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Extra!: Civil Rights Timeline

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(CNN Student News) -- Use the following timeline to learn about some of the key events in civil rights history.

1783 Massachusetts outlaws slavery within its borders.

1808 The importation of slaves is banned in the U.S., though illegal slave trade continues.

1820 The Missouri Compromise to maintain a balance of 12 slave and 12 free states.

1831 In Virginia, Nat Turner leads a slave rebellion during which 57 whites are killed. U.S. troops kill 100 slaves. Turner is caught and hanged.

1850 In the Compromise of 1850, California is admitted into the union as a Fugitive Slave Laws are strengthened and slave trade ends in Washington, D.C.

1857 The Supreme Court rules in the Dred Scott case that slaves do not become free when taken into a free state, that Congress cannot bar slavery from a territory and that blacks cannot become citizens.

1861 Southern states secede and form the Confederate States of America; Civil War begins.

1863 President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation freeing "all slaves in areas still in rebellion."


  • The Civil War ends.
  • The 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, is ratified.
  • 1868 The 14th Amendment, which requires equal protection under the law to all persons, is ratified.

    1870 The 15th Amendment, which bans racial discrimination in voting, is ratified.

    1896 The Supreme Court approves the "separate but equal" segregation doctrine.

    1909 The National Negro Committee convenes. This leads to the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

    1925 In its first national demonstration the Ku Klux Klan marches on Washington, D.C.

    1948 President Truman issues an executive order outlawing segregation in the U.S. military.

    1954 The Supreme Court declares school segregation unconstitutional in its ruling on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas.


  • Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama, bus. A boycott follows, and the bus segregation ordinance is declared unconstitutional.
  • The Federal Interstate Commerce Commission bans segregation on interstate trains and buses.
  • 1957 Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus uses the National Guard to block nine black students from attending Little Rock High School. Following a court order, President Eisenhower sends in federal troops to allow the black students to enter the school.

    1960 Four black college students begin sit-ins at the lunch counter of a Greensboro, North Carolina, restaurant where black patrons are not served.

    1961 Freedom Rides begin from Washington, D.C., into Southern states. Student volunteers are bused in to test new laws prohibiting segregation.


  • President Kennedy sends federal troops to the University of Mississippi to end riots so that James Meredith, the school's first black student, can attend.
  • The Supreme Court rules that segregation is unconstitutional in all transportation facilities.
  • The Department of Defense orders complete integration of military reserve units, excluding the National Guard.
  • 1963

  • Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is killed by a sniper's bullet.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech to hundreds of thousands at the March on Washington, D.C.
  • A church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, leaves four young black girls dead.
  • 1964

  • Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, declaring discrimination based on race illegal.
  • The 24th Amendment abolishes the poll tax, which originally had been established in the South after Reconstruction to make it difficult for poor blacks to vote.
  • Three civil rights workers, two white and one black man, disappear in Mississippi. They were found buried six weeks later.
  • 1965

  • A march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, is organized to demand protection for voting rights.
  • Malcolm X is assassinated. Malcolm X, a longtime minister of the Nation of Islam, had rejected Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s policies of non-violence. He preached black pride and economic self-reliance for blacks. He eventually became a Muslim and broke with Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.
  • A new Voting Rights Act, which made it illegal to force would-be voters to pass literacy tests in order to vote, is signed.
  • 1967 Thurgood Marshall becomes the first black to be named to the Supreme Court.


  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. James Earl Ray pleaded guilty of the crime in March 1969 and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
  • President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
  • 1976 Negro History Week becomes Black History Month.

    1978 The Supreme Court rules, in a well-known reverse discrimination case (Bakke), that medical school admission programs that allow for positions based on race are unconstitutional.

    1983 The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday is established.

    1988 The Democratically controlled Congress overrides a presidential veto to pass the Civil Rights Restoration Act. President Ronald Reagan vetoed the law saying it gave the federal government overreaching powers.

    1990 President George H.W. Bush vetoes a civil rights bill that he says would impose quotas for employers. A civil rights bill without quotas passes in 1991.


  • The Supreme Court rules that federal programs that consider race as a category for hiring must have "compelling government interest" to do so.
  • The Supreme Court rules that the consideration of race in creating congressional districts is unconstitutional.
  • 2003 The Supreme Court upholds the University of Michigan Law School's policy, ruling that race can be one of many factors considered by colleges when selecting their students.


  • Edgar Ray Killen, the leader of the Mississippi murders (1964), is convicted of manslaughter on the 41st anniversary of the crimes.
  • Rosa Parks dies at the age of 92.
  • 2006 Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., dies at the age of 78 of a stroke. Mrs. King had moved into the forefront of the civil rights movement after the passing of her husband in 1968.



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