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Civil rights history from the year you were born

  • 2011: Don’t ask, don’t tell is repealed

    The long history of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” act was repealed in 2011, allowing gay, lesbian, and bisexal military members to be open about their sexuality in service.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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