This is a timeline of African-American Civil Rights Movement.
(Information in this section primarily taken from Slavery in Colonial United States.)
- The colony of St. Augustine in Florida became the first permanent European settlement in what would become the US, and included an unknown number of African slaves.
- The first record of African slavery in English Colonial America.
- John Punch, a black indentured servant, ran away with two white indentured servants, James Gregory and Victor. After the three were captured, the white men were sentenced to four more years of servitude but Punch was required to serve Virginia planter Hugh Gym for life. It is one of the first cases in which lifetime indentured servitude was based on race.
- John Casor, a black man, became the first legally-recognized slave-for-life in the Virginia colony.
- Virginia law defined that children of enslaved mothers followed the status of their mothers and were considered slaves, regardless of their father's status.
- Royal African Company is founded, allowing slaves to be shipped from Africa to the colonies in North America. This company allowed England to enter the slave trade.
- Both free and enslaved African Americans fought in Bacon's Rebellion along with English colonists.
- The Virginia Slave codes defines as slaves all those servants brought into the colony who were not Christian in their original countries, as well as those Indians sold to colonists by other Indians.
- Jupiter Hammon has a poem printed, becoming the first published African-American poet.
- Phillis Wheatley has her book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral published.
1776–1783 American Revolution
- Thousands of enslaved African Americans in the South escape to British or Loyalist lines, as they were promised freedom if they fought with the British. In South Carolina, 25,000 enslaved African Americans, one-quarter of those held, escape to the British. After the war, many African Americans leave with the British for England; others go with other Loyalists to Canada and settle in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Still others go to Jamaica and the West Indies.
- Many free blacks in the North fight with the colonists for the rebellion.
- July 8 – The Vermont Republic (a sovereign nation at the time) abolishes slavery, the first future state to do so.
- Pennsylvania becomes the first then-U.S.-state to abolish slavery.
1790–1810 Manumission of slaves
- – Following the Revolution, numerous slaveholders in the Upper South free their slaves; the percentage of free blacks rises from less than one to 10 percent. By 1810, 75 percent of all blacks in Delaware are free, and 7.2 percent of blacks in Virginia are free.
Early 19th century
- September – David Walker begins publication of the abolitionist pamphlet Walker's Appeal.
- February - The first Institute of Higher Education for African-Americans is founded. Founded as the African Institute in February 1837 and renamed the Institute of Coloured Youth (ICY) in April 1837 and now known as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania.
- June 1 – Isabella Baumfree, a former slave, changes her name to Sojourner Truth and begins to preach for the abolition of slavery.
- August – Henry Highland Garnet delivers his famous speech Call to Rebellion.
First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation – President Lincoln meets with his cabinet.
- April 12 – The American Civil War begins (secessions began in December 1860), and lasts until April 9, 1865. Tens of thousands of enslaved African Americans of all ages escaped to Union lines for freedom. Contraband camps were set up in some areas, where blacks started learning to read and write. Others traveled with the Union Army. By the end of the war, more than 180,000 African Americans, mostly from the South, fought with the Union Army and Navy as members of the US Colored Troops and sailors.
- May 2 – The first North American military unit with African-American officers is the 1st Louisiana Native Guard of the Confederate Army (disbanded in February 1862).
- August 6 – The first of the Confiscation Acts authorizes the confiscation of any Confederate property, including all slaves who fought or worked for the Confederate military. The second act in mid-1862 extends this.
- April 12 – The Battle of Fort Pillow, which results in controversy about whether a massacre of surrendered African-American troops was conducted or condoned.
- December 11 – P. B. S. Pinchback is sworn in as the first black member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Disputed gubernatorial election in Louisiana cause political violence for more than two years. Both Republican and Democratic governors hold inaugurations and certify local officials.
- April 14 – In the Slaughter-House Cases the Supreme Court votes 5–4 for a narrow reading of the Fourteenth Amendment. The court also discusses dual citizenship: State citizens and U.S. citizens.
- Easter, the Colfax Massacre – More than 100 blacks in the Red River area of Louisiana are killed when attacked by white militia after defending Republicans in local office – continuing controversy from gubernatorial election.
- Coushatta Massacre – Republican officeholders are run out of town and murdered by white militia before leaving the state – four of six were relatives of a Louisiana state senator, a northerner who had settled in the South, married into a local family and established a plantation. Five to twenty black witnesses are also killed.
- Founding of paramilitary groups that act as the "military arm of the Democratic Party": the White League in Louisiana and the Red Shirts in Mississippi, and North and South Carolina. They terrorize blacks and Republicans, turning them out of office, killing some, disrupting rallies, and suppressing voting.
- September – In New Orleans, continuing political violence erupts related to the still-contested gubernatorial election of 1872. Thousands of the White League armed militia march into New Orleans, then the seat of government, where they outnumber the integrated city police and black state militia forces. They defeat Republican forces and demand that Gov. Kellogg leave office. The Democratic candidate McEnery is installed and White Leaguers occupy the capitol, state house and arsenal. This was called the "Battle of Liberty Place". The White League and McEnery withdraw after three days in advance of federal troops arriving to reinforce the Republican state government.
- July 8 – The Hamburg Massacre occurs when local people riot against African Americans who were trying to celebrate the Fourth of July.
- varied – White Democrats regain power in many southern state legislatures and pass the first Jim Crow laws.
- spring – Thousands of African Americans refuse to live under segregation in the South and migrate to Kansas. They become known as Exodusters.
- In Strauder v. West Virginia, the Supreme Court rules that African Americans could not be excluded from juries.
- During the 1880s, African Americans in the South reach a peak of numbers in being elected and holding local offices, even while white Democrats are working to assert control at state level.
