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Civil Rights Museum, Memphis

American Civil Rights Timeline

Civil Rights in America spanned more than the years 1945 to 1968. However, it was after these years that fundamentally important events took place regarding civil rights and they were to gain a place in history. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the incident at Little Rock High School, Dr Martin Luther King Jr., the bombing of the church in Birmingham, Black Power, the work done by presidents Truman and Johnson in particular and the civil rights acts, all occurred after 1945 and proved vital in the advances made by the civil rights movements.


Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) established.



Supreme Court declared segregation on buses that crossed state borders was illegal. President Truman established a Committee on Civil Rights.



Discrimination in the armed forces was banned.



This was the first year since 1881 without a lynching.



The Supreme Court declared segregation in schools to be unconstitutional.

The last all-black units in the armed forces were disbanded.



Montgomery Bus Boycott began after the arrest of Rosa Parks.



Dr Martin Luther King Jr. became President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

The Little Rock High School clash occurs and Eisenhower had to use Federal troops to enforce the law. Civil Rights Act passed.



First student sit-ins against segregation at lunch counters occurs.

SNCC formed – Student Nonviolent Co-ordination Committee.
Elijah Muhammad called for the creation of a separate state for blacks.



The arrest of the Freedom Riders in the South.



James Meredith’s attempt to attend Mississippi University was only successful as a result of Federal troops being used.



NAACP leader Medgar Evers, was assassinated.

250,000 civil rights protestors marched in Washington.

Four black children were killed in Birmingham church bombing – the arrested white man was charged with the unlawful possession of dynamite but not murder. Only some years later were the guilty brought to trial for murder.



Riots in Harlem (New York, Chicago, Rochester & Philadelphia.
A Civil Rights Act was passed by Congress.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was awarded the Noble Peace Prize.



Malcolm X was assassinated.

A civil rights march from Selma to Mongomery was head by Dr Martin Luther King Jr.

A Voting Rights Act was passed which in theory made it illegal for anyone to restrict the right of anybody to vote. A violent riot in Watts, Los Angeles, left 34 dead.


The idea of Black Power was introduced by Stokely Carmichael.



State laws forbidding inter-racial marriage were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Thurgood Marshall became the first Black American to be appointed to the Supreme Court by Texan president Lyndon Johnson.



Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The man convicted of his murder – James Earl Ray – was sentenced to 99 years prison but he denied having anything to do with the murder.

At the Mexico Olympics, a Black Power protest was made at the medal ceremony for the men’s 400 meters by Tommy Smith and John Carlos.



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