Civil rights history from the year you were born
Civil rights history from the year you were born
Every year a story plays out in American history that highlights the fight for civil rights in the United States. In the beginning of the 20th century, very few laws were put into place that protected the rights and freedoms of marginalized groups across the country. The historical events that took place from the Progressive Era to now all play a significant role in the free will, or lack thereof, seen and expressed today. While different groups have come a long way, and their success stories are not to be devalued, there are still issues such as racism, sexism, ableism, and other harsh criticisms that linger from the start of American history, proving there’s still a long way to go.
Civil rights are the political and social freedoms a person has in regard to their own livelihood. The term “civil rights movement” is widely associated with the progression of Black liberation during the 1950s to early 1970s. However, many groups in America fought for the freedom to have equal treatment then and for generations to come. Many people who lived through these tumultuous times, such as racial violence, terrorism, prejudices, and systematic oppression in the early to mid-20th century are still alive to tell their stories, while history continues to play out yet today.
History tells the story of these prominent figures, moments, and legacies that still heavily impact us. Stacker went back 100 years to compile a list of these historic moments from the women’s suffrage movement, to the fight against disability discrimination, LGBTQ rights, marginalized communities, and the civil rights movement. This list was put together from a number of online resources, crowdsourcing materials, and documentaries.
Take a look at every civil rights moment in history since the day you were born and their long-lasting impact on today’s society.
You may also like: Major newspaper headlines from the year you were born
1921: The Black Wall Street massacre
Coined “Black Wall Street,” this booming Black community in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was one of the most self-sustaining, financially prosperous communities in the early 20th century. At the end of May in 1921, white lynch mobs, some weaponized by city officials, bombed and brutalized the Black residents and businesses in the town, destroying the community with severe violence toward Black men, women, and children. The incident is described by historians as “the single worst incident of racial violence in American history.”
[Pictured: The streets of Tulsa with smoke rising in the background photographed on June 1, 1921.]
1922: The Cable Act
The Cable Act granted women the right to keep their American citizenship status if they married a foreign man. Before this, if a woman married a non-U.S. citizen, she had to take the nationality of her husband, thus morphing her identity into his. Though a stepping stone, there were still strict regulations surrounding the act and women’s right to keep their citizenship.
[Pictured: Immigrants being sworn in as naturalized U.S. citizens in 1928.]
1923: The Equal Rights Amendment is proposed
Though the Equal Rights Amendment was not made valid by the U.S. Senate until 1972, the National Women’s Political Party, an organization that fought for women’s suffrage, brought the amendment to light in 1923. The amendment seeks equal rights between men and women and prohibits discrimination based on sex.
[Pictured: Margaret Hinchey, Mrs. Murray, Josephine Casey, Marie V. Siegelpalton, and Myrtle Cain after leaving a petition with President Calvin Coolidge asking for immediate passage of the Equal Rights Amendment on Jan. 18, 1926, in Washington D.C.]
1924: The Society for Human Rights is established
Henry Gerber founded the The Society for Human Rights as the first gay rights organizaton in America. The group published the first gay civil rights publication called, “Friendship and Freedom.” Though the group withered away a year later due to legal “obscenity” charges against Gerber, the Henry Gerber House in Chicago, is now a National Historic Landmark.
[Pictured: The Henry Gerber House in Chicago, Illinois.]
1925: The Ku Klux Klan marches on Washington
This year was the height of the Ku Klux Klan’s popularity and white supremacists used fear, terrorist attacks, and racial violence to oppress Black people in America. More than 50,000 KKK members showed up to the march, dressed in their white robes and pointed hats, rallying against racial equality.
[Pictured: An aerial view of the Ku Klux Klan march in Washington D.C. on Aug. 8, 1925.]
1926: Negro History Week initiated
On Feb. 7, African American writer and historian Carter G. Woodson launched Negro History Week in celebration of Black activistism and African American history at that point. It is said that Woodson chose February to encompass both Abraham Linclon and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays. The week would later be extended to Black History Month.
[Pictured: Carter G. Woodson.]
1927: Supreme Court allows forced sterilization on disabled people
Buck v. Bell focused on a woman named Carrie Buck, who was targeted by the state of Virginia to practice eugenic sterilization after she was deemed promiscuous and unable to make intelligent decisions. Those in favor of the ruling stated that Buck’s “traits” would be passed down to other generations. The court ruling led to more than 70,000 people being sterilized.
[Pictured: A map of state sterilization laws from notes in "Eugenical Sterilization" by H.H. Laughlin, abstracted by G.E. Worthington.]
1928: Octaviano Larrazolo becomes first Latino US senator
Octaviano Larrazolo became the first Mexican American to serve in the U.S. Senate in 1928. Larrazolo centered his career and campaign on the defense and progression of Hispanic civil rights, opening the door for other Hispanic Americans.
[Pictured: Octaviano A. Larrazolo.]
1929: League of United Latin American Citizens gets its start
The largest and oldest Hispanic membership organization in the country, The League of United Latin American Citizens, was created to implement the civil rights, education, and employment of Latin Americans. With more than 134,000 members, LULAC continues to grow with its programming, scholarships, and activism.