- A biracial populist coalition achieves power in Virginia (briefly). The legislature founds the first public college for African Americans, Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute, as well as the first mental hospital for African Americans, both near Petersburg, Virginia. The hospital was established in December 1869, at Howard's Grove Hospital, a former Confederate unit, but is moved to a new campus in 1882.
- October 16 – In Civil Rights Cases, the United States Supreme Court strikes down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 as unconstitutional.
- Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is published, featuring the admirable African-American character Jim.
- Judy W. Reed, of Washington, D.C., and Sarah E. Goode, of Chicago, are the first African-American women inventors to receive patents. Signed with an "X", Reed's patent no. 305,474, granted September 23, 1884, is for a dough kneader and roller. Goode's patent for a cabinet bed, patent no. 322,177, is issued on July 14, 1885. Goode, the owner of a Chicago furniture store, invented a folding bed that could be formed into a desk when not in use.
- Ida B. Wells sues the Chesapeake, Ohio & South Western Railroad Company for its use of segregated "Jim Crow" cars.
- October 3 – The State Normal School for Colored Students, which would become Florida A&M University, is founded.
- Mississippi, with a white Democrat-dominated legislature, passes a new constitution that effectively disfranchises most blacks through voter registration and electoral requirements, e.g., poll taxes, residency tests and literacy tests. This shuts them out of the political process, including service on juries and in local offices.
- By 1900 two-thirds of the farmers in the bottomlands of the Mississippi Delta are African Americans who cleared and bought land after the Civil War.
- Ida B. Wells publishes her pamphlet Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases.
- Louisiana enacts the first state-wide grandfather clause that provides exemption for illiterate whites to voter registration literacy test requirements.
- In Williams v. Mississippi the Supreme Court upholds the voter registration and election provisions of Mississippi's constitution because they applied to all citizens. Effectively, however, they disenfranchise blacks and poor whites. The result is that other southern states copy these provisions in their new constitutions and amendments through 1908, disfranchising most African Americans and tens of thousands of poor whites until the 1960s.
- Since the Civil War, 30,000 African-American teachers had been trained and put to work in the South. The majority of blacks had become literate.
- May 15 – Sigma Pi Phi, the first African-American Greek-letter organization, is founded by African-American men as a professional organization, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- Orlando, Florida hires its first black postman.
- July 11 – First meeting of the Niagara Movement, an interracial group to work for civil rights.
- May 30 – The National Negro Committee chooses "National Association for the Advancement of Colored People" as its organization name.
- September 29 – Committee on Urban Conditions Among Negroes formed; the next year it will merge with other groups to form the National Urban League.
- The NAACP begins publishing The Crisis.
- Newly elected president Woodrow Wilson orders physical re-segregation of federal workplaces and employment after nearly 50 years of integrated facilities.
- January – Professor Carter Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History begins publishing the Journal of Negro History, the first academic journal devoted to the study of African-American history.
- March 23 – Marcus Garvey arrives in the U.S. (see Garveyism).
- Los Angeles hires the country's first black female police officer.
- The Great Migration begins and lasts until 1940. Approximately one and a half million African-Americans move from the Southern United States to the North and Midwest. More than five million migrate in the Second Great Migration from 1940–1970, which includes more destinations in California and the West.
- Claude McKay's Home to Harlem wins the Harmon Gold Award for Literature.
Jesse Owens wins gold medals in front of Hitler.
1940s to 1970
- Second Great Migration – In multiple acts of resistance, more than 5 million African Americans leave the violence and segregation of the South for jobs, education, and the chance to vote in northern, midwestern and California cities.
1945–1975 Second Reconstruction/American Civil Rights Movement
- August – The first issue of Ebony.
- Freeman Field Mutiny, where black officers attempt to desegregate an all-white officers club.
- June 3 – In Morgan v. Virginia, the US Supreme Court invalidates provisions of the Virginia Code which require the separation of white and colored passengers where applied to interstate bus transport. The state law is unconstitutional insofar as it is burdening interstate commerce – an area of federal jurisdiction.
- In Florida, Daytona Beach, DeLand, Sanford, Fort Myers, Tampa, and Gainesville all have black police officers. So does Little Rock, Arkansas; Louisville, Kentucky; Charlotte, North Carolina; Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio in Texas; Richmond, Virginia; Chattanooga and Knoxville in Tennessee
- Renowned actor/singer Paul Robeson founds the American Crusade Against Lynching.
- For more detail during this period, see Freedom Riders website chronology
- April 23 – High school students in Farmville, Virginia, go on strike: the case Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County is heard by the Supreme Court in 1954 as part of Brown v. Board of Education.
- July 26 – The United States Army high command announces it will desegregate the Army.
- December 24 – The home of NAACP activists Harry and Harriette Moore in Mims, Florida, is bombed by KKK group; both die of injuries.
- December 28 – The Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL) is founded in Cleveland, Mississippi by T.R.M. Howard, Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, and other civil rights activists. Assisted by member Medgar Evers, the RCNL distributed more than 50,000 bumper stickers bearing the slogan, "Don't Buy Gas Where you Can't Use the Restroom." This campaign successfully pressured many Mississippi service stations to provide restrooms for blacks.
- January 28 – Briggs v. Elliott: after a District Court orders separate but equal school facilities in South Carolina, the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case as part of Brown v. Board of Education.
- April 1 – Chancellor Collins J. Seitz finds for the black plaintiffs (Gebhart v. Belton, Gebhart v. Bulah) and orders the integration of Hockessin elementary and Claymont High School in Delaware based on assessment of "separate but equal" public school facilities required by the Delaware constitution.
- September 4 – Eleven black students attend the first day of school at Claymont High School, Delaware, becoming the first black students in the 17 segregated states to integrate a white public school. The day occurs without incident or notice by the community.
