President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs executive order banning discrimination in employment by government defense contractors.


Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is organized in Chicago, Illinois.


President Harry S. Truman (read his Inaugural Address) establishes President's Committee on Civil Rights, which declares racial discrimination to be a national problem.

U.S. Supreme Court bans segregation in interstate bus travel.


CORE and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) sponsor the first Freedom Ride. Freedom Riders travel through the South to test Supreme Court decision banning segregation in interstate bus travel.

Jackie Robinson breaks baseball's color barrier when he is hired to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black to play major league sports in half a century.


Supreme Court rules that federal and state courts cannot enforce laws which bar persons from owning property based on race.

President Truman orders the integration of all units of the U.S. armed forces.


Members of CORE stage a sit-in at segregated facilities in St. Louis, Missouri.


In Brown v. Topeka, Kansas, Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court orders that blacks be admitted to public schools on a racially non-discriminate basis "with all deliberate speed." This over turns the doctrine of "separate but equal" facilities by acknowledging that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."


Successful boycott of municipal bus lines, in Montgomery, Alabama, led by Martin Luther King Jr., overturns local ordinance requiring blacks to sit in the back of buses. Similar gains are made in other Southern cities.


President Dwight D. Eisenhower sends federal troops to enforce the right of nine black students to enroll at Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the first use of federal troops to protect black civil rights in the South since shortly after the Civil War.

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is established with Martin Luther King, Jr. as its first president.

Congress passes a civil rights law creating the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a civil division in the Department of Justice.


Black students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College start sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina.
Sit-ins at segregated public restaurants and lunch counters soon spread throughout South.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded at Shaw University Raleigh, North Carolina.


Freedom Riders deliberately violate "white only" rules at drinking fountains, lunch counters, rest rooms and waiting rooms in bus and train stations in the South.

President John F. Kennedy establishes Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity.

Thurgood Marshall is appointed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Black students are admitted to the University of Georgia in accordance with federal court orders.


Several black civil rights organizations join to teach blacks in Mississippi how to register to vote. The effort is largely unsuccessful because public officials continue to apply poll taxes, reading tests and other arbitrary barriers.

James Meredith, a black student, enrolls at the University of Mississippi under protection of federal troops.

President Kennedy orders an end to discrimination in public housing built with federal funds.


Four black children are killed in Birmingham, Alabama, when segregationists bomb a Baptist Church.

Peaceful March on Washington attended by 250,000 people from around the country culminates in Martin Luther King, Jr. famous "I have a Dream" speech.

President Kennedy sends federal troops to enforce right of black students to enroll at the University of Alabama.

Medgar Evers, a field secretary for the National Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is assassinated in Jackson, Mississippi.


Voting Rights Act permits federal examiners to supersede local officials and register black voters in certain circumstances. By 1967, more than half of eligible blacks are registered in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia and South Carolina, enabling more black candidates than before to be elected to office.

Riots erupt in Watts, a ghetto neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

President Lyndon Johnson begins "War on Poverty," a series of programs to provide job training, housing, education, health care and other social benefits for the poor.


Thurgood Marshall becomes the first black Supreme Court justice.

Riots occur in Detroit, Michigan; Newark, New Jersey and other large cities.

First black mayors of major U.S. cities are elected in Cleveland, Ohio and Gary, Indiana.


Martin Luther King, Jr. announces plans for the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C., demanding employment for all Americans.

The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders issues the Kerner Commission report stating that America is "moving toward two societies, one black, one white separate and unequal." The commission recommends sweeping programs in housing, job creation and training, education and welfare.

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated. Urban riots erupt across the country. Ralph Abernathy succeeds King as head of SCLC and begins the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Supreme Court prohibits discrimination in rental and sale of all housing.


President Richard M. Nixon creates Office of Minority Business Enterprise to help blacks succeed in business ventures.


Supreme Court rules that busing children outside their neighborhoods to desegregate schools is constitutional.

Congressional Black Caucus is organized.

Jesse Jackson founds People United to Save (later Serve) Humanity (PUSH).


Equal Opportunity and Employment Act is passed, encouraging preferential hiring and promotion of minorities and women.


Detroit, Michigan, establishes an affirmative action hiring program in an attempt to balance the racial composition of the local police force.


Supreme Court decision in the Allan P. Baakke case legalizes the concept of "reverse" discrimination.


The Voting Rights Act is strengthened and extended for 25 years.


President Ronald Reagan signs legislation designating Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a national holiday.


L. Douglas Wilder is elected governor of Virginia, becoming the first black to be elected governor of a state.


Riots break out in South-Central Los Angeles, following a jury's acquittal of white L.A. police officers who had been videotaped in the beating of a black motorist.

Carol Moseley Braun becomes the first black woman elected to the U.S. Senate.