The Civil Rights Act of 1866 affirmed the rights of all citizens regardless of race or “previous condition of slavery,” but failed to protect African Americans from violence, exploitation, segregation, and discrimination. Visit sites of resistance.Less
Building on 19th-century activism, African Americans at the turn of the 20th century continued the struggle for civil rights. This timeline explores milestones from 1960 to 1978, watershed events, and the work of numerous organizations, legislators, educators, protestors, and organizers that ushered in civil rights reform. Lessons learned from their work reveal the civil rights strategies and victories that help inform present-day efforts to achieve equality.
SNCC Facilitates Sit-ins, Feb. 1, 1960 Four African American college students 'sit-in' at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, leading to the counter’s desegregation five months later and launching similar protests across the South. On April 15, Ella Baker organizes students at Shaw University in Raleigh to help them form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to facilitate the growing sit-in movement. The museum preserves the site and memory of this pivotal event.
1961 CORE Organizes Freedom Rides The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), formed in Chicago in 1942, begins to organize Freedom Rides throughout the South to desegregate interstate public bus travel. Diane Nash plays a crucial role in sustaining the Rides from Tennessee into Mississippi, serving as a liaison between the press and the United States Department of Justice.
June 11, 1963 The President Addresses a Nation Divided Spurred by civil rights activists, President John F. Kennedy gives his televised Civil Rights Address to the nation, calling on citizens and policy makers, who are staunchly divided on the issue of integration, to support racial desegregation efforts. Five months later, after the President is assassinated in Dallas, Texas, his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, pledges to continue Kennedy’s civil rights agenda.
June 12, 1963 Medgar Evers Is Assassinated In an act of racial violence, Medgar Evers, field marshal for the NAACP, is fatally shot in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Mississippi. As a WWII veteran, he is buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
August 28, 1963 Masses March on Washington More than 200,000 people attend the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C., to demand civil rights legislation, fair labor standards, and a minimum wage increase. In a day full of speeches, Josephine Baker and Daisy Bates are the only women to address the crowd. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his "I Have a Dream" speech. March on Washington organizers Bayard Rustin and Cleveland Robinson
September 15, 1963 Tragedy Rocks Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Four African American girls—Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Wesley—are killed in the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. More than twenty other attendees are injured. Dress worn by Denise McNair
June 1964 Freedom Summer Spurs Voter Registration SNCC, CORE, the NAACP, and other civil rights groups organize a massive African American voter registration drive in Mississippi known as "Freedom Summer." On June 21, three young CORE civil rights workers—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—are murdered. In the five years following Freedom Summer, Black voter registration in Mississippi will rise from a mere 7 percent to 67 percent.
July 2, 1964 The President Signs Civil Rights Act President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, which gives the federal government far-reaching powers to prosecute discrimination in employment, voting, and education.
August 22, 1964 Fannie Lou Hamer Reveals Acts of Voter Repression In Atlantic City, New Jersey, voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer of Mississippi gives an impassioned testimony before the Credentials Committee at the Democratic National Convention about the plight of African Americans in their struggle to register to vote. Hamer and members of her organization, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, attend as the official delegation to the Convention.