Civil Rights Timeline
Separate drinking fountains for whites and blacks. "Colored balconies" in movie theaters. Seats in the back of the bus. Soldiers called out to protect little children who were trying to go to school.
It may be difficult to believe these were examples of conditions in America
less than 40 years ago. The struggle to change these conditions, and to win
equal protection under the law for citizens of all races, formed the backdrop of
Martin Luther King's short life.
Note: This timeline is not meant to be comprehensive.
|1954||Brown vs. Board of Education:
U.S. Supreme Court bans segregation in public schools.
|1955||Bus boycott launched in
Montgomery, Ala., after an African-American woman, Rosa Parks, is
arrested December 1 for refusing to give up her seat to a white person .
|1956||December 21. After more than a
year of boycotting the buses and a legal fight, the Montgomery buses
|1957||Garfield High School becomes
first Seattle high school with more than 50 percent nonwhite student
|At previously all-white Central
High in Little Rock, Ark., 1,000 paratroopers are called by President
Eisenhower to restore order and escort nine black students.
|1960||The sit-in protest movement
begins in February at a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C.
and spreads across the nation.
|1961||Freedom rides begin from
Washington, D.C: Groups of black and white people ride buses through the
South to challenge segregation.
|King makes his only visit to
Seattle. He visits numerous places, including two morning assemblies at
Garfield High School.
|1962||Blacks become the majority at
Garfield High, 51 percent of the student population - a first for
Seattle. The school district average is 5.3 percent.
|Two killed, many injured in riots
as James Meredith is enrolled as the first black at the University of
|1963||Police arrest King and other
ministers demonstrating in Birmingham, Ala., then turn fire hoses and
police dogs on the marchers.
|Medgar Evers, NAACP leader, is
murdered June 12 as he enters his home in Jackson, Miss.
|About 1,300 people march from the
Central Area to downtown Seattle, demanding greater job opportunities
for blacks in department stores. The Bon Marche promises 30 new jobs for
|About 400 people rally at Seattle
City Hall to protest delays in passing an open-housing law. In response,
the city forms a 12-member Human Rights Commission but only two blacks
are included, prompting a sit-in at City Hall and Seattle's first
|250,000 people attend the March
on Washington, D.C. urging support for pending civil-rights legislation.
The event was highlighted by King's "I have a dream" speech.
|The Seattle School District
implements a voluntary racial transfer program, mainly aimed at busing
black students to mostly white schools.
|Four girls killed Sept. 15 in
bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala.
|1964||Seattle City Council agrees to
put together an open-housing ordinance but insists on putting it on the
ballot. Voters defeat it by a 2-to-1 ratio. It will be four more years
before an open-housing ordinance becomes law.
|Three civil-rights workers are
murdered in Mississippi.
|July 2 -
President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
|Out of 955 people employed by the
Seattle Fire Department, just two were African American, and only one
was Asian --- 0.2 and 0.1 percent of the force, respectively. By the end
of 1993, the department was 12.2 percent African American and 5.6
|1965||Malcolm X is murdered Feb. 21,
1965. Three men are convicted of his murder.
|August 6. President Johnson signs
the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act, which King sought, authorized
federal examiners to register qualified voters and suspended devices
such as literacy tests that aimed to prevent African Americans from
|August 11-16: Watts riots leave
34 dead in Los Angeles.
|1967||Sam Smith elected Seattle's first
black city councilman.
|1968||Aaron Dixon becomes first leader
of Black Panther Party branch in Seattle.
|The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
is assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., unleashing violence in more than 100
|In response to King's death,
Seattle residents hurled firebombs, broke windows, and pelted motorists
with rocks. Ten thousand people also marched to Seattle Center for a
rally in his memory.
|Rally at Garfield High in
support of Dixon, Larry Gossett, and Carl Miller, sentenced to six
months in the King County Jail for unlawful assembly in an earlier
demonstration. Before the speakers were finished, firebombs and rocks
were flying toward cars coming down 23rd Avenue. Sporadic riots in
Seattle's Central Area during the summer.
|1969||Edwin Pratt, executive director
of the Seattle Urban League and a moderate and respected African
American leader, is shot to death while standing in the doorway of his
home. The murder has never been solved.
|1977||Seattle School Board adopts a
plan designed to eliminate racial imblance in schools by fall 1979.
|1978||Seattle becomes the largest city
in the United States to desegregate its schools without a court order;
nearly one-quarter of the school district's students are bused as part
of the "Seattle Plan." Two months later, voters pass an
anti-busing initiative. It is later ruled unconstitutional.
|In a blow to efforts to diversify
university enrollment, the U.S. Supreme Court outlaws racial quotas in a
suit brought by Allan Bakke, a white man who had been turned down by the
medical school at University of California, Davis.
|1989||Douglas Wilder of Virginia
becomes the nation's first African American to be elected state
|1992||The first racially based riots in years erupt in Los Angeles and other cities after a jury acquits L.A. police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, an African American.|