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Civil rights history from the year you were born

  • 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.]


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