- September 5 – The Delaware State Attorney General informs Claymont Superintendent Stahl that the black students will have to go home because the case is being appealed. Stahl, the School Board and the faculty refuse and the students remain. The two Delaware cases are argued before the Warren Supreme Court by Redding, Greenberg and Marshall and are used as an example of how integration can be achieved peacefully. It was a primary influence in the Brown v. Board case. The students become active in sports, music and theater. The first two black students graduated in June 1954 just one month after the Brown v. Board case.
- Ralph Ellison authors the novel Invisible Man which wins the National Book Award.
- May 3 – In Hernandez v. Texas, the Supreme Court of the United States rules that Mexican Americans and all other racial groups in the United States are entitled to equal protection under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- May 17 – The Supreme Court rules against the "separate but equal" doctrine in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kans. and in Bolling v. Sharpe, thus overturning Plessy v. Ferguson.
- July 11 – The first White Citizens' Council meeting takes place, in Mississippi.
- July 30 – At a special meeting in Jackson, Mississippi called by Governor Hugh White, T.R.M. Howard of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, along with nearly one hundred other black leaders, publicly refuse to support a segregationist plan to maintain "separate but equal" in exchange for a crash program to increase spending on black schools.
- November – Charles Diggs, Jr., of Detroit is elected to Congress, the first African American elected from Michigan.
- Frankie Muse Freeman is the lead attorney for the landmark NAACP case Davis et al. v. the St. Louis Housing Authority, which ended legal racial discrimination in public housing with the city. Constance Baker Motley was also an attorney for NAACP: it was a rarity to have two women attorneys leading such a high-profile case.
- January 7 – Marian Anderson (of 1939 fame) becomes the first African American to perform with the New York Metropolitan Opera.
- January 15 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs Executive Order 10590, establishing the President's Committee on Government Policy to enforce a nondiscrimination policy in Federal employment.
Rosa Parks pictured in 1955
- January 16 – FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover writes a rare open letter of complaint directed to civil rights leader Dr. T.R.M. Howard after Howard charged in a speech that the "FBI can pick up pieces of a fallen airplane on the slopes of a Colorado mountain and find the man who caused the crash, but they can't find a white man when he kills a Negro in the South." 
- February 3 – Autherine Lucy is admitted to the University of Alabama. Whites riot, and she is suspended. Later, she is expelled for her part in further legal action against the university.
- February 24 – The policy of Massive Resistance is declared by U.S. Senator Harry F. Byrd, Sr.
- February/March- The Southern Manifesto, opposing integration of schools, is created and signed by members of the Congressional delegations of Southern states, including 19 senators and 81 members of the House of Representatives, notably the entire delegations of the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia. On March 12, it is released to the press.
- April 10 – Singer Nat King Cole is assaulted during a segregated performance at Municipal Auditorium in Birmingham, Alabama.
- May 26 – Circuit Judge Walter B. Jones issues an injunction prohibiting the NAACP from operating in Alabama.
- May 28 – The Tallahassee, Florida bus boycott begins.
- June 5 – The Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) is founded at a mass meeting in Birmingham, Alabama.
- November 5 – Nat King Cole hosts the first show of The Nat King Cole Show. The show went off the air after only 13 months because no national sponsor could be found.
- November 13 – In Browder v. Gayle, the Supreme Court strikes down Alabama laws requiring segregation of buses. This ruling, together with the ICC's 1955 ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach banning Jim Crow in bus travel among the states, is a landmark in outlawing Jim Crow in bus travel.
- December 25 – The parsonage in Birmingham, Alabama occupied by Fred Shuttlesworth, movement leader, is bombed. Shuttlesworth receives only minor scrapes.
- December 26 – The ACMHR tests the Browder v. Gayle ruling by riding in the white sections of Birmingham city buses. 22 demonstrators are arrested.
- Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission formed.
- Director J. Edgar Hoover orders the FBI to begin the COINTELPRO program to investigate and disrupt "dissident" groups within the United States.
- For more detail during this period, see Freedom Riders website chronology
- February 1 – Four black students sit at the Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, sparking six months of the Greensboro Sit-Ins.
- February 13 – The Nashville, Tennessee Sit-in begins, although the Nashville students, trained by activist and nonviolent teacher James Lawson, had been doing preliminary groundwork towards the action for two months. The sit-in ends successfully in May.
- February 17 – Alabama grand jury indicts Martin Luther King (MLK) for tax evasion.
- February 20 – Virginia Union University students stage sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter in Richmond, Virginia.
- March 3 – Vanderbilt University expels James Lawson for sit-in participation.
- March 7 – Felton Turner of Houston is beaten and hanged upside-down in a tree, initials KKK carved on his chest.
- March 19 – San Antonio becomes first city to integrate lunch counters.
- March 20 – Florida Governor LeRoy Collins calls lunch counter segregation “unfair and morally wrong.”
- April 8 – Weak civil rights bill survives Senate filibuster.
- April 15–17 – The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is formed in Raleigh, North Carolina.
- April 19 – Z. Alexander Looby's home is bombed, with no injuries. Looby, a Nashville civil rights lawyer, was active in the cities ongoing sit-in movement.
- May – Nashville sit-ins end successfully.
- May 6 – Civil Rights Act of 1960 signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
- May 28 – William Robert Ming and Hubert Delaney obtain an acquittal of MLK from an all-white jury in Alabama.
- June 24 – MLK meets Senator John F. Kennedy (JFK).
- June 28 – Bayard Rustin resigns from SCLC after condemnation by Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
- July 11 – To Kill a Mockingbird published.