[Pictured: Colorado Lt. Gov. Gordon Allott presidents a proclamation designating Feb. 14–20 as LULAC Week in Colorado to the state chapter of LULAC members in 1954.]
1930: Race during the Great Depression
Tensions across America were high due to the Great Depression and the jump in unemployment rates due to the economic crash. Many Black Americans were out of work and even forced to be fired by white Americans as long as white people were out of work as well. Lynchings in the South surged in numbers, and political advocacy from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) fell on deaf ears.
[Pictured: Throngs of unemployed waiting line to gain entrance to the Municipal Lodging House in New York City for the Sunday dinner.]
1931: The Scottsboro Boys Trial
Nine Black teenage boys were falsely accused of assaulting a white woman on a train in Scottsboro, Alabama, sparking an international outcry on the racial oppression, violence, and injustices against Black Americans. After a number of trials, eight out of the nine boys were convicted by an all-white, male jury. The event is credited to be the first hint of the civil rights movement.
[Pictured: The Black boys accused in the Scottsboro Rape Case under the protection National Guard on March 20, 1931, in Scottsboro.]
1932: The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis
The U.S. Public Health Service ran this experiment to test untreated syphilis symptoms on 600 Black men who were mostly poor and illiterate sharecroppers. The men were promised free health care in return for their involvement, but instead went untreated for the disease causing many of the men to go blind, experience severe health problems, or die, which caused many in the Black community to distrust those in medicine. In 1997, President Bill Clinton issued an apology to the surviving participants.
[Pictured: A doctor draws blood from a patient as part of the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in 1932.]
1933: Roosevelt’s New Deal
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal was a series of programs aimed at financial reform during the Great Depression. Though not the intended audience, the Black community was affected somewhat politically. Highly criticized for its economical influence furthering segregation, and for serving no actual progression against racial injustices, the programs allowed some exposure of political power to Black Americans.
[Pictured: Applicants waiting for jobs in front of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration office, New Orleans, Louisiana in 1935.]
1934: The Indian Reorganization Act
Often called the “Indian New Deal” mimicking President Roosevelt’s programs from the previous year, the act aims to encourage Native Americans to retain their culture and traditions in self-determination. Previous acts stripped Native Americans of their tribes and cultural practices. This came 10 years after the United States granted citizenship to the native-born.
[Pictured: John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, meets with South Dakota Blackfoot Indian chiefs in 1934 to discuss the Wheeler-Howard Act, later known as the Indian Reorganization Act.]
1935: Birth of the National Council of Negro Women
This nonprofit organization was founded by Mary McLeod Bethune with the goal “to advance opportunities and the quality of life for African American women, their families, and communities.” Among Bethune’s many accomplishments, she helped convert the Black vote from the Republican party to the Democratic party, fought to end discrimination and racial violence, and became the vice president of the NAACP.
[Pictured: Mary McLeod Bethune photographed in 1938.]
1936: Jesse Owens wins the Olympic games
In 1936 Berlin, Adolf Hitler planned to prove his beliefs that the Aryan race was superior to any other race in the world. Jesse Owens defied Nazi propoganda against Black people when he became a four-time gold medalist, representing the United Stated in the 1936 Olympic Games for track and field.
[Pictured: Jesse Owens at start of record breaking 200-meter race in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.]
1937: The Redlining Problem
Redlining is the systematic refusal of services to a specific area. The act is racially motivated and discriminatory as it pinpoints Black neighborhoods as “hazardous” on “residential security maps” for businesses and housing loans, and other economic welfare. Redlining was a major player in the racial wealth gap that exists to this day.
[Pictured: Residential Security Map grading Richmond, Virginia, for the Federal Home Loan Board dated April 3, 1937.]
1938: Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938
The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 mandated minimum wage and overtime pay in efforts to exploit cheap labor. The act at that time, however, excluded agricultural and domestic workers, and this included many African American laborers who were sharecroppers.
[Pictured: Construction Workers Union picketing for higher wages during the 1930s.]
1939: NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is formed
This civil rights organization became the legal aid to some of the most prominent U.S. Supreme Court cases involving Black people and racial justice in American history. The most notable case that it’s most known for supporting was Brown v. Board of Education. Today the foundation continues to focus on areas of Black progression in education, economics, politics, and criminal justice.
[Pictured: Attorneys George E.C. Hayes, Washington D.C.; Thurgood Marshall, special counsel for the NAACP; and James Nabrit, Jr., professor and attorney at law at Howard University stand together on the steps of the Supreme Court after winning Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, 1954.]
1940: US closes the Angel Island Immigration Station
Between the 19th century and the 20th century, immigrants from around the world came to America in search of a better life for themselves and generations after them. For about 30 years, Asian immigrants were detained at the Angel Island Immigration Station where they were interrogated under oppressive conditions. A fire destroyed the building in 1940.
[Pictured: U.S. Immigration Station at Angel Island, showing wharf and main buildings.]
1941: The Tuskegee Airmen
The Tuskegee Airmen were the first Black pilots to fight in the U.S. Air Force. The group’s many accomplishments disproved the idea that Black people could not operate sophisticated machinery and proved to be a starting point in the desegregation of U.S. military forces.
