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Civil rights history from the year you were born

  • 1991: Crown Heights riot

    Racial tensions reached an all-time high between Black and Jewish residents in Brooklyn after a Jewish driver hit a 7-year-old Black boy and his cousin. Riots that killed two people broke out in the neighborhood after residents claimed medics catered to the Jewish man more than the children who had been hit.

    [Pictured: Hasidic Jews at Lubavitch Headquarters in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, on Aug. 24, 1991.]

  • 1992: The Los Angeles Riots

    In 1992, Rodney King, a young Black man, was brutally beaten by police officers in Los Angeles. Even with the evidence caught on film, the officers involved were acquitted on all charges. The reaction to the beating ensued violence across the city to defy systematic racial oppression and police brutality.

    [Pictured: A crowd amidst the uprising in West Hollywood, Los Angeles, on April 30, 1992.]

  • 1993: The Family and Medical Leave Act

    This law was put into effect under President Bill Clinton and grants employees at least 12 weeks of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons. This allowed people to take maternal and paternal leave, become caregivers for a sick child or family member, and handle other health matters without the fear of losing their jobs.

    [Pictured: Former President Bill Clinton speaks at the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act at the Department of Labor on Feb. 5, 2013.]

  • 1994: Nelson Mandela becomes president of South Africa

    Nelson Mandela is one of the most prominent figures to fight against the apartheid in South Africa. In 1994, Mandela became the president of South Africa. Among many other accomplishments, he is widely known as a symbol of post-apartheid liberation.

    [Pictured: Supporters greet Nelson Mandela at his last rally before casting his vote during South Africa's first democratic elections on April 25, 1994, in Soweto, South Africa.]

  • 1995: Racial gerrymandering ruled unconstitutional

    Gerrymandering is the process of redrawing district lines in advantage or disadvantage of one’s party for the state’s electoral votes. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 addresses the racial injustices that involve gerrymandering to hurt the minority vote. The U.S. Supreme Court Miller v. Johnson case ruling, however, also deemed it unconstitutional to draw lines that are solely based in favor of the minority vote.

    [Pictured: Demonstrators protest against gerrymandering at a rally at the Supreme Court during the gerrymandering cases Lamone v. Benisek and Rucho v. Common Cause on March 26, 2019.]


  • 1996: Affirmative Action is abolished in California

    Proposition 209, implemented in 1996, prohibits institutions from preferential treatment based on race or sex. Many argue the impact of the ban on Black and Latino admission into colleges and universities and the generational impact that could follow.

    [Pictured: Young activists at a rally against California Proposition 209, which sought to overturn affirmative action in California on Oct. 27, 1996.]

  • 1997: The Civil Rights Act of 1997

    The Civil Rights Act of 1997 prohibited the federal government from giving preference to minorities and women in contracting and hiring. This act required all agencies to modify any existing policies they had in place including quotas, marketing efforts, and any other forms of “discriminatory affirmative action.”

    [Pictured: Sen. Mitch McConnell holds a press conference to introduce the Civil Rights Act of 1997.]

  • 1998: Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins becomes president of LWV

    For years, Black women have been marginalized in the fight for women’s suffrage. Carolyn Jefferson-Jenkins became the first Black president of The National League of Women Voters in 1998.

    [Pictured: The League of Women Voters registers a new voter during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018, in Stamford, Connecticut.]

  • 1999: The shooting of Amadou Diallo

    An unarmed, 23-year-old Amadou Diallo was shot at 41 times by police officers, bullets from 19 of those shots hit him. Police say they fired at the West African immigrant because he looked like a suspect of an assault that took place earlier. The jury charged the four New York City police officers with second-degree murder, but they were later found not guilty.

    [Pictured: People pay their respects at the candlelight vigil for Amadou Diallo, three years after he was killed by police at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Bronx on Feb. 4, 2002.]

  • 2000: Vermont legalizes same-sex partnerships

    Turning points for LGBTQ+ rights began to make their appearance in the 2000s with Vermont legalizing civil unions and same-sex partnerships. The law divided the state at the time, but officials continued to extend marriage-like rights to the LGBTQ+ community.

    [Pictured: The city clerk/treasurer of South Burlington, Vermont, holds a copy of the Vermont License and Certificate of Civil Union on June 30, 2000.]


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