- July 31 – Elijah Muhammad calls for an all-black state. Membership in Nation of Islam estimated at 100,000.
- August – Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker replaces Ella Baker as SCLC’s Executive Director.
- October 19 – MLK and fifty others arrested at sit-in at Atlanta’s Rich’s Department Store.
- October 26 – MLK’s earlier probation revoked; he is transferred to Reidsville State Prison.
- October 28 – After intervention from Robert F. Kennedy (RFK), King is free on bond.
- November 8 – John F. Kennedy defeats Richard Nixon in the 1960 presidential election.
- November 14 – Ruby Bridges becomes the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South (William Frantz Elementary School) following court-ordered integration in New Orleans, Louisiana. This event was portrayed by Norman Rockwell in his 1964 painting The Problem We All Live With.
- December 5 – In Boynton v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court holds that racial segregation in bus terminals is illegal because such segregation violates the Interstate Commerce Act. This ruling, in combination with the ICC's 1955 decision in Keys v. Carolina Coach, effectively outlaws segregation on interstate buses and at the terminals servicing such buses.
- January 11 – Rioting over court-ordered admission of first two African Americans (Hamilton E. Holmes and Charlayne Hunter-Gault) at the University of Georgia leads to their suspension, but they are ordered reinstated.
- January 31 – Member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and nine students were arrested in Rock Hill, South Carolina for a sit-in at a McCrory's lunch counter.
- March 6 – President John F. Kennedy issues Executive Order 10925, which establishes a Presidential committee that later becomes the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
- May 4 – The first group of Freedom Riders, with the intent of integrating interstate buses, leaves Washington, D.C. by Greyhound bus. The group, organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), leaves shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court has outlawed segregation in interstate transportation terminals.
- May 14 – The Freedom Riders' bus is attacked and burned outside of Anniston, Alabama. A mob beats the Freedom Riders upon their arrival in Birmingham. The Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, and spend forty to sixty days in Parchman Penitentiary.
- May 17 – Nashville students, coordinated by Diane Nash and James Bevel, take up the Freedom Ride, signaling the increased involvement of SNCC.
- May 20 – Freedom Riders are assaulted in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Greyhound Bus Station.
- May 21 – MLK, the Freedom Riders, and congregation of 1,500 at Rev. Ralph Abernathy’s First Baptist Church in Montgomery are besieged by mob of segregationists; Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy sends federal marshals to protect them.
- May 29 – Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, citing the 1955 landmark ICC ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company and the Supreme Court's 1960 decision in Boynton v. Virginia, petitions the ICC to enforce desegregation in interstate travel.
- June–August – U.S. Dept. of Justice initiates talks with civil rights groups and foundations on beginning Voter Education Project.
- July – SCLC begins citizenship classes; Andrew J. Young hired to direct the program. Bob Moses begins voter registration in McComb, Mississippi.
- September – James Forman becomes SNCC’s Executive Secretary.
- September 23 – Interstate Commerce Commission, at Robert F. Kennedy’s insistence, issues new rules ending discrimination in interstate travel, effective November 1, 1961, six years after the ICC's own ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company.
- September 25 – Voter registration activist Herbert Lee killed in McComb, Mississippi.
- November 1 – All interstate buses required to display a certificate that reads: “Seating aboard this vehicle is without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin, by order of the Interstate Commerce Commission.”
- November 1 – SNCC workers Charles Sherrod and Cordell Reagon and nine Chatmon Youth Council members test new ICC rules at Trailways bus station in Albany, Georgia.
- November 17 – SNCC workers help encourage and coordinate black activism in Albany, Georgia, culminating in the founding of the Albany Movement as a formal coalition.
- November 22 – Three high school students from Chatmon’s Youth Council arrested after using “positive actions” by walking into white sections of the Albany bus station.
- November 22 – Albany State College students Bertha Gober and Blanton Hall arrested after entering the white waiting room of the Albany Trailways station.
- December 10 – Freedom Riders from Atlanta, SNCC leader Charles Jones, and Albany State student Bertha Gober are arrested at Albany Union Railway Terminal, sparking mass demonstrations, with hundreds of protesters arrested over the next five days.
- December 11–15 – Five hundred protesters arrested in Albany, Georgia.
- December 15 – Dr. King arrives in Albany, Georgia in response to a call from Dr. W. G. Anderson, the leader of the Albany Movement to desegregate public facilities.
- December 16 – Dr. King is arrested at an Albany, Georgia demonstration. He is charged with obstructing the sidewalk and parading without a permit.
- December 18 – Albany truce, including a 60-day postponement of King's trial; MLK leaves town.
- Whitney Young is appointed executive director of the National Urban League and begins expanding its size and mission.
- Black Like Me written by John Howard Griffin, a white southerner who deliberately tanned and dyed his skin to allow him to directly experience the life of the Negro in the Deep South, is published, displaying the brutality of Jim Crow segregation to a national audience.
- January 18–20 – Student protests over sit-in leaders’ expulsions at Baton Rouge’s Southern University, the nation’s largest black school, close it down.
- February – Representatives of SNCC, CORE, and the NAACP form the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). A grant request to fund COFO voter registration activities is submitted to the Voter Education Project (VEP).
- February 26 – Segregated transportation facilities, both interstate and intrastate, ruled unconstitutional by U.S. Supreme Court.
- March – SNCC workers sit-in at US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy's office to protest jailings in Baton Rouge.
- March 20 – FBI installs wiretaps on NAACP activist Stanley Levison’s office.
- April 3 – Defense Department orders full racial integration of military reserve units, except the National Guard.
- April 9 – Corporal Roman Duckworth shot by a police officer in Taylorsville, Mississippi.
- June – Leroy Willis becomes first black graduate of the University of Virginia College of Arts and Sciences.