[Pictured: Tuskegee airmen Woodrow W. Crockett and Edward C. Gleed in Ramitelli, Italy, March 1945.]
1942: The Congress of Racial Equality is founded
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is a civil rights organization that played a pivotal role in the events of the civil rights movement, using nonviolent tactics to fight against race relations and Jim Crow laws. CORE is widely known for setting up rides as early as the late 1940s on the interstate transit, seating both Black and white people. These would later be known as the Freedom Rides.
[Pictured: James Farmer, national director of the Congress of Racial Equality, leads a CORE demonstration during opening day ceremonies at the World’s Fair on April 22, 1964.]
1943: The Chinese Exclusion Act is repealed
As an ally to the United States, China could not ignore the laws that were prohibiting Chinese people from entering the country. The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering the United States, until the Magnuson Act, which permitted 105 Chinese immigrants annually. The act became a blueprint for a country that once welcomed immigration from around the world.
[Pictured: A teacher at PS1 in Manhattan stands with newly immigrated students in 1964.]
1944: White primaries are struck down
White primaries began in the 1920s and were a way to prevent Black participation in political events in the country. The “whites-only” primaries were ruled unconstitutional after the U.S. Supreme Court case Smith v. Allwright. Lonnie Smith, a Black man, was denied voting rights and argued his 14th Amendment right—citizenship to all people born in the United States, and his 15th Amendment right, which granted Black men the right to vote.
[Pictured: Black Americans vote in the Mississippi Democratic Primary on July 4, 1946, for the first time since the adoption of the State Constitution in 1890.]
1945: First issue of Ebony magazine is published
Ebony magazine was the first Black-oriented publication to gain national success. The magazine was a response to the lack of Black representation in American media and highlighted a majority of Black entertainment, fashion, and sports stories.
[Pictured: John H. Johnson, publisher of Ebony Magazine and owner of Johnson Publishing Company in 1974.]
1946: The last Japanese internment camp closes
In response to World War II and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, people of Japanese heritage were confined to isolated camps. Japanese Americans, many of which were citizens, lost their personal belongings, their assets were frozen, and they were forced to relocate to the camps. After the war, the camps closed down, but many Japanese people still endured post-war prejudices.
[Pictured: The Santa Anita Assembly Center in California during the Japanese American internment.]
1947: Jackie Robinson joins the Brooklyn Dodgers
In the height of racial segregation, Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color line when he integrated into the Brooklyn Dodgers’ team. Before this, Black players were limited to the Negro leagues. For his accomplishments in the league, Robinson was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
[Pictured: Jackie Robinson poses with Brooklyn Dodger teammates during his first official game on Opening Day April 15, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York.]
1948: Segregation in the Armed Forces ends
The Army became the country’s largest national employer to minorities. There were about 2.5 million Black males registered in the draft, and more than 1 million Black men and women served in the armed forces during World War II. Yet, Black veterans continued to experience discrimination and injustices due to racial segregation. In 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981, which banned the separation of white and Black troops and other outright bans against Black people.
[Pictured: Segregated Marine troops in May 1963.]
1949: The first Black-owned radio station airs
Jesse B. Blayton Sr. made history in 1949 when he purchased WERD, the first black-owned radio station, in Atlanta. The radio station hosted relevant news to the Black community and held multiple interviews with Black professionals and civil rights leaders.
1950: The Mattachine Society supports LGBT community
An early LGBT activists group, the Los Angeles-based Mattachine Society protected the rights and freedom of expression for gay men. The group evolved as a response to the Lavender Scare, a time where people of the LGBTQ+ community were targeted in government positions. Members of the group offered support and legal help for charges against people in the community.
[Pictured: Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the driving force behind the Lavender Scare, chats with his attorney Roy Cohn during Senate Subcommittee hearings in 1941.]
1951: Robert Russa Moton High School walkout
Barbara Johns and John Arthur Stokes, both 16, led their classmates out of their segregated high school in response to the poor school conditions, becoming one of the cases reviewed in the Brown v. Board of Education decision to integrate Black and white schools. Virginia’s Robert Russa Moton High School became a National Historic Landmark in 1998.
[Pictured: The Robert Russa Motion High School historical marker in Farmville, Virginia.]
1952: Alabama accepts, denies, and reaccepts a Black student
Autherine Lucy was the first Black student to attend the University of Alabama. After applying to the segregated university in 1952, Lucy received her acceptance letter soon after, though she was rejected once officials learned that she was Black. After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, Lucy was able to attend the university, but she was not allowed to live on campus or eat in the cafeteria.
[Pictured: Autherine Lucy at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa in February 1956.]
1953: Baton Rouge bus boycott
This nonviolent protest was organized to fight against the segregated seating systems in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at the time. Black people were required to sit in the back of the bus, even when the front seats were not occupied. After the protests, the city allowed Black people to occupy seats in the front if there were no more seats in the back of a bus, as long as Black and white people did not sit next to each other.
[Pictured: Black residents of Tallahassee, Florida, use a carpool pick up station during the bus boycott on June 2, 1956.]
1954: Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education is widely known as one of the most monumental moments in Black history. This ruling established segregation in public schools unconstitutional and allowed Black students to integrate into better equipped and conditioned school systems. This ruling was the stepping stone to disproving the “separate but equal” sentiment in other services as well.
