Civil Rights Movement Timeline
Long before Martin Luther King Jr. walked onto the civil rights stage, many important events took place in the civil rights movement for equality and peace. Many civil rights leaders went before Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech and many came after. Here are some of the important dates and events that took place over the past few hundred years that made America the country it is today.
- Vermont is the first American state to abolish slavery.
March 3rd, 1820
- The Missouri Compromise is enacted; slavery is banned everywhere north of Missouri, but is still legal in the southern United States.
September 17th, 1849
- Harriet Tubman escapes slavery in Maryland and spends the next several years helping more than 300 people escape to free territory by way of the Underground Railroad.
April 12th, 1861
- The Civil War begins.
July 17th, 1862
- Congress gives President Abraham Lincoln the green light to allow black people to join the military.
January 31st, 1865
- The Thirteenth Amendment is passed and slavery is officially abolished from the United States.
April 15th, 1865
- President Abraham Lincoln, the president who abolished slavery, is assassinated.
June 13th, 1868
- Ex-slave Oscar Dunn becomes Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana.
July 28th, 1868
- The Fourteenth Amendment is passed giving black citizens in America full citizenship.
March 30th, 1870
- The right to vote is granted to all American males (other than Native Americans), regardless of race, color or previous condition of servitude (so even men who had previously been slaves could now vote).
March 1st, 1875
- Civil Rights Act is passed giving all black citizens the right to equal treatment in public and on any public transportation.
November 26th, 1883
- US Supreme Court declares the Civil Rights Act to be unconstitutional because laws covered by the Civil Rights Act should be left up to individual states, not the federal government. Individual states now again allowed to discriminate in any way they want against black citizens.
- In the same year that the United States enters World War I, anti-black riots are held in St. Louis, Illinois and more than 100 black citizens are either killed or injured. More than 10,000 black New Yorkers hold the Silent Parade to protest the violence.
December 8th, 1936
- The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) sues the government to make them pay black and white teachers equal salaries.
June 3rd, 1946
- US Supreme Court bans segregation of black and white people on public transit.
Civil Rights - December 1st, 1955
- Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, AL. Martin Luther King Jr. leads a boycott of Montgomery buses that lasts over a year.
September 24th, 1957
- Nine black students integrate with white students at Central High School in Little Rock, AR. President Dwight Eisenhower sends the paratroopers in to ward off any violence.
August 28th, 1963
- More than 250,000 civil rights demonstrators march on Washington, DC, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have A Dream" speech.
April 4th, 1968
- Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, TN, where had gone to give a speech to striking garbage workers.
- Unita Blackwell, founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, becomes the first black woman mayor in the history of Mississippi in the city of Mayersville. She had once been denied the right to vote there.
- Vanessa Williams is crowned the first African American Miss America.
January 15th, 1986
- Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time.
- NAACP launches a campaign against TV networks to increase number of minorities in shows.
- Colin Powell becomes the first black US Secretary of State.
March 24th, 2002
- Halle Berry becomes first African American woman to win an Oscar for best actress.
January 20th, 2009
- Barack Obama becomes first African American president of the United States.
Have Your Say
Have you studied the Civil Rights Movement in school? What was the most interesting thing you learned? Let us know in the comments section below!
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