- June – SNCC workers establish voter registration projects in rural southwest Georgia.
- July 10 – August 28 SCLC renews protests in Albany; MLK in jail July 10–12 and July 27 – August 10.
- August 31 – Fannie Lou Hamer attempts to register to vote in Indianola, Mississippi.
- September 9 – Two black churches used by SNCC for voter registration meetings are burned in Sasser, Georgia.
- September 20 – James Meredith is barred from becoming the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.
- September 30 – October 1 – Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black orders James Meredith admitted to Ole Miss. Meredith enrolls; riot ensues. French photographer Paul Guihard and Oxford resident Ray Gunter are killed.
- October – Leflore County, Mississippi, supervisors cut off surplus food distribution in retaliation against voter drive.
- October 23 – FBI begins Communist Infiltration (COMINFIL) investigation of SCLC.
- October 14–28 – Cuban Missile Crisis.
- November 7–8 – Edward Brooke selected Massachusetts Attorney General, Leroy Johnson elected Georgia State Senator, Augustus F. Hawkins elected first black from California in Congress.
- November 20 – Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy authorizes FBI wiretap on Stanley Levison’s home telephone.
- November 20 – President John F. Kennedy upholds 1960 campaign promise to eliminate housing segregation by signing Executive Order 11063 banning segregation in Federally funded housing.
- January 18 – Incoming Alabama governor George Wallace calls for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" in his inaugural address.
- April 3 – May 10 – The Birmingham campaign, organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights challenges city leaders and business owners in Birmingham, Alabama, with daily mass demonstrations.
- April – Mary Lucille Hamilton, Field Secretary for the Congress of Racial Equality, refuses to answer a judge in Gadsden, Alabama, until she is addressed by the honorific "Miss". It was the custom of the time to address white people by honorifics and people of color by their first names. Hamilton is jailed for contempt of court and refuses to pay bail. The case Hamilton v. Alabama is filed by the NAACP. It went to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 1964 that courts must address persons of color with the same courtesy extended to whites.
- April 7 - Ministers John Thomas Porter, Nelson H. Smith and A. D. King lead a group of 2,000 marchers to protest the jailing of movement leaders in Birmingham.
- April 12 - Martin Luther King, Jr. is arrested in Birmingham for "parading without a permit".
- April 16 – King's Letter from Birmingham Jail is completed.
- April 23 – CORE activist William L. Moore is killed in Gadsden, Alabama.
- May 2–4 – Birmingham's juvenile court is inundated with African-American children and teenagers arrested after James Bevel launches his "D-Day" youth march, which spans three days to become the Children's Crusade.
- May 9–10 – After images of fire hoses and police dogs turned on protesters are shown on television, the Children's Crusade lays the groundwork for the terms of a negotiated truce on Thursday, May 9 – an end to mass demonstrations in return for rolling back oppressive segregation laws and practices. MLK and Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth announce the terms of the settlement on Friday, May 10, only after MLK holds out to orchestrate the release of thousands of jailed demonstrators with bail money from Harry Belafonte and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.
- May 13 – In United States of America and Interstate Commerce Commission v. the City of Jackson, Mississippi et al., the United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit rules the city's attempt to circumvent laws desegregating interstate transportation facilities by posting sidewalk signs outside Greyhound, Trailways and Illinois Central terminals reading "Waiting Room for White Only — By Order Police Department" and "Waiting Room for Colored Only — By Order Police Department" to be unlawful.
- June 9 – Fannie Lou Hamer is among several SNCC workers badly beaten by police in the Winona, Mississippi, jail after their bus stops there.
- June 11 – "The Stand in the Schoolhouse Door": Alabama Governor George Wallace stands in front of a schoolhouse door at the University of Alabama in an attempt to stop desegregation by the enrollment of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood. Wallace only stands aside after being confronted by federal marshals, Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, and the Alabama National Guard. Later in life he apologizes for his opposition to racial integration then.
- June 11 – President John F. Kennedy makes his historic civil rights speech, promising a bill to Congress the next week. About civil rights for "Negroes", in his speech he asks for "the kind of equality of treatment which we would want for ourselves."
- June 12 – NAACP worker Medgar Evers is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi. (His killer is convicted in 1994.)
- Summer – 80,000 blacks quickly register to vote in Mississippi by a test project to show their desire to participate.
- June 19 – President Kennedy sends Congress (H. Doc. 124, 88th Cong., 1st session.) his proposed Civil Rights Act.
- August 28 – March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom is held. Dr. Martin Luther King gives his I Have a Dream speech.
- September 10 – Birmingham, Alabama City Schools are integrated by National Guardsmen under orders from JFK.
- September 15 – 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham kills four young girls. That same day, in response to the killings, James Bevel and Diane Nash begin the Alabama Project, which will later grow into the Selma Voting Rights Movement.
- November 22 – President Kennedy is assassinated. The new President, Lyndon B. Johnson, decides that accomplishing JFK's legislative agenda is his best strategy, which he pursues with the results below in 1964–1965.
- All year – The Alabama Voting Rights Project continues organizing as James Bevel, Diane Nash, and James Orange work without the support of SCLC, the group which Bevel represents as its Director of Direct Action and Director of Nonviolent Education.
- January 23 – Twenty-fourth Amendment abolishes the poll tax for Federal elections.
- Summer – Mississippi Freedom Summer – voter registration in the state. Create the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to elect an alternative slate of delegates for the national convention, as blacks are still officially disfranchised.
- April 13 - Sidney Poitier wins the Academy Award for Best Actor for role in Lilies of the Field.
- June 21 – Mississippi Civil Rights Workers Murders, three civil rights workers disappear, later to be found murdered.