[Pictured: Nettie Hunt and her daughter Nickie sit on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court after the high court's ruling in the Brown Vs. Board of Education case on May 1, 1954.]
1955: Montgomery Bus Boycott
After the murder of Emmett Till, which took place in the same year, the civil rights movement was kicked off with the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where Black riders refused to ride the city buses in protest of racial segregation. Rosa Parks became the symbol of the protest after refusing her seat to a white man a few days earlier. A year later, the federal courts ruled that segregated buses violated the 14th Amendment.
[Pictured: Rosa Parks after being arrested on Feb. 22, 1956 during the Montgomery bus boycott.]
1956: The Clinton 12
Twelve Black students in Clinton, Tennessee, became the first students to integrate a public high school in the American South. Racial tension flared as the students made their way into the school, causing the governor at the time to get involved. Bobby Cain, a member of the group of 12, became the first Black student to graduate from an integrated school in the South.
[Pictured: A line of African American boys walk through a crowd of white boys at Clinton High School during the integration conflicts on Dec. 6, 1956.]
1957: The Little Rock Nine
Nine Black students were integrated into an all-white public school in Little Rock, Arkansas, as a test to the new Brown v. Board of Education ruling. The national uproar, violent threats, and racial bullying gained the event national attention and widespread exposure to the civil rights movement.
[Pictured: Nine Black students attending Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, are shown leaving the school under protection of National Guardsmen on Oct. 9, 1957.]
1958: The first Black newscaster on television
Louis Lomax was the first African American journalist to be shown on television. He was widely known to discuss issues surrounding, and brought awareness to, the Nation of Islam. Because of this, some white people learned of the religion, The Black Panther Party, and the teachings of Malcolm X for the first time.
1959: Motown Records makes its mark
Motown Records, founded in Detroit by songwriter Berry Gordy, left a cultural mark in the world of music as one of the most significant accomplishments of the 20th century with influential Black artists such as Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight, and many others. Motown was the largest Black-owned company at that time and worked to break down racial barriers in the industry. It also released Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
[Pictured: Motown’s The Marvelettes perform live with the Motortown Revue circa 1964.]
1960: The Greensboro sit-ins
Four Black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina, staged the first sit-in, a nonviolent protest that defied the racial segregation of public spaces, at the Woolworth lunch counter. The college students would not leave the counter until they were served and received many physical threats and abuse because of it. Diners slowly began to become integrated as a result of the nationwide protests that followed.
[Pictured: Civil rights protesters at a Durham, North Carolina, sit-in dated Feb. 10, 1960.]
1961: Freedom Riders
A group of white and Black civil rights activists began boarding interstate buses and journeyed into the segregated South in 1961. During the peaceful protests to end segregated busing, the riders—including the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis—experienced immense violence from white mobs and law enforcement. Eventually, regulations were put into place to desegregate the interstate transits.
[Pictured: A group of Black Americans get off the Freedom Bus at Jackson, Mississippi, on May 25, 1961, to protest against segregation.]
1962: Ole Miss riot
After James Meredith, a Black veteran, applied and was accepted into the all-white University of Mississippi in 1962, he was denied once officials learned of his race. In the riot that ensued when he attempted to enroll, two men were killed and more than 300 persons were injured. Meredith eventually graduated with a degree in political science from the university.
[Pictured: U.S. Marshals roll across the University of Mississippi campus on Sept. 30, 1962.]
1963: The March on Washington
The economic rights for African Americans in 1963 took a positive turn when a massive crowd of people marched to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. to fight against racial inequality and to hear Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech, which implored an end to racial hate in America and strengthening of civil and economic rights in the country. The emotionally historic moment is one of the most memorable of the civil rights movement.
[Pictured: Martin Luther King Jr., gives his "I Have a Dream" speech to a crowd before the Lincoln Memorial during the Freedom March in Washington D.C., on Aug. 28, 1963.]
1964: The Civil Rights Act
This act, which was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, prohibited the racial discrimination and segreation of all public spaces, schools, and employment. The bill outlaws all unequal practices based on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, and was a major achievement in Black history.
[Pictured: President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., and others, look on.]
1965: Selma’s Bloody Sunday
At the age of 25, civil rights activist John Lewis led a peaceful march for voting rights just months after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had passed. After the group crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, troopers responded with violence against the 600 protesters. Known as Bloody Sunday, the violence was caught on tape and aired across the country that night, bringing shock to many. This moment in time led to the Voting Rights Act, advancing the civil rights of Black Americans.
[Pictured: Police officers attack civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965.]
1966: The Black Panther Party organizes
In Oakland, California, Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party, an organization created in response to police brutality against Black Americans. They taught self-love, self-defense, and provided protection from white neighborhoods using the “by any means necessary” ideology. By the late ’60s, the organization had many chapters around the country and held multiple programs for the advancement of Black people.
[Pictured: The Black Panthers march in protest of the trial of co-founder Huey P. Newton in Oakland, California, on July 22, 1968.]
1967: Loving v. Virginia
This U.S. Supreme Court ruling stated that the laws against interracial love were unconsitutional. Richard and Mildred Loving, a Black woman and a white man, faced many problems before the courts dismantled the Jim Crow law, stating, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the state.”
