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Civil rights history from the year you were born

  • 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.]


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