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Timeline for African American Civil Rights
1866
(01/09)  Fisk University opens in Nashville, Tenn. (Digital History ID 1817)
(04/09)  The first of two Civil Rights Acts passed during Reconstruction declares that all persons born in the United States, except untaxed Indians, are citizens and have equal legal and property rights. Adopted over President Andrew Johnson’s veto, the act sought to counteract the Black Codes adopted in former Confederate states. (Digital History ID 480)
(06/13)  Congress passes the 14th Amendment and sends it to the states for ratification. (Digital History ID 1687)
(06/25)  Connecticut becomes the first state to ratify the 14th Amendment. (Digital History ID 1672)
(07/16)  Congress authorizes the Freedmen's Bureau to establish schools. (Digital History ID 1649)
(07/30)  Race riots erupt in New Orleans over black suffrage. (Digital History ID 1634)
(10/11)  Elizabeth Cady Stanton proclaims: "free speech, free press, free men, and free trade." (Digital History ID 793)
1867
(01/08)  Overriding President Andrew Jackson's veto, Congress passes legislation giving African American men in the District of Columbia the right to vote. (Digital History ID 460)
(03/29)  Congress gives the Freedmen's Bureau the power to compensate black veterans. (Digital History ID 1789)
1868
(07/28)  The 14th Amendment, which extends citizenship to all persons born in the United States and guarantees due process and equal protection of the law, takes effect. (Digital History ID 923)
1869
(02/26)  Congress passes the 15th Amendment declaring that the right to vote shall not be restricted on the basis of race. (Digital History ID 1585)
(03/19)  Harriet Tubman marries ex-slave and Civil War veteran Nelson Davis. (Digital History ID 1778)
(10/08)  Virginia ratifies the 15th Amendment. (Digital History ID 797)
(12/01)  The first black labor union, the Colored National Labor Union, convenes in Washington, D.C. (Digital History ID 722)
1870
(03/30)  The 15th Amendment, declaring that the right to vote shall not be abridged on account of race, takes effect. (Digital History ID 839)
(03/30)  The 15th Amendment, enfranchising blacks, is ratified. (Digital History ID 1791)
(05/31)  Congress votes to enforce the 15th Amendment, protecting black suffrage. (Digital History ID 1701)
(12/12)  Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina becomes the first black member of Congress when he is sworn into the US House of Representatives. (Digital History ID 1173)
1873
(02/14)  Gerrit Smith speaks out against Cuban slavery at an anti-slavery meeting in New York. (Digital History ID 1827)
1875
(03/01)  Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which forbids racial discrimination in hotels, public transportation, and places of public amusement. It also provided that no one could be denied to the right to sit on a jury on account of race or previous condition of servitude. The Court struck down the statute in 1883, saying that the federal government could not prohibit discrimination by individuals or corporations. (Digital History ID 602)
1880
(03/01)  The Supreme Court overturns a West Virginia law excluding African Americans from jury duty. (Digital History ID 603)
1882
(08/04)  Anna Murray Douglass, Frederick Douglass's first wife, dies. (Digital History ID 1628)
1890
(12/27)  Oliver Johnson, abolitionist and journalists, is born. (Digital History ID 1800)
1894
(12/13)  Sarah Parker Remond, the black abolitionist, dies. (Digital History ID 1228)
1895
(02/20)  Frederick Douglass, the fugitive slave and abolitionist leader, dies. (Digital History ID 762)
1896
(05/18)  In its Plessy v. Ferguson decision the Supreme Court rules that segregated facilities for blacks and whites do not violate the 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection of the law.
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1903
  W.E.B. Du Bois publishes The Souls of Black Folks: Essays and Sketches. Setting out to show to the reader "the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century," Du Bois explains the meaning of emancipation, its effect, and his views on the role of the leaders of his race.