[Pictured: Richard and Mildred Loving in Washington D.C. on June 12, 1967.]
1968: Fair Housing Act of 1968
After the assaisnation of Martin Luther King Jr., the Senate passed The Fair Housing Act, a law that prohibits discimination in rental properties based on race, religion, national origin, or sex, an outcome King had long fought for before he died. Black people were often subject to redlined low-income ghettos and rejected in white neighborhoods because they were Black.
[Pictured: A sign posted opposite the Sojourner Truth homes in Detroit, Michigan, February 1942.]
1969: The Stonewall riots
The chaos of riots broke out after police raided New York City’s Stonewall Inn, a gay nightclub in 1969. Same-sex marriages were illegal, and the public displays of affection between same-sex couples caused the community to be harassed. Prominent figures like Marsha P. Johnson, became political activists during the riots, which eventually led to the first gay pride parade.
[Pictured: A view inside the Stonewall Inn photographed in 2016.]
1970: Marching on to Christopher Street Liberation Day
Christopher Street Liberation Day, also known as the first gay pride parade in America, was the first anniversary celebration of the Stonewall riots’ victory from the previous year. The march promoted the progression of gay activism. The parade still occurs annually in numerous U.S. cities and globally.
[Pictured: A group marches up Sixth Avenue during the annual Gay Pride parade in New York City, June 29, 1975.]
1971: The right to busing in education
Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education highlighted the importance of busing outside of one’s district in order to promote racial integration in public schools. Many Black children were burdened by the long commutes to white neighborhoods, but without proper transportation, could not experience positive educational environments and curriculums. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a busing program was necessary for the change.
[Pictured: Students at the Roxbury School taken on Sept. 9, 1965.]
1972: Shirley Chisholm campaigns for presidency
Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman to run for president. Before her bid for the country’s top position, she was the first Black U.S. congresswoman in history to represent the New York district. Chisholm received strong support from Black women, but struggled to gain votes from Black men and white women and ultimately lost. While she knew her chances of winning were slim, she broke barriers in the belief that only white men could run for president.
[Pictured: Shirley Chisholm photographed on Jan. 25, 1972.]
1973: Women’s right to abortion legalized
The U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling stated that a woman’s right to choose to have a safe abortion was legal and protected under the privacy laws of the 14th Amenedment. Prior to this, having an abortion was illegal. Despite the ruling, overturning this right is still discussed among government officials to this day.
[Pictured: Norma McCorvey (Jane Roe) and her lawyer Gloria Allred on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1989.]
1974: Busing to desegregate in Boston
After implementing busing programs that took white students to Black schools and Black students to white schools in efforts to better support integration in Boston, protests ensued and buses carrying Black children were brutally attacked. Many white parents argued that they did not want their children to go to predominantly Black schools because they were “inadequate,” nor did they want Black children in predominantly white schools.
[Pictured: Accompanied by motorcycle-mounted police, school buses carrying Black students arrive at formerly all-white South Boston High School on Sept. 12, 1974, the first day of federal court-ordered busing.]
1975: US denies the exclusion of women from juries
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not independently stop women from participating in juries. This ruling was to promote widespread representation for defendants to have a “trial by a jury of his or her peers.”
[Pictured: A photo illustration of a jury of mixed race and gender.]
1976: Black History Month begins
Black History Month expanded on Negro History Week, and was officially and nationally recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976. Black History Month, which takes place in February, acknowledges the accomplishments of Black history and culture in the United States. The month emphasizes Black leaders and Black people’s fight against systematic racial oppression.
[Pictured: A Black History Month display at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Headquarters in Washington D.C. in 1978.]
1977: The National Women’s Conference
More than 20,000 people gathered in Houston in 1977 for the National Women’s Conference to promote equal rights between men and women. That year, The United Nations announced that it was International Women’s Year.
[Pictured: Women join hands at the end of the historic four-day National Women’s Conference in Houston, Texas, on Nov. 21, 1977.]
1978: Desmond Tutu speaks against apartheid policies
Desmond Tutu is an African theologian and activist who fought against the racial injustices of the South African apartheid. In 1978, Tutu was appointed as the general secretary of the South African Council of Churches, which expanded his reach. Tutu was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work.
[Pictured: Bishop Desmond Tutu speaks out on apartheid in South Africa at the National Press Club in Canberra, Australia, on May 3, 1984.]
1979: The Greensboro massacre
In November of 1979, members of the Ku Klux Klan ambushed civil rights activists at a Death to the Klan protest in Greensboro, North Carolina, killing five demonstrators and severely injuring 10 others. This explicit portrayal of racial violence further proved the racial injustices against Black people and the existence of the KKK.
[Pictured: A member of the Communist Workers Party, speaks at an anti-Ku Klux Klan rally in Denver, Colorado, on Nov. 11, 1979, following the Greensboro Massacre.]
1980: The Miami McDuffie riots
A three-day race riot broke out after white police officers allegedly beat Arthur McDuffie, a Black motorcyclist with a traffic violation, to death with a nightstick. McDuffie later died in a coma and the police officers were acquitted of all charges. Protests spread through downtown Miami, causing at least 18 deaths, more than $100 million in damages, calls for curfews, and National Guard intervention.
