Study Guide

Civil Rights Movement: "Black Power" Era Timeline

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Aug 28, 1963

March on Washington

More than 250,000 demonstrators, Black and white, gather at the nation's capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Sep 15, 1963

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.

Oct 7, 1963

Freedom Day in Selma

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.

Nov 22, 1963

Kennedy Assassination

While riding in a motorcade through Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy is shot and killed. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumes the presidency.

Nov 27, 1963

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."

Oct 1, 1963

Freedom Vote Election

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.

Jan 1, 1963

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.

Jan 8, 1964

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."

Jan 23, 1964

24th Amendment Ratified

The 24th Amendment is passed, eliminating polling taxes on voters in federal elections.

Mar 11, 1964

Malcolm X Leaves Nation of Islam

Malcolm X leaves the Nation of Islam due to conflict with the group's leader, Elijah Muhammad.

Apr 26, 1964

Mississippi Freedom Democrats Founded

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party is founded.

Jun 20, 1964

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.

Jun 21, 1964

Freedom Summer Volunteers Disappear

Three "Freedom Summer" volunteers—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—disappear while working in Mississippi.

Jul 18, 1964

Harlem Riot

The fatal shooting of a 15-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.

Jul 24, 1964 - Jul 26, 1964

Rochester Riot

Police arrest a 19-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.

Jul 2, 1964

Civil Rights Act Signed

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.

Aug 7, 1964

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution Passed

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.

Aug 4, 1964

Mississippi Murders

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 21st, 2005, 41 years after the murders.

Aug 6, 1964

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.

Aug 22, 1964

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...?" (Source)

The testimony appears on a national television broadcast.

Aug 28, 1964 - Aug 30, 1964

Philadelphia Riots

Allegations of police brutality spark race riots in Philadelphia in a predominantly Black neighborhood. More than 340 people are injured and 774 are arrested.

Aug 1, 1964

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.

Oct 14, 1964

MLK, Jr. Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nov 3, 1964

Johnson Elected President by a Landslide

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.

Nov 3, 1964

California Proposition 14

Two-thirds of California voters approve Proposition 14, which overrides the Rumford Fair Housing Act of 1963.

Jan 1, 1965

Voting Rights Campaign 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.

Feb 9, 1965

Johnson Meets King

President Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. and vows to pass voting rights legislation as soon as possible.

Feb 13, 1965

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.

Feb 21, 1965

Malcolm X Assassinated

At a protest rally in Harlem, New York, members of the Nation of Islam assassinate Malcolm X.

Mar 7, 1965

Bloody Sunday

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.

Mar 9, 1965

Selma March

Martin Luther King leads a march from Selma back to the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Mar 13, 1965

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.

Mar 15, 1965

“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.

Mar 21, 1965

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.

Mar 25, 1965

Voting Rights March in Montgomery

25,000 voting rights marchers reach Montgomery, Alabama.

Mar 25, 1965

Klan Murders Viola Liuzzo

Viola Liuzzo, a white homemaker from Detroit, is murdered by four Klansmen while driving marchers from Montgomery to Selma, Alabama.

Mar 26, 1965

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."

Jun 29, 1965

Norman Rockwell paints Murder in Mississippi

Norman Rockwell paints Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi) for a feature in Look magazine detailing the murders of three civil rights workers in July 1964.

Jun 1, 1965

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.

Aug 6, 1965

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.

Aug 11, 1965 - Aug 16, 1965

Watts Riot

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.

Aug 20, 1965

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."

Aug 1, 1965

MLK, Jr. Suggests 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.

Sep 24, 1965

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.

Jan 1, 1966

King Moves to Chicago

Martin Luther King moves his family to Chicago.

May 1, 1966

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.

Jun 6, 1966

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.

Jun 16, 1966

Stokely Carmichael Gives "Black Power" Speech

In conjunction with a march for James Meredith, Stokely Carmichael gives his first "Black Power" speech in Greenwood, Mississippi.

Jul 9, 1966

NAACP Rejects Black Power

The NAACP officially rejects the doctrine of "Black Power" advocated by other organizations, including SNCC.

Jul 30, 1966

Chicago Marches

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!"

Oct 15, 1966

Black Panthers Founded

In Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton, Bobby Seale, and David Hilliard found the Black Panther Party for Self Defense.

Oct 29, 1966

National Organization for Women Founded

Betty Friedan founds the National Organization for Women, modeling it after Black civil rights groups.

