The civil rights movement was an organized effort by Black Americans to end racial discrimination and gain equal rights under the law. It began in the late 1940s and ended in the late 1960s. Some legislative and movement event highlights include:
- July 26, 1948: President Harry Truman issues Executive Order 9981 to end segregation in the Armed Services.
- May 17, 1954: Brown v. Board of Education, a consolidation of five cases into one, is decided by the Supreme Court, effectively ending racial segregation in public schools. Many schools, however, remained segregated.
- August 28, 1955: Emmett Till, a 14-year-old from Chicago is brutally murdered in Mississippi for allegedly flirting with a white woman. His murderers are acquitted, and the case bring international attention to the civil rights movement after Jet magazine publishes a photo of Till’s beaten body at his open-casket funeral.
- December 1, 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. Her defiant stance prompts a year-long Montgomery bus boycott.
- July 2, 1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, preventing employment discrimination due to race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. Title VII of the Act establishes the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to help prevent workplace discrimination.
- February 21, 1965: Black religious leader Malcolm X is assassinated during a rally by members of the Nation of Islam.
- March 7, 1965: Bloody Sunday. In the Selma to Montgomery March, around 600 civil rights marchers walk to Selma, Alabama to Montgomery—the state’s capital—in protest of Black voter suppression. Local police block and brutally attack them. After successfully fighting in court for their right to march, Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders lead two more marches and finally reach Montgomery on March 25.
- August 6, 1965: President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to prevent the use of literacy tests as a voting requirement. It also allowed federal examiners to review voter qualifications and federal observers to monitor polling places.
- April 4, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray is convicted of the murder in 1969.
- April 11, 1968: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, also known as the Fair Housing Act, providing equal housing opportunity regardless of race, religion, or national origin.
Although tumultuous at times, the movement was mostly nonviolent and resulted in laws to protect every American’s constitutional rights, regardless of color, race, sex or national origin.