birmingham church. Twenty-two other people were injured. The murders shocked the nation, but no charges were filed until 1977 even though everyone knew who was behind it.
While riding in an open car through Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas, President Kennedy was shot and killed. Vice President Lyndon Johnson became President.
Because of the success of the Birmingham Campaign and the March on Washington, Dr. King had become a household name and the face of the Civil Rights Movement. The editors of Time Magazine thought he was a big deal and put his face on their cover as Man of the Year.
Lyndon Johnson signed the bill into law, making discrimination based on a person's race, color, sex, religion, or nationality illegal. Finally.
With this award, the Civil Rights Movement in America officially received international recognition. Dr. King's non-violent civil disobedience was an inspiration to the Nobel Committee, and he got to tell them a bit about it in his Nobel Lecture.
Because of violent opposition from the KKK and associates, federal protection had to be ordered for the marchers to safely make their way to Montgomery, Alabama, to support a campaign for voting rights.
This Act made racial discrimination in voting illegal. States needed federal approval for any changes in their voting laws. Parts of the Act are currently in the process of being gutted because the Supreme Court ruled that African Americans no longer face the barriers to voting that made the Act necessary.
Almost a week of riots, looting, vandalism, and arson in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles were seemingly sparked by the arrest of an African American man for driving while intoxicated. Really, though, it was the eruption of a long bubbling toxic brew of police racism, widespread unemployment, and housing discrimination.
Dr. King hadn't said much publicly about the war in Vietnam, but as a deeply religious pacifist, he decided to finally speak his mind on the subject.
Dr. King's last speech was in support of the Memphis Sanitation Strike. At the end, he seemed to predict his own death, as he said he might not live to get to the mountaintop with the people hearing the speech.
Dr. King was in Memphis, Tennessee to support the striking Black Sanitary Workers' Union, and was hit with a sniper's bullet while standing on the second floor balcony of his motel. Race riots erupted across the country, although in Indianapolis, Robert Kennedy gave an inspired impromptu speech that is widely credited with keeping that city peaceful in the aftermath of King's murder. James Earl Ray confessed to the murder but later recanted. King's family ended up believing Ray was innocent. We'll never know—he died in 1998 and no trial was ever held.