CC ISSUE: FEB 2012 Last updated: Feb 10, 2012
Civil Rights Chronology
1619: A year before the Mayflower, the first 20 African slaves are sold to settlers in Virginia as “indentured servants.”
1624: The first African American child, William Tucker is born in the colony.
1777: Vermont is the first American state to abolish slavery (July 2, 1777)
1789: Constitution adopted; slaves counted as three-fifths of a person for means of representation.
1820: The Missouri Compromise is enacted; slavery is banned everywhere north of Missouri, but is still legal in the southern United States
1831: Nat Turner leads slave revolt in Virginia.
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.
1856: In early instance of gerrymandering, Democratic party bosses in Los Angeles call special convention to consider splitting country in two to increase Anglo political influence.
1857: In the Dred Scott decision, Scott, a slave who had lived in a free territory, sues for his freedom on the grounds his residence on free soil liberates him. The Supreme Court, citing historical and conventional view of African Americans, rules against him, saying African American people are regarded as “so far inferior...that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” The court also declares that slaves were not citizens and had no rights to sue, and that slave owners could take their slaves anywhere on the territory and retain title to them.
1861: The Civil War begins.
1862: Congress gives President Abraham Lincoln the green light to allow black people to join the military.
1863: January 1, Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.
1865: The Civil War ends. Lincoln assassinated (April 15). Freedman’s Bureau, to help former slaves, established. Ku Klux Klan organized in Pulaski, Tenn. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified stating that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude....shall exist” in the United States.
1868: Fourteenth Amendment, making African Americans full citizens of the United States and prohibiting states from denying them equal protection or due process of law, is ratified. Congress reports that 373 freed slaves have been killed by whites.
June 13, 1868: Ex-slave Oscar Dunn becomes Lieutenant Governor of Louisiana.
1870: The Fifteenth Amendment enacted, guaranteeing the right to vote will not be denied or abridged on account of race. At the same time, however, the first “Jim Crow” or segregation law is passed in Tennessee mandating the separation of African Americans from whites on trains, in depots and wharves. The rest of the South falls into step. By the end of the century, African Americans are banned from white hotels, barber shops, restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations.
By 1885, most southern states also have laws requiring separate schools.
The Rev. Hiram R. Revels (R-MISS) and Joseph H. Rainey (R-S.C.) become first African Americans to sit in Congress.
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 discriminating in any way they want against black citizens.
1875: Congress passes the first Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing African Americans equal rights in transportation, restaurant/inns, and theaters and on juries. The law is struck down in 1883 with the Court majority arguing the Constitution allows Congress to act only on discrimination by government and not that by private citizens.
1877: With the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as President, Reconstruction is brought to an end and most federal troops are withdrawn from the South while those remaining do nothing to protect the rights of African Americans.
The return of “home rule” to the former secessionist states also means the restoration of white supremacy and the beginning of the disenfranchisement and segregation of African Americans.
1890: In Mississippi, a state constitutional convention meets to write a suffrage amendment, including a poll tax and a literacy test designed -successfully- to exclude African Americans from voting. South Carolina follows suit in 1895, Louisiana in 1898. By 1910, African Americans are effectively barred from voting by constitutional provisions in North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and Oklahoma as well.
1896: The Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, rules that state laws requiring separation of the races are within the bounds of the Constitution as long as equal accommodations are made for African Americans, thus establishing the “separate but equal” doctrine that justifies legal segregation in the South. Justice John Harlan, in lone dissent, says Constitution is “colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.”
1900: Lynching has become virtually a fact of life as a means for intimidating African Americans. Between 1886 and 1900, there are more than 2,500 lynching’s in the nation, the vast majority in the Deep South. In the first year of the new century, more than 100 African Americans are lynched, and by World War I, more than 1100.
1910: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded by W.E.B Du Bois, Jane Addams, John Dewey and others.
1917: 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.
1946: US Supreme Court bans segregation of black and white people on public transit.
1947: Jackie Robinson becomes first African American to play major league baseball.
1948: Supreme Court, in Shelly v. Kramer, declares illegal the government support enforcement of restrictive covenants under which private parties could exclude minorities from buying homes in white neighborhoods.
Democratic party endorses civil rights platform, prompting Southern walkout and formation of States Rights Democratic Party (better known as the Dixiecrats) and nomination of Strom Thurmond as presidential candidate.
1954: In Brown v. Board of Education, the decision widely regarded as having sparked the modern civil rights era, the Supreme Court rules deliberate public school segregation illegal, effectively overturning “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for a unanimous Court, notes that to segregate children by race “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone.” Thurgood Marshall heads the NAACP/Legal Defense Fund team winning the ruling.
