the ten most important moments

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The march on Washington, D.C.

  • August 28, 1963
  • 200,000 people
  • Martin Luther King, jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech
  • Artists such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez participated and performed
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Central High School

  • September 1957
  • Formerly all-white Central High School learns that integration is easier said than done.
  • Nine black students are blocked from entering the school on the orders of Governor Orval Faubus.
  • President Eisenhower sends federal troops and the National Guard to intervene on behalf of the students, who would become the "Little Rock Nine".
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Montgomery Bus Boycott

  • December 1, 1955
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • NAACP member, Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat at the front of the "colored section" of a bus to a white passenger, defying the southern custom of the time. In response to her arrest, the Montgomery black community launches a bus boycott, which will last for more than a year, until the buses are desegregated December 21, 1956.
  • As newly elected president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., is of utmost importance in leading the boycott.
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The Murder of Medgar Evers

  • June 12, 1963
  • Mississippi's NAACP field secretary
  • 37-years old
  • Murdered outside of his home
  • Byron De La Beckwith is tried twice in 1964 for Evers murder, both trials resulting in hung juries. Thirty years later, he's finally convicted.
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Brown v. Board of Education

  • May 17, 1954
  • Supreme Court rules on the landmark case, unanimously agreeing that segregation in public schools in unconstitutional.
  • Ruling paves way for large-scale desegregation
  • Overturns the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that sanctioned "separate but equal" segregation of the races, ruling that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
  • Victory for NAACP attorney Thurgood (pictured above, center), who will later return to the Supreme Court as the nation's first black justice.
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Civil Rights Act of 1964

  • July 2, 1964
  • President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction
  • Prohibits discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin
  • Also provides the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation
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March to Montgomery

  • Blacks begin a march to Montgomery in support of voting rights but are stopped at the Pettus Bridge by a police blockade.
  • 50 marchers are hospitalized after police use tear gas, whips, and clubs against them. The incident is dubbed "Bloody Sunday" by the media
  • Considered the catalyst for pushing through the voting rights act five months later
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Creation of the SNCC

  • April 1960
  • The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
  • Founded at Shaw University
  • Provided young blacks with a place in the civil rights movement
  • Later grows into a more radical organization, particularly under the leadership of Stokely Carmichael (1966-1967)
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Sweat v. Painter

  • Supreme Court case that successfully challenged the "separate but equal" doctrine of racial segregation established by the 1896 case Plessy v. Ferguson
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James Meredith

  • James Meredith becomes the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi
  • Violence and riots surrounding the incident cause President Kennedy to send 5,000 federal troops