[Pictured: A Florida National Guardsman directs traffic away from the northwest section of Miami during the riots on May 18, 1980.]
1981: Andrew Young becomes mayor of Atlanta
Andrew Young was an early civil rights leader and a prominent figure in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He is credited with helping draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1981, he became the mayor of Atlanta and served two terms, implementing the ideals he fought for during the civil rights movement.
[Pictured: Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young being interviewed on Oct. 20, 1982.]
1982: The fight against environmental racism
In 1982, 6,000 truckloads of toxic waste made its way into a predominantly Black, poor rural neighborhood in North Carolina. After weeks of unsuccessful protests to obstruct the trucks from entering low-income neighborhoods, the truck deposited the toxins into the landfill. Drawing attention to the dumping of the waste was a milestone in the national movement for environmental justice for Black and brown people.
[Pictured: A protest against the proposed toxic waste dump in Afton, North Carolina, on Oct. 21, 1982.]
1983: HIV/AIDs discrimination is unconstitutional
This U.S. Supreme Court ruling was the nation’s first HIV/AIDS discrimination case. It ruled that under disability laws, it is illegal to discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. It also ensured the privacy and aid of those infected, keeping medical records private and using insurance to aid treatment.
[Pictured: Marchers during the New York City Pride Parade in June 1983.]
1984: Jesse Jackson runs for president
Jesse Jackson became the second African American to run in a Democratic primary. He was a prominent civil rights figure during the civil rights movement, marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, and being an activist for Black voices. Jackson would go on to run for president a second time in 1988.
[Pictured: Jesse Jackson delivers a speech during his 1984 presidential campaign in Chicago.]
1985: The bombing of MOVE
MOVE was a Black liberation group based in Philadelphia. It associated itself with the Black power movement, Black nationalism, Pan-Africanism and other Black movements. Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. ordered the bombing of the group after city officials believed the group to be a terrorist group, leaving 250 homeless and killing 11 people.
[Pictured: Aerial view of smoke rising from smouldering rubble where some 60 homes were destroyed by fire after a shoot out and bombing at the back-to-nature terrorist group MOVE's house in West Philadelphia on May 14, 1985.]
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1986: The Anti-drug Abuse Act
This act granted mandatory prison sentences for certain drug crimes. This is widely referred to as the War on Drugs that targeted Black citizens. Black American neighborhoods were the subject of heavier sentences due to crack cocaine usage, more so than drugs used in predominantly white neighborhoods.
[Pictured: A hand displays crack cocaine.]
1987: Civil Rights Restoration Act
The passage of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendements, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, prohibited discrimination against minorities and desegregated a large portion of the United States. Court actions and interpretation of laws in subsequent years diluted these civil rights statutes related to program funding and diminished their effectiveness. It was the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 that returned these statutes to their original Congressional intent across the country.
[Pictured: Eleanor Smeal, president of the National Organization of Women, and Edward Kennedy Jr., appear before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, March 19, to testify in favor of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987.]
1988: Protests for a deaf president
Students attending Washington D.C.’s Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf, marched and protested across the university until a deaf president was put in charge of the school. The then-elected president was the only hearing candidate up for the job and did not know sign language. The protest highlighted the students’ need for representation and equal treatment in the hiring process.
[Pictured: Hundreds of students block the entrance to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. on March 7, 1988.]
1989: The Central Park Five
Five teenage Black boys were falsely accused of assaulting a white jogger and were thrown into jail. The Central Park Five incident heavily restricted their civil rights as they experienced mistreatment in the criminal justice system, as well as harsh prison treatments for a crime they did not commit.
[Pictured: New York City Chief of Detectives Robert Colangelo at a press conference describing the attack on a female jogger in Central Park, April 20, 1989.]
1990: Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits the discrimination against those who have disabilities in all public life. It was created to combat the oppression of disabled people as well as prevent their inhumane treatment. ADA aids both mental and physical disabilities.
[Pictured: An image of an ADA sign.]
1991: Crown Heights riot
Racial tensions reached an all-time high between Black and Jewish residents in Brooklyn after a Jewish driver hit a 7-year-old Black boy and his cousin. Riots that killed two people broke out in the neighborhood after residents claimed medics catered to the Jewish man more than the children who had been hit.
[Pictured: Hasidic Jews at Lubavitch Headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on Aug. 24, 1991.]
1992: The Los Angeles Riots
In 1992, Rodney King, a young Black man, was brutally beaten by police officers in Los Angeles. Even with the evidence caught on film, the officers involved were acquitted on all charges. The reaction to the beating ensued violence across the city to defy systematic racial oppression and police brutality.
[Pictured: A crowd amidst the uprising in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, on April 30, 1992.]
1993: The Family and Medical Leave Act
This law was put into effect under President Bill Clinton and grants employees at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons. This allowed people to take maternal and paternal leave, become caregivers for a sick child or family member, and handle other health matters without the fear of losing their jobs.
[Pictured: Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act at the Department of Labor on Feb. 5, 2013.]