- June 28 – Organization of Afro-American Unity is founded by Malcolm X, lasts until his death.
- July 2 – Civil Rights Act of 1964 signed.
- August – Congress passes the Economic Opportunity Act which, among other things, provides federal funds for legal representation of Native Americans in both civil and criminal suits. This allows the ACLU and the American Bar Association to represent Native Americans in cases that later win them additional civil rights.
- August – The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegates challenge the seating of all-white Mississippi representatives at the Democratic national convention.
- December 10 – Dr. Martin Luther King is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the youngest person so honored.
- December 14 – In Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States, the Supreme Court upholds the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- February 18 – A peaceful protest march in Selma leads to Jimmie Lee Jackson being shot to death by Alabama state trooper James Bonard Fowler, who in 2007 is indicted for his murder.
- February 21 – Malcolm X is shot to death in Manhattan, New York, probably by three members of the Nation of Islam.
- March 7 – Bloody Sunday: Civil rights workers in Selma, Alabama, begin a march to Montgomery but are stopped by a massive police blockade as they cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Many marchers are severely injured and one killed. This action, initiated and organized by James Bevel, becomes the visual symbol of the Selma Voting Rights Movement.
- March 15 – President Lyndon Johnson uses the phrase "We shall overcome" in a speech before Congress on the voting rights bill.
- March 25 – White volunteer Viola Liuzzo is shot and killed by Ku Klux Klan members in Mississippi – one of whom was an FBI informant.
- June 2 – Black deputy sheriff Oneal Moore is murdered in Varnado, Louisiana.
- July 2 – Equal Employment Opportunity Commission opens.
- August 6 – Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed by President Johnson.
- August 11 to 15 – Following the accusations of mistreatment and police brutality by the Los Angeles Police Department towards the city's African-American community, Watts Riot erupt in South Central Los Angeles which lasted over five days. Over 34 were killed, 1,032 injured, 3,438 arrested, and cost over $40 million in property damage in the Watts Riot.
- September – Raylawni Branch and Gwendolyn Elaine Armstrong become the first African-American students to attend the University of Southern Mississippi.
- September 15 – Bill Cosby co-stars in I Spy, becoming the first black person to appear in a starring role on American television.
- September 24 – President Johnson signs Executive Order 11246 requiring Equal Employment Opportunity by federal contractors.
- January 9 – Julian Bond is seated in the Georgia House of Representatives by order of the Supreme Court after his election.
- June 12 – In Loving v. Virginia, the Supreme Court rules that prohibiting interracial marriage is unconstitutional.
- June 13 – Thurgood Marshall is the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- July 23 to 27 - The Detroit riot erupts in Detroit, Michigan, for five days following a raid by the Detroit Police Department on an unlicensed club which celebrated the returning Vietnam Veteran hosted by mostly African Americans. Over 43 (33 were black and ten white) were killed, 467 injured, 7,231 arrested, and 2,509 stores looted or burned during the riot. It was one of the deadliest and most destructive riots in United States history, lasting five days and surpassing the violence and property destruction of Detroit's 1943 race riot.
- August 2 – The film In the Heat of the Night is released, starring Sidney Poitier.
- December 11 – The film Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is released, also with Sidney Poitier.
- In the trial of accused killers in the Mississippi civil rights worker murders, the jury convicts 7 of 18 accused men. Conspirator Edgar Ray Killen is later convicted in 2005.
- The film The Great White Hope starring James Earl Jones is released; it is based on the experience of heavyweight Jack Johnson.
- The book Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools is published.
- February 8 – The Orangeburg Massacre occurs during university protest in South Carolina.
- March – While filming a prime time television special, Petula Clark touches Harry Belafonte's arm during a duet. Chrysler Corporation, the show's sponsor, insists the moment be deleted, but Clark stands firm, destroys all other takes of the song, and delivers the completed program to NBC with the touch intact. The show is broadcast on April 8, 1968.
- April 4 – Dr. Martin Luther King is shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee by James Earl Ray.
- April 4-8 and one on May 1968 - Riots broke out in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Louisville, Kansas City, and more than 150 U.S. cities in response to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- April 11 – Civil Rights Act of 1968 is signed. The Fair Housing Act is Title VIII of this Civil Rights Act – it bans discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing. The law is passed following a series of contentious open housing campaigns throughout the urban North. The most significant of these campaigns took place in Chicago (1966) and in Milwaukee (1967–68). In both cities, angry white mobs attacked non-violent protesters.
- May 12- Poor People's Campaign marches on Washington, DC.
- June 6 – Robert F. Kennedy, a Civil Rights advocate, is assassinated after winning the California presidential primary. His appeal to minorities helped him secure the victory.
- September 17 – Diahann Carroll stars in the title role in Julia, as the first African American actress to star in her own television series where she did not play a domestic worker.
- October 3 – The play The Great White Hope opens; it runs for 546 performances and later becomes a film.
- October – Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists to symbolize black power and unity after winning the gold and bronze medals, respectively, at the 1968 Summer Olympic Games.
- November 22 – First interracial kiss on American television, between Nichelle Nichols and William Shatner on Star Trek.
- In Powe v. Miles, a federal court holds that the portions of private colleges that are funded by public money are subject to the Civil Rights Act.
- Shirley Chisholm becomes the first African-American woman elected to Congress.
- January 25 – Shirley Chisholm becomes the first major-party African-American candidate for President of the United States and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.
- November 16 – In Baton Rouge, two Southern University students are killed by white sheriff deputies during a school protest over lack of funding from the state. Today, the university’s Smith-Brown Memorial Union is named in their honor.