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1906
(08/13)  Racial violence in Brownsville, Texas, which resulted in the death of one white man, leads the army to dishonorably discharge 167 African American soldiers without a trial. In 1972, the Army reversed the dishonorable discharges. (Digital History ID 1421)
1921
(06/01)  White rioters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, rampage through the city’s black community, destroying what had been called the “Black Wall Street.” (Digital History ID 1513)
1929
(01/15)  Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., is born in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the middle child of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. (Digital History ID 1234)
1931
(04/06)  The Scottsboro Boys, nine African American youths, are put on trial in Alabama for allegedly raping two white women. One of the two supposed victims later retracted her testimony and the Supreme Court overturned two convictions because blacks were not allowed to serve on juries in Alabama. (Digital History ID 472)
1937
(07/24)  The state of Alabama dropped charges against five black men accused of raping two white women in the "Scottsboro Case." (Digital History ID 916)
1939
(04/09)  After she was denied use of Washington’s Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution, singer Marian Anderson performed a concert at the Lincoln Memorial. (Digital History ID 482)
1943
(06/20)  A race riot in Detroit starts as an altercation between black and white youth when the whites seek to prevent the black from moving into a public housing project. The clashes soon escalate to the point where black and white mobs were “assaulting one another, beating innocent motorists, pedestrians and streetcar passengers, burning cars, destroying storefronts and looting businesses." It lasts for three days and leaves 25 blacks and 9 whites dead. Federal troops, sent by President Roosevelt finally end the conflict.
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1947
  Jackie Robinson becomes first African-American to play in major league baseball. He becomes a vocal champion for African-American athletes, civil rights, and other social and political causes.
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(04/11)  Jackie Robinson of the Brooklyn Dodgers becomes the first African American player in the major leagues. (Digital History ID 487)
1948
(05/03)  The Supreme Court rules that restrictive covenants prohibiting the sale of real estate to African Americans or other groups are legally unenforceable. (Digital History ID 559)
(07/26)  President Harry Truman signs Executive Order 9981, banning segregation in the armed forces and establishing equality of treatment and opportunity for people of all races, religions, or national origins. (Digital History ID 31)
1950
(12/10)  Ralph J. Bunche becomes the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize. (Digital History ID 1168)
1954
(12/01)  Rosa Parks, an African American, is arrested for disobeying an Alabama law requiring black passengers to relinquish seats to white passengers when the bus was full. Her arrest sparks a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery bus system and leads to a 1956 Supreme Court decision banning segregation on public transportation.
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1955
(05/31)  The Supreme Court orders public schools to be integrated “with all deliberate speed.” (Digital History ID 1511)
(08/28)  Emmett Till, an African American teen-ager from Chicago, was abducted from his uncle's home in Money, Mississippi, by two white men after he had supposedly whistled at a white woman; he was found brutally murdered three days later. (Digital History ID 987)
1957
(04/29)  Congress enacts the first Civil Rights Act since Reconstruction, establishing a Civil Rights Commission to investigation violations of voting rights based on race, national origin, or religion. (Digital History ID 544)
(09/04)  Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus calls out the National Guard to prevent nine black students from entering Central High School in Little Rock. (Digital History ID 1005)
(09/09)  President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law the first civil rights bill to pass Congress since Reconstruction. It creates a Civil Rights Commission to investigation violations of voting rights. (Digital History ID 1018)
1960
(02/01)  The first civil rights sit-in takes place in Greensboro, North Carolina where four African American college students had been denied service unless they were willing to stand.
