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Civil rights history from the year you were born

  • 2001: Florida voting rights are questioned in presidential election

    The U.S Civil Rights Commission accused Florida of implementing prejudice on the voting right of Black citizens in the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush. The commission claimed to have evidence of damaged ballots from predominantly Black neighborhoods.

    [Pictured: Students at a rally demanding a recount of dismissed ballots at the Stephen P. Clark Government Center in Miami, Florida, on Dec. 1, 2000.]

  • 2002: Bobby Frank Cherry is convicted

    Bobby Frank Cherry was an American white supremisist and Klansman who was convicted for his part in the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing. A predominantly Black church was bombed one Sunday morning, killing four young Black girls. Cherry was sentenced to life in prison for his part in racial violence and the violation of civil rights.

    [Pictured: Four Spirits statue in Kelly Ingram Park across the street from 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.]

  • 2003: Affirmative action is constitutional

    In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of affirmative action, the idea that race can play a factor in colleges’ admission decisions if it encourages diversity of the student body. This came at the favor of private and public colleges and universities to promote equality in the educational system by enrolling qualified, nonwhite students.

    [Pictured: The University of Michigan's Undergraduate Admissions office photographed on Jan. 17, 2003, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, subject of the U.S. Supreme Court Case regarding Affirmative Action.]

  • 2004: The first legal same-sex marriage

    Two women became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in Massachusetts. The year before, the U.S. Supreme Court found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, promoting one’s right to marriage.

    [Pictured: Applications for marriage licenses at the City Clerk's office in Northampton, Massachusetts, on May 17, 2004.]

  • 2005: Hurricane Katrina and the racial divide

    The events in the Black community during Hurricane Katrina highlighted the divide in racial lines in regard to government responses, rescue, and resources. Racial inequality reared its head as Black neighborhoods perished and the elderly were more likely to die in the disaster. Victims of the disaster and their families are still attempting to recover.

    [Pictured: Views of inundated areas in New Orleans on Sept. 11, 2005, following Hurricane Katrina.]


  • 2006: Edgar Ray Killen is convicted of manslaughter

    In 1964, three Freedom Summer riders—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner—were abducted and killed while organizing Black citizens to vote. Edgar Ray Killen was one of the white supremacists who shot them to death. Killen was sentenced to 60 years in prison before his death in 2018.

    [Pictured: A historical marker near the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Mississippi.]

  • 2007: Nancy Pelosi is speaker of the house

    In January 2007, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi was elected speaker of the House of Representatives. She is the first female elected to the position after years of women’s suffrage movements. She held her position until 2011, reclaiming it in 2019.

    [Pictured: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi at a swearing in ceremony for the 110th Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 4, 2007, in Washington D.C.]

  • 2008: Barack Obama is elected president

    America saw its first Black president become elected in November 2008. The emotional, historic moment came as a victory and a sign of progression to many Black citizens who had once seen, expereicenced, or been traumatized by the racial injustices, violence, and discrimination.

    [Pictured: U.S. President-elect Barack Obama stands on stage along with his wife Michelle and daughters at an election night gathering in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008, in Chicago.]

  • 2009: Obama lifts travel ban on HIV-positive citizens

    In 2009, President Barack Obama lifted the 22-year HIV travel ban that denied travel to the United States for people who tested positive for HIV. President Obama stated that this restriction was “rooted in fear rather than fact.” The travel ban was implemented as part of the stigma that surrounds the virus.

  • 2010: Justice for Jimmie Lee Jackson

    In 1965, a group of peaceful protesters, including Jimmie Lee Jackson, gathered for a march in Alabama to fight for the voting rights of Black people. They were told to leave by state troopers and later attacked by them. Jackson was shot and killed by James Bonard Fowler, a state trooper who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2010. Jackson’s case is said to have kick-started Selma’s Bloody Sunday event.

    [Pictured: A marcher holds a poster of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a civil rights activist who was beaten and shot by Alabama State troopers in 1965, during the 50th anniversary commemoration of the Selma to Montgomery civil rights march.]


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