Skip to main content

Main Area


Civil rights history from the year you were born

  • 1981: Andrew Young becomes mayor of Atlanta

    Andrew Young was an early civil rights leader and a prominent figure in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference alongside Martin Luther King Jr. He is credited with helping draft the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In 1981, he became the mayor of Atlanta and served two terms, implementing the ideals he fought for during the civil rights movement.

    [Pictured: Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young being interviewed on Oct. 20, 1982.]

  • 1982: The fight against environmental racism

    In 1982, 6,000 truckloads of toxic waste made its way into a predominantly Black, poor rural neighborhood in North Carolina. After weeks of unsuccessful protests to obstruct the trucks from entering low-income neighborhoods, the truck deposited the toxins into the landfill. Drawing attention to the dumping of the waste was a milestone in the national movement for environmental justice for Black and brown people.

    [Pictured: A protest against the proposed toxic waste dump in Afton, North Carolina, on Oct. 21, 1982.]

  • 1983: HIV/AIDs discrimination is unconstitutional

    This U.S. Supreme Court ruling was the nation’s first HIV/AIDS discrimination case. It ruled that under disability laws, it is illegal to discriminate against people with HIV/AIDS. It also ensured the privacy and aid of those infected, keeping medical records private and using insurance to aid treatment.

    [Pictured: Marchers during the New York City Pride Parade in June 1983.]

  • 1984: Jesse Jackson runs for president

    Jesse Jackson became the second African American to run in a Democratic primary. He was a prominent civil rights figure during the civil rights movement, marching with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Alabama, and being an activist for Black voices. Jackson would go on to run for president a second time in 1988.

    [Pictured: Jesse Jackson delivers a speech during his 1984 presidential campaign in Chicago.]

  • 1985: The bombing of MOVE

    MOVE was a Black liberation group based in Philadelphia. It associated itself with the Black power movement, Black nationalism, Pan-Africanism and other Black movements. Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr. ordered the bombing of the group after city officials believed the group to be a terrorist group, leaving 250 homeless and killing 11 people.

    [Pictured: Aerial view of smoke rising from smouldering rubble where some 60 homes were destroyed by fire after a shoot out and bombing at the back-to-nature terrorist group MOVE's house in West Philadelphia on May 14, 1985.]

    You may also like: How top Democratic candidates compare on major issues

  • 1986: The Anti-drug Abuse Act

    This act granted mandatory prison sentences for certain drug crimes. This is widely referred to as the War on Drugs that targeted Black citizens. Black American neighborhoods were the subject of heavier sentences due to crack cocaine usage, more so than drugs used in predominantly white neighborhoods.

    [Pictured: A hand displays crack cocaine.]

  • 1987: Civil Rights Restoration Act

    The passage of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendements, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, prohibited discrimination against minorities and desegregated a large portion of the United States. Court actions and interpretation of laws in subsequent years diluted these civil rights statutes related to program funding and diminished their effectiveness. It was the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987 that returned these statutes to their original Congressional intent across the country.

    [Pictured: Eleanor Smeal, president of the National Organization of Women, and Edward Kennedy Jr., appear before the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, March 19, to testify in favor of the Civil Rights Restoration Act of 1987.]

  • 1988: Protests for a deaf president

    Students attending Washington D.C.’s Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf, marched and protested across the university until a deaf president was put in charge of the school. The then-elected president was the only hearing candidate up for the job and did not know sign language. The protest highlighted the students’ need for representation and equal treatment in the hiring process.

    [Pictured: Hundreds of students block the entrance to Gallaudet University in Washington D.C. on March 7, 1988.]

  • 1989: The Central Park Five

    Five teenage Black boys were falsely accused of assaulting a white jogger and were thrown into jail. The Central Park Five incident heavily restricted their civil rights as they experienced mistreatment in the criminal justice system, as well as harsh prison treatments for a crime they did not commit.

    [Pictured: New York City Chief of Detectives Robert Colangelo at a press conference describing the attack on a female jogger in Central Park, April 20, 1989.]

  • 1990: Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990

    The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits the discrimination against those who have disabilities in all public life. It was created to combat the oppression of disabled people as well as prevent their inhumane treatment. ADA aids both mental and physical disabilities.

    [Pictured: An image of an ADA sign.]


2018 All rights reserved.