- Unknown - The infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment ends. Begun in 1932, the U.S. Public Health Service's 40-year experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis has been described as an experiment that "used human beings as laboratory animals in a long and inefficient study of how long it takes syphilis to kill someone."
- July 25 – In Milliken v. Bradley, the Supreme Court in a 5–4 decision holds that outlying districts could only be forced into a desegregation busing plan if there was a pattern of violation on their part. This decision reinforces the trend of white flight.
- Salsa Soul Sisters, Third World Wimmin Inc Collective, the first "out" organization for lesbians, womanists and women of color formed in New York City.
- May 24 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules that Bob Jones University did not qualify as either a tax-exempt or a charitable organization due to its racially discriminatory practices.
- August 30 – Guion Bluford becomes the first African-American to go into space.
- November 2 - President Ronald Reagan signs a bill creating a federal holiday to honor Dr. Martin Luther King.
- September 13 – The film A Soldier's Story is released, dealing with racism in the U.S. military.
- The Cosby Show begins, and is regarded as one of the defining television shows of the decade.
- June 7 – James Byrd, Jr. is brutally murdered by white supremacists in Jasper, Texas. The scene is reminiscent of earlier lynchings. In response, Byrd's family create the James Byrd Foundation for Racial Healing.
- October 23 – The film American History X is released, powerfully highlighting the problems of urban racism.
- June 3 – Barack Obama receives enough delegates by the end of state primaries to be the presumptive Democratic Party of the United States nominee.
- August 28 – At the 2008 Democratic National Convention, in a stadium filled with supporters, Barack Obama accepts the Democratic nomination for President of the United States.
- November 4 – Barack Obama elected 44th President of the United States of America, opening his victory speech with, "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."
- July 19 – Shirley Sherrod first is pressured to resign from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and immediately thereafter receives its apology after she is inaccurately accused of being racist towards white Americans.
- African American literature section on Civil Rights Movement Literature
- Harlem Renaissance
- Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution
- Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights
- The Fire Next Time, 1963, by James Baldwin
- Nigger, 1964, by Dick Gregory
- The Nigger Bible, 1967, by Robert H. deCoy, foreword by Dick Gregory
- The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South (1972)
- Soul on Ice, 1968, by Eldridge Cleaver
- White Guilt: How Blacks and Whites Together Destroyed the Promise of the Civil Rights Era
Authors and artists
- Maya Angelou, author
- Gwendolyn Brooks, poet
- Alice Childress, playwright and author
- Paul Laurence Dunbar, poet
- Frances Harper, poet
- Harriet Ann Jacobs, author
- Jacob Lawrence, painter
- Walter Mosley, author
- Suzan-Lori Parks, playwright
- Henry Ossawa Tanner, painter
- Lucy Terry first known African American author.
- James Van Der Zee, photographer
- Phillis Wheatley, first published African American
- August Wilson, playwright
- Alvin Ailey
- Louis Armstrong, musician
- Josephine Baker
- Count Basie
- Angela Bassett
- Chuck Berry, essentially invented rock and roll
- Halle Berry
- Buddy Bolden, musician who contributed to jazz
- Godfrey Cambridge
- Ray Charles
- John Coltrane
- Miles Davis
- Ossie Davis
- Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Fats Domino
- Duke Ellington
- Laurence Fishburne
- Ella Fitzgerald
- George Foreman
- Redd Foxx
- Aretha Franklin
- Morgan Freeman
- Danny Glover
- Dick Gregory
- Jimi Hendrix
- Mahalia Jackson, singer
- Robert Johnson (musician), blues singer and guitarist
- B. B. King
- Eartha Kitt
- Gladys Knight & the Pips
- Little Richard
- Cleavon Little
- Don Mitchell of Ironside (TV series)
- Jelly Roll Morton, pianist and composer, says invented jazz in 1902
- Eddie Murphy, screenwrite, comedian, actor
- Leontyne Price, opera diva
- Diana Ross and The Supremes
- Nipsey Russell
- Bessie Smith
- Cicely Tyson
- Denzel Washington
- Muddy Waters
- Clarence Williams III of The Mod Squad
- Demond Wilson
- Oprah Winfrey
- Stevie Wonder
Activists and organizers
- Reverend Ralph Abernathy, 1950s-1960s activist and organizer
- Benjamin Banneker, author and surveyor
- Marion Barry, mayor
- Daisy Bates, activist
- James Bevel, 1960s activist and organizer
- Tom Bradley, mayor
- H. Rap Brown, Black Panther
- Shirley Chisholm, politician
- Bull Connor, infamous police official in Birmingham, Alabama during the 1950s and 1960s
- Curtis Cooper, president of the NAACP's Savannah Branch
- Angela Davis, activist
- David Dinkins, politician
- Bernice Fisher, union organizer
- James Forman, activist
- A. G. Gaston, businessperson
- Wilton Daniel Gregory, Roman Catholic bishop and prelate
- Richard G. Hatcher, mayor
- Benjamin Hooks, civil rights leader
- Reverend Jesse Jackson, politician and activist, candidate for President
- Maynard Jackson, mayor
- Martin Luther King, Jr., 1950s-1960s activist and organizer
- Bernard Lafayette, 1960s activist and organizer
- Reverend James Lawson, advocate of non-violent protest
- Floyd McKissick, 1960s activist
- Amzie Moore, civil rights leader
- Robert Parris Moses, educator
- Reverend Otis Moss III, minister to inner-city youth
- Diane Nash, 1960s activist and organizer
- James Orange, 1960s activist and organizer
- P. B. S. Pinchback, military officer and politician
- Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state
- Bayard Rustin, 1960s activist
- Cleveland Sellers, 1960s activist
- Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, minister and 1960s activist
- Robert Smalls, escaped slave and politician
- Charles Kenzie Steele, co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
- Charles Kenzie Steele, Jr.
