Research and Education

The Progression of Civil Rights in America

In 1868, the 14th Amendment is passed. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified to protect Blacks from the abrogation of their rights. The 14th Amendment prohibits states from denying or abridging the rights of citizens and required equal protection and due process. A procession of important civil rights benchmarks followed:


  • 1892: The Supreme Court rules "separate but equal" laws are legal in the Plessy v Ferguson decision.


  • 1915: The Grandfather Clause, which restricted black voting registration, is repealed.
  • 1919: A series of race riots occurs in Chicago that left 38 dead.

1940's - 1950's

  • July 28, 1948: President Truman signs Executive Order 9981 establishing equality of treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services.
  • May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board of Education court case. Supreme Court bans segregation in all public schools.
  • August 1955: Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black boy from Chicago is murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi.
  • December 1, 1955: In Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat for a white man, causing a year long bus boycott.
  • December 21, 1956: The Montgomery bus system desegregates.
  • February 1957: Southern Christian Leadership Conference established.
  • September 1957: The Little Rock Central High school board votes on school integration.


  • February 1, 1960: Four black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College stage a sit-in at a lunch counter and are refused service.
  • October 1, 1962: James Meredith enrolls at the University of Mississippi.
  • April 16, 1963: Martin Luther King pens "Birmingham Jail Letter".
  • May-1963: During protests in Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene "Bull" Connor uses police dogs and fire hoses on black protesters.
  • June 11, 1963: Medgar Evers, the head of the Mississippi NAACP is murdered outside his home.
  • June 12, 1963: Governor George Wallace stands in the schoolhouse door of the University of Alabama before being forced to allow black students to enroll.
  • August 28, 1963: Hundreds of thousands of blacks and whites gather at the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech.
  • September 15, 1963: 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham is bombed, resulting in the deaths of 4 black girls.
  • January 23, 1964: A poll tax used to prevent blacks from voting is outlawed with the 24th Amendment.
  • Summer 1964: The Mississippi Summer Freedom Project begins; civil rights workers help blacks register to vote. Many churches and homes burned.
  • July 1, 1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed forbidding racial discrimination.
  • August 4, 1964: Civil rights workers James E. Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman murdered by the Klan.
  • February 21, 1965: Malcolm X is assassinated in New York.
  • March 7, 1965: Martin Luther King Jr. leads a 54-mile march to support black voter registration. The marched from Selma to Montgomery. On "Bloody Sunday" police attacked peaceful and non-violent marchers..
  • August 10, 1965: A Voting Rights Act is approved.
  • August 11-17, 1965: The Watts Riots occur in Los Angeles as Black citizens boil with frustration over historic injustices. 34 persons killed.
  • September 24, 1965: Executive Order 11246 was issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson to enforce affirmative action.
  • October 1966: The Black Panthers are founded by Bobby Seale and Huey Newton in Oakland, California.
  • June 12, 1967: Supreme Court rules Interracial marriage is unconstitutional
  • July 1967: More race riots in Detroit and New York. 43 deaths in Detroit.
  • November 7, 1967: Richard Gordon Hatcher wins the general election to become the first Black Mayor of a major American city in Gary, Indiana. Carl Stokes of Cleveland is also elected Mayor during the same period.
  • April 4, 1968: While in Memphis, Martin Luther King Jr. is murdered and subsequent riots break out in 125 cities.
  • April 11, 1968: Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

1970's - 1990's

  • 1978: The Bakke v Regents of University of California decision outlaws fixed racial quotas.
  • March 22, 1988: Civil Rights Restoration Act passed by Congress.
  • November 22, 1991: Civil Rights Act of 1991 signed by President Bush.
  • April 29, 1992: Race riots occur after police who beat Rodney King are acquitted.

2000 - Present

  • June 21, 2005: Edgar Ray Killen is finally convicted of manslaughter for the Mississippi Civil Rights murders.
  • January 2008: Senator Edward Kennedy introduces the Civil Rights Act of 2008.
  • January 20, 2009: Illinois Senator Barack Obama Sworn In As America's First Black President
  • January 20, 2013: President Barack Obama Sworn In to a Second Term

National Civil Rights Hall of Fame

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