1994: Nelson Mandela becomes president of South Africa
Nelson Mandela is one of the most prominent figures to fight against the apartheid in South Africa. In 1994, Mandela became the president of South Africa. Among many other accomplishments, he is widely known as a symbol of post-apartheid liberation.
[Pictured: Supporters greet Nelson Mandela at his last rally before casting his vote during South Africa's first democratic elections on April 25, 1994, in Soweto, South Africa.]
1995: Racial gerrymandering ruled unconstitutional
Gerrymandering is the process of redrawing district lines in advantage or disadvantage of one’s party for the state’s electoral votes. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 addresses the racial injustices that involve gerrymandering to hurt the minority vote. The U.S. Supreme Court Miller v. Johnson case ruling, however, also deemed it unconstitutional to draw lines that are solely based in favor of the minority vote.
[Pictured: Demonstrators protest against gerrymandering at a rally at the Supreme Court during the gerrymandering cases Lamone v. Benisek and Rucho v. Common Cause on March 26, 2019.]
1996: Affirmative Action is abolished in California
Proposition 209, implemented in 1996, prohibits institutions from preferential treatment based on race or sex. Many argue the impact of the ban on Black and Latino admission into colleges and universities and the generational impact that could follow.
[Pictured: Young activists at a rally against California Proposition 209, which sought to overturn affirmative action in California on Oct. 27, 1996.]
1997: The Civil Rights Act of 1997
The Civil Rights Act of 1997 prohibited the federal government from giving preference to minorities and women in contracting and hiring. This act required all agencies to modify any existing policies they had in place including quotas, marketing efforts, and any other forms of “discriminatory affirmative action.”
[Pictured: Sen. Mitch McConnell holds a press conference to introduce the Civil Rights Act of 1997.]
1998: Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins becomes president of LWV
For years, Black women have been marginalized in the fight for women’s suffrage. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins became the first Black president of The National League of Women Voters in 1998.
[Pictured: The League of Women Voters registers a new voter during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018, in Stamford, Connecticut.]
1999: The shooting of Amadou Diallo
An unarmed, 23-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times by police officers, bullets from 19 of those shots hit him. Police say they fired at the West African immigrant because he looked like a suspect of an assault that took place earlier. The jury charged the four New York City police officers with second-degree murder, but they were later found not guilty.
[Pictured: People pay their respects at the candlelight vigil for Amadou Diallo, three years after he was killed by police at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx on Feb. 4, 2002.]
2000: Vermont legalizes same-sex partnerships
Turning points for LGBTQ+ rights began to make their appearance in the 2000s with Vermont legalizing civil unions and same-sex partnerships. The law divided the state at the time, but officials continued to extend marriage-like rights to the LGBTQ+ community.
[Pictured: The city clerk/treasurer of South Burlington, Vermont, holds a copy of the Vermont License and Certificate of Civil Union on June 30, 2000.]
2001: Florida voting rights are questioned in presidential election
The U.S Civil Rights Commission accused Florida of implementing prejudice on the voting right of Black citizens in the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The commission claimed to have evidence of damaged ballots from predominantly Black neighborhoods.
[Pictured: Students at a rally demanding a recount of dismissed ballots at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in Miami, Florida, on Dec. 1, 2000.]
2002: Bobby Frank Cherry is convicted
Bobby Frank Cherry was an American white supremisist and Klansman who was convicted for his part in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. A predominantly Black church was bombed one Sunday morning, killing four young Black girls. Cherry was sentenced to life in prison for his part in racial violence and the violation of civil rights.
[Pictured: Four Spirits statue in Kelly Ingram Park across the street from 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.]
2003: Affirmative action is constitutional
In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of affirmative action, the idea that race can play a factor in colleges’ admission decisions if it encourages diversity of the student body. This came at the favor of private and public colleges and universities to promote equality in the educational system by enrolling qualified, nonwhite students.
[Pictured: The University of Michigan's Undergraduate Admissions office photographed on Jan. 17, 2003, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, subject of the U.S. Supreme Court Case regarding Affirmative Action.]
2004: The first legal same-sex marriage
Two women became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Massachusetts. The year before, the U.S. Supreme Court found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, promoting one’s right to marriage.
[Pictured: Applications for marriage licenses at the City Clerk's office in Northampton, Massachusetts, on May 17, 2004.]
2005: Hurricane Katrina and the racial divide
The events in the Black community during Hurricane Katrina highlighted the divide in racial lines in regard to government responses, rescue, and resources. Racial inequality reared its head as Black neighborhoods perished and the elderly were more likely to die in the disaster. Victims of the disaster and their families are still attempting to recover.
[Pictured: Views of inundated areas in New Orleans on Sept. 11, 2005, following Hurricane Katrina.]
2006: Edgar Ray Killen is convicted of manslaughter
In 1964, three Freedom Summer riders—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—were abducted and killed while organizing Black citizens to vote. Edgar Ray Killen was one of the white supremacists who shot them to death. Killen was sentenced to 60 years in prison before his death in 2018.
[Pictured: A historical marker near the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi.]
2007: Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the house
In January 2007, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the House of Representatives. She is the first female elected to the position after years of women’s suffrage movements. She held her position until 2011, reclaiming it in 2019.
[Pictured: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at a swearing in ceremony for the 110th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 4, 2007, in Washington D.C.]