- Carl Stokes, mayor
- Harold Washington, politician
- Walter Francis White, essayist and long-time executive secretary of the NAACP
- Roy Wilkins, NAACP organizer
- Robert F. Williams, NAACP organizer
- ^ "Slavery and Indentured Servants". Library of Congress, American Memory. http://international.loc.gov/ammem/awhhtml/awlaw3/slavery.html. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- ^ "John Punch". PBS. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/slavery/experience/responses/spotlight.html. Retrieved 31 July 2010.
- ^ "The American Revolution and Slavery", Digital History accessed 5 March 2008
- ^ Peter Kolchin, American Slavery: 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, pp.78 and 81
- ^ PBS documentary
- ^ The Life of Josiah Henson, Formerly a Slave, Now an Inhabitant of Canada, as Narrated by Himself: Electronic Edition.  page58
- ^ Wormley, G. Smith."Prudence Crandall", The Journal of Negro History Vol. 8, No. 1, Jan. 1923.
- ^ "Connecticut's "Black Law" (1833)". Citizens All (project). Yale University. http://www.yale.edu/glc/citizens/stories/module4/documents/black_law.html. Retrieved 2012-03-19. "Lacking no legal means to prevent Prudence Crandall from opening her school, Andrew Judson, a local politician, pushed legislation through the Connecticut Assembly outlawing the establishment of schools 'for the instruction of colored persons belonging to other states and countries.'"
- ^ "Morehouse Legacy". www.morehouse.edu. Morehouse College. http://www.morehouse.edu/about/legacy.html. Retrieved 16 March 2012.
- ^ John C. Willis, Forgotten Time: The Yazoo-Mississippi Delta after the Civil War, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2000
- ^ James D.Anderson, Black Education in the South, 1860–1935, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1988, pp.244–245
- ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 41. ISBN 0-465-04195-7.
- ^ Wolgemuth, Kathleen L. (April 1959). "Woodrow Wilson and Federal Segregation". The Journal of Negro History (Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.) 44 (2): 158–173. doi:10.2307/2716036. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2716036?seq=1.
- ^ Blumenthal, Henry (January 1963). "Woodrow Wilson and the Race Question". The Journal of Negro History (Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.) 48 (1): 1–21. doi:10.2307/2716642. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2716642?seq=1.
- ^ Angela Y. Davis,Women, Race & Class. New York: Vintage Books, 1983, pp.194–195
- ^ "America's First Sit-Down Strike: The 1939 Alexandria Library Sit-In". City of Alexandria. http://oha.alexandriava.gov/bhrc/lessons/bh-lesson2_reading2.html. Retrieved 2009-08-20.
- ^ "DIVINE'S FOLLOWERS GIVE AID TO STRIKERS; With Evangelist's Sanction They 'Sit Down' in Restaurant". New York Times (US). 1939-09-23. http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0A17FA3B54107A93C1AB1782D85F4D8385F9. Retrieved 2010-07-20. "[The workers] are seeking wage increases, shorter hours, a closed shop and cessation of what they charge has been racial discrimination."
- ^ Smith v. Allwright, 321 U.S. 649 (1944)
- ^ Morgan v. Virginia, 1946
- ^ David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009, pp.154-55.
- ^ The Virginia Center for Digital History
- ^ Clayborne Carson (1998). The autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Grand Central Publishing. p. 141. ISBN 978-0-446-52412-4. http://books.google.com/?id=GvuO5Yr1W_sC&pg=PA141&q.
- ^ a b c d The King Center, The Chronology of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. "1961". Archived from the original on October 13, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20071013062550/http://www.thekingcenter.org/mlk/chronology.html. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- ^ Arsenault, Raymond (2006). Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice. Oxford Univ. Press. p. 439. ISBN 0-19-513674-8.
- ^ a b c d Branch, Taylor (1988). Parting the Waters: America in the King Years. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. pp. 527–530. ISBN 978-0-671-68742-7.
- ^ Branch, pp.533–535
- ^ Branch, pp. 555–556
- ^ Branch, pp. 756–765
- ^ Branch, pp. 786–791
- ^ UNITED STATES of America and Interstate Commerce Commission v. The CITY OF JACKSON, MISSISSIPPI, Allen Thompson, Douglas L. Lucky and Thomas B. Marshall, Commissioners of the City of Jackson, and W.D. Rayfield, Chief of Police of the City of Jackson, United States Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit, May 13, 1963.
- ^ Medgar Evers.
- ^ Proposed Civil Rights Act.
- ^ March on Washington.
- ^ a b Loevy, Robert. "A Brief History of the Civil Rights Act of 1964". http://faculty1.coloradocollege.edu/~bloevy/CivilRightsActOf1964. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- ^ a b Civil Rights Act of 1964
- ^ Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
- ^ a b c Gavin, Philip. "The History PlaceTM, Great Speeches Collection, Lyndon B. Johnson, "We Shall Overcome"". http://www.historyplace.com/speeches/johnson.htm. Retrieved 2007-12-31.
- ^ When Harry Met Petula
- ^ James Ralph, Northern Protest: Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement (1993) Harvard University Press ISBN 0-674-62687-7
- ^ Patrick D. Jones (2009). The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee. Harvard University Press. pp. 1–6, 169ff. ISBN 978-0-674-03135-7. http://books.google.com/books?id=Wk2NylFxF4sC&pg=PA1.
- ^ http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2004/fall/channels-2.html
- ^ Bob Jones University v. United States, 461 U.S. 574 (1983)
- ^ CNN: Bob Jones University ends ban on interracial dating
- ^ CNN: Obama: I will be the Democratic nominee