Nov 8, 1966

Edward Brooke Elected Senator

Edward Brooke, a Republican from Massachusetts and a moderate on civil rights, becomes the first Black U.S. senator elected since Radical Reconstruction.

Dec 31, 1966

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.

Dec 19, 1967

Aretha Franklin Records "Respect"

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.

Apr 15, 1967

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.

May 2, 1967

Armed Demonstration at California State Assembly

Huey Newton leads members of the Black Panther Party in an armed demonstration before the California State Assembly.

May 12, 1967

Brown Replaces Carmichael As SNCC Chairman

H. Rap Brown replaces Stokely Carmichael as chairman of SNCC and announces that the organization will continue its commitment to Black Power.

May 29, 1967

Reitman v. Mulkey

In Reitman v. Mulkey, the U.S. Supreme Court rules California's Proposition 14 violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution.

Jun 12, 1967

Loving v. Virginia

In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that state laws prohibiting interracial marriage are unconstitutional. The ruling affects 16 states that ban the practice.

Jun 13, 1967

Thurgood Marshall Appointed to Supreme Court

Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American appointed to the United States Supreme Court, the highest court in America.

Jul 12, 1967 - Jul 17, 1967

Newark Riots

Riots rage in Newark, New Jersey; 23 people are killed and over 1,100 are wounded.

Jul 23, 1967 - Jul 27, 1967

Detroit Riots

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.

Jul 27, 1967

Kerner Commission Appointed

President Johnson appoints the Kerner Commission to study the causes of urban rioting.

Nov 7, 1967

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.

Dec 4, 1967

MLK, Jr. Against Poverty

At Ebenezer Baptist Church, Martin Luther King announces plans for a mass campaign against poverty in Washington, D.C.

Jan 31, 1968

Tet Offensive

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.

Mar 28, 1968

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.

Mar 31, 1968

Johnson Will Not Seek Reelection

President Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection in 1968.

Mar 1, 1968

The Kerner Commission's Report on Segregation and Poverty Released

The Kerner Commission releases a report that blames rioting on "segregation and poverty" and "white racism," but offers no clear solution to these problems.

Apr 3, 1968

“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."

Apr 4, 1968

Martin Luther King, Jr. Assassinated

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.

Apr 5, 1968 - Apr 9, 1968

King Riots

Following the murder of Martin Luther King, rioting breaks out in several cities including Washington, D.C., Chicago, Baltimore, and Kansas City. 46 deaths are reported.

Apr 6, 1968

Bobby Hutton Killed

In a shootout between Oakland police and members of the Black Panther Party, 17-year-old Bobby Hutton, the first Panther recruit, is killed.

Apr 11, 1968

Housing Discrimination Prohibited

President Johnson signs a civil rights bill prohibiting racial discrimination in the sale, rental, or financing of housing.

May 12, 1968

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.

Jun 5, 1968

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.

Jun 24, 1968

Resurrection City Dismantled

In Washington, D.C., police dismantle "Resurrection City."

Nov 5, 1968

Nixon Elected President of the United States

Republican Richard Nixon is elected President of the United States.

Nov 5, 1968

First African-American Congresswoman

Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Apr 1, 1969

Vietnam Deaths Exceed Korea

American combat deaths in Vietnam exceed 33,629, the number lost in the Korean War.

Aug 8, 1969

Equal Employment Opportunity

President Nixon issues Executive Order 11478, which requires all federal agencies to adopt "affirmative programs for equal employment opportunity."

Oct 29, 1969

Immediate Integration

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.

Dec 19, 1971

Shaft Released

African-American filmmaker Gordon Parks releases Shaft.

Apr 20, 1971

Integration of School Busing

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.

Mar 10, 1972 - Mar 12, 1972

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.

Mar 24, 1972

Hiring Discrimination Prohibited

The Equal Employment Opportunity Act is passed, prohibiting discrimination in hiring.

Nov 7, 1972

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.

Nov 1, 1972

Tuskegee Experiments Discoverred

The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the N**** 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.

Jan 27, 1973

Vietnam Ceasefire

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.

May 29, 1973

First Black Mayor in Los Angeles

Tom Bradley becomes the first Black mayor elected in the city of Los Angeles.

Oct 16, 1973

First Southern Black Mayor

Maynard Jackson becomes the first Black mayor of Atlanta, and the first African-American mayor of a major southern city.

Jun 28, 1978

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.

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