2008: Barack Obama is elected president
America saw its first Black president become elected in November 2008. The emotional, historic moment came as a victory and a sign of progression to many Black citizens who had once seen, expereicenced, or been traumatized by the racial injustices, violence, and discrimination.
[Pictured: U.S. President-elect Barack Obama stands on stage along with his wife Michelle and daughters at an election night gathering in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008, in Chicago.]
2009: Obama lifts travel ban on HIV-positive citizens
In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted the 22-year HIV travel ban that denied travel to the United States for people who tested positive for HIV. President Obama stated that this restriction was “rooted in fear rather than fact.” The travel ban was implemented as part of the stigma that surrounds the virus.
2010: Justice for Jimmie Lee Jackson
In 1965, a group of peaceful protesters, including Jimmie Lee Jackson, gathered for a march in Alabama to fight for the voting rights of Black people. They were told to leave by state troopers and later attacked by them. Jackson was shot and killed by James Bonard Fowler, a state trooper who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2010. Jackson’s case is said to have kick-started Selma’s Bloody Sunday event.
[Pictured: A marcher holds a poster of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a civil rights activist who was beaten and shot by Alabama State troopers in 1965, during the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march.]
2011: Don’t ask, don’t tell is repealed
The long history of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” act was repealed in 2011, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexal military members to be open about their sexuality in service. Before this repeal by the Obama administration, these members could serve in the U.S military as long as their sexual orientation was kept secret.
[Pictured: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network rally on Dec. 10, 2010.]
2012: The shooting of Trayvon Martin
While walking home from a convenient store, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer. The incident jump-started the Black Lives Matter movement and sparked outrage across America. The incident mirrored the racial violence against 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi 57 years earlier and modern-day lynching.
[Pictured: A demonstration in Washington on July 20, 2013, following the acquittal of George Zimmerman.]
2013: The Black Lives Matter movement begins
In the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder, three Black women—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—all contributed to the start of the Black Lives Matter movement, with the social media hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. The group now advocates against acts of police brutality and all racial violence against Black people.
[Pictured: People demonstrate in Washington on July 20, 2013, one week after the acquittal of George Zimmerman.]
2014: Black Lives Matter protests
The summer of 2014 was a period during which Black lives were taken numerous times due to police violence. Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner was killed by an officer’s chokehold—which was banned in 1993; 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed while playing with a toy gun; and many more Black names rang out during protests across the country. Organized marches were held on a daily basis in support of implementing legislation against police violence.
[Pictured: A rally on the campus of Saint Louis University on Oct. 13, 2014, in St. Louis, Missouri.]
2015: Black Lives Matter protests continue
Once again, social media gave exposure to the loss of Black lives due to racial violence in America. People like Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Walter Scott, and more, are all victims of police violence, something that would continue into the next year. White supremacist Dylann Roof killed nine Black people during a church service in what is now know as the Charleston Nine.
[Pictured: People take part in a rally on April 29, 2015, at Union Square in New York in solidarity with demonstrators in Baltimore, Maryland.]
2016: The Orlando nightclub shooting
In the summer of 2016, 29-year-old Omar Mateen walked into a popular gay night club in Orlando, Florida, and killed 49 people and injured countless others. The incident was one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. Mateen used multiple assault weapons during the attack, and was later shot and killed in a standoff with the police.
[Pictured: A memorial service for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shootings on June 13, 2016, in Orlando, Florida.]
2017: The Women’s March
The Women’s March began in 2017 shortly after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. The march partially came about as a result of a recording from Trump, made before he was elected, in which he made crude statements regarding women. After he brushed off the recording as “locker room talk,” thousands of women and allies gathered in Washington D.C. to begin the march, with additional groups joining in at marches throughout the country.
[Pictured: A view of the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017, in Washington D.C.]
2018: US Senate revisits anti-lynching laws
The Dyer Anti-lynching Bill was first introduced in 1918, but was voted down. Lynching laws were revisited 100 years later by the Senate, but did not pass the floor of the House of Representative. It would not be for another two years that the House would pass The Emmett Till Anti-lynching Act, which classified lynching as a federal hate crime.
[Pictured: James Cameron, the oldest living person to survive an attempt at a lynching, speaks during a press conference on June 13, 2005, put on by Senate members who passed a historic resolution apologizing for the body's failure to enact federal anti-lynching legislation.]
2019: Migrant detention centers at the US-Mexico border
During the Trump administration, immigration laws became a main focus for many American citizens that heightened the use of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and its detention centers. Reports of the centers being overcrowded with unsanitary and harsh conditions spread across the media. In 2019, 24 immigrants died while in custody.
[Pictured: Migrants are gathered inside the fence of a makeshift detention center in El Paso, Texas, on March 27, 2019.]
2020: The George Floyd protests
Protests around the world erupted after an unarmed Black man was handcuffed and killed by a white police officer who pinned him to the ground with his knee on his neck, despite Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe. Protests began in Minneapolis and spread globally, as a call for action against racial violence and solidarity rang through the media. This also sparked the call for justice for Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery.
[Pictured: Demonstrators march down Pennsylvania Avenue during a protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd, on June 3, 2020, in Washington D.C.]
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