1955: On August 28, 14 year old Emmett Till is beaten, shot and lynched by whites.
In Alabama, on December 1 Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat to a white man, precipitating the Montgomery bus boycott, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
1956: Montgomery bus boycott ends in victory, December 21, after the city announces it will comply with a November Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation on buses illegal. Earlier in the year, King’s home was bombed.
Autherine Lucy is first African American admitted to the University of Alabama.
1957: Efforts to integrate Little Rock, Ark., Central High School meet with legal resistance and violence; Gov. Orval Faubus predicts “blood will run in the streets” if African Americans push effort to integrate. On Sept. 24, federal troops mobilize to protect the nine African American students at the high school from white mobs trying to block the school’s integration.
1960: February 1, Lunch counter sit-in by four college students in Greensboro, N.C. begins and spreads through the South. On April 17, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded.
John F. Kennedy elected president.
Following Sudan (1956) and Ghana (1957), 11 African nations achieve independence.
1961: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organizes Freedom Rides into the South to test new Interstate Commerce Commission regulations and court orders barring segregation in interstate transportation. Riders are beaten by mobs in several places, including Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.
1962: James Meredith becomes first African American student admitted to the University of Mississippi.
1963: Over a quarter of a million people participate in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech.
1963: Martin Luther King Jr., receives the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mississippi Freedom Summer, a voter education and registration project, begins. White northern college students volunteer to run practice elections in preparation for the Presidential election of 1964.
President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
1965: Selma, Alabama. voting rights campaign.
The Voting Rights Act passes and is signed into law on August 6, effectively ending literacy tests and a host of other obstacles used to disenfranchise African American and other minority citizens.
Malcolm X, is assassinated.
1967: Sparked by a police raid on a black power hangout, Detroit erupts into the worst race riots ever in the nation, with 43 people dead, including 33 African Americans and 10 whites.
Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American justice of the Supreme Court.
Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, is stripped of his heavyweight boxing title for resisting military draft as a Muslim minister in the Nation of Islam.
1968: March 1,The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, popularly known as the Kerner Commission after chairman Otto Kerner, Governor of Illinois, issues its report warning that the nation is moving toward two separate societies-one black and poor, the other affluent and white. The commission, appointed by President Johnson following the 1967 disorders in Detroit and other communities, calls for major anti-poverty efforts and strengthened civil rights enforcement to eliminate the causes of the disorders.
April 4, Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated. The assassination sparks unrest and civil disorders in 124 cities across the country, including the nation’s capital, Washington, D.C. On April 11, as disorders continue, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, aimed at curbing discrimination in housing.
Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) is the first African American woman elected to Congress.
The Supreme Court rules that “actual desegregation” of schools in the South is required, effectively ruling out so-called school “freedom of choice” plans and requiring affirmative action to achieve integrated schools.
1973: June 21, the Supreme Court, for the first time, addresses the issue of school desegregation in northern public schools, finding segregation intentionally imposed (de jure) unconstitutional even when not accompanied by statute. The Court concludes that the Denver public school system is an unlawful “dual system” that systems wide remedy is required, and that assigning African American students to Latino schools is not an adequate desegregation plan because both groups had been subject to historic segregation.
1978: 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.
1982: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is extended and strengthened by Congress, barring laws that dilute the voting power of minorities, whether or not that is the law’s intention. The amendment overturns a Supreme case, Bolden v. City of Mobile (Ala.) that required proof of intentional discrimination against minority voters in order to establish a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
1986: January 15, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time.
1991: Thurgood Marshall, first African American appointed to Supreme Court, resigns for health reasons. President Bush names Clarence Thomas, a conservative African American
1998 and 1999: In Gebser v. Lago Vista Independent School District and Davis v. Monroe County School District, the Supreme Court makes clear that Title IX requires schools to take action to prevent and stop the harassment of students by teachers or other students. Those decisions, however, also severely limit the circumstances under which victims of such harassment may receive money damages for their injuries.
1999: NAACP launches a campaign against TV networks to increase number of minorities in shows.
1999: Hate crimes continue throughout the summer, including a series of shootings targeted at African Americans, Asian Americans, and Jew in the Midwest, and the shooting of children at a Jewish child care center in Los Angeles, followed by the murder of Filipino American postal worker Joseph Ileto.
2000: Colin Powell becomes the first black US Secretary of State.
2000: March 24, Halle Berry becomes first African American woman to win an Oscar for best actress
2009: January 20, Barak Obama becomes first African American President of the United States