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1961
(05/20)  A white mob attacked a busload of "Freedom Riders" in Montgomery, Alabama, prompting the federal government to send in U.S. marshals to restore order. (Digital History ID 1488)
1962
(09/30)  African American Air Force veteran James Meredith succeeds in his fourth attempt to register for classes at the University of Mississippi. (Digital History ID 1085)
1963
(06/12)  Medgar Evers, field secretary for the NAACP, is shot to death in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. (Digital History ID 1342)
(08/28)  200,000 people participate in a civil rights rally in Washington D.C. calling for passage of a Civil Rights Act. The event’s highlight is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech, delivered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. (Digital History ID 988)
(09/15)  11-year-old Denise McNair and three 14-year-olds Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, and Addie Mae Collins are killed when a dynamite bomb explodes during Sunday services at the all-black 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. (Digital History ID 1036)
1964
(06/19)  The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment, public facilities, the application of voting laws, and the use of federal funds, is approved despite an 83-day Senate filibuster.
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(06/21)  Civil rights workers Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James E. Chaney disappeared in Philadelphia, Mississippi; their bodies were found buried in an earthen dam six weeks later. (Digital History ID 871)
(07/02)  President Johnson signs into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, the application of voting laws, and the use of federal funds. It also sets up the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to prevent discrimination in hiring and promotions. (Digital History ID 1369)
(12/10)  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. receives the Nobel Peace Prize. (Digital History ID 1169)
1965
(02/21)  Former Black Muslim leader Malcolm X, 39, and an exponent of black nationalism, is assassinated as he is about to give a speech in New York City. (Digital History ID 1534)
(03/07)  State police outside Selma, Alabama, use force to prevent Civil Rights demonstrators from marching to the state capital of Montgomery. (Digital History ID 626)
(03/21)  More than 3,000 civil rights demonstrators led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, under the protection of the Alabama National Guard. (Digital History ID 812)
1966
(05/06)  Civil rights worker James Meredith is shot and wounded as he walked along a Mississippi highway to encourage black voter registration. (Digital History ID 1333)
1967
(01/10)  Massachusetts Republican Edward W. Brooke, the first African American elected to the Senate by popular vote, takes his seat. (Digital History ID 467)
(06/12)  The Supreme Court strikes down state laws prohibiting interracial marriages. (Digital History ID 1343)
(06/13)  President Lyndon Johnson nominated Solicitor-General Thurgood Marshall to become the first African American justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Digital History ID 1347)
(10/02)  Thurgood Marshall is sworn in as the first African American on the U.S. Supreme Court. (Digital History ID 928)
1968
(03/02)  Warning that the United States is becoming “two nations” one black, one white, the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders attributes urban rioting to unemployment, discriminatory policing practices, and white racism. (Digital History ID 610)
(04/04)  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 39, is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. He is in Memphis to lead a protest march in sympathy with striking garbage workers of that city. The evening before he had delivered his "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech concluding with "Well, I don't know what will happen now; we've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now, because I've been to the mountaintop."
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1970
(05/15)  Two African American students at Jackson State University in Mississippi, Phillip Lafayette Gibbs and James Earl Green, are killed when police open fire during student protests. (Digital History ID 1475)
1971
(04/20)  The Supreme Court upholds the use of busing to achieve racial desegregation in schools. (Digital History ID 516)
1980
(05/17)  Rioting in Miami claims 18 lives after an all-white jury in Tampa acquits four former Miami police officers of fatally beating black insurance executive Arthur McDuffie. (Digital History ID 1480)
1983
(04/24)  The Supreme Court rules that the Internal Revenue Service can deny tax exemptions to schools that practice racial discrimination. (Digital History ID 526)
1989
(01/16)  Three days of rioting take place in Miami after a police officer fatally shoots an African American motorcyclist. (Digital History ID 1237)
1992
(04/29)  Rioting erupts in Los Angeles after a jury in Simi Valley, Calif., acquits four L.A. police officers of most state charges in the videotaped beating of motorist Rodney King. By the time the police, the U.S. Army, the Marines and the National Guard restored order, the casualties included 53 deaths, 2,383 injuries, more than 7,000 fires, damages to 3,100 businesses, and nearly $1 billion in financial losses. A federal trial for civil rights violations ends with two of the officers found guilty and sent to prison and the other two officers acquitted. (Digital History ID 14)
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