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Interactive Timeline Beautiful Extension

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May 17, 1954

Brown v. Board of Education

Supreme Court hands down a unanimous 9-0 decision in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case, opening the door for the civil rights movement and ultimately racial integration in all aspects of U.S. society. In overturning Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the court rules that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.”

August 28, 1955

Emmett Till

Fourteen-year-old African-American Emmett Till is brutally murdered after reportedly flirting with a white woman while visiting relatives in Mississippi. For the first time, both black and white reporters cover the trial epitomizing "one of the most shocking and enduring stories of the twentieth century." The white defendants, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, are acquitted by an all-white jury in only 67 minutes; later they describe in full detail to Look magazine (which paid them $4,000) how they killed Till. His mother insists on an open casket funeral, and the powerful image of his mutilated body sparks a strong reaction across the country and the world.

September 4, 1957

Little Rock

Three years removed from the Brown v. Board of Education decision, Arkansas Gov. Orval Faubus orders the National Guard to stop nine black students from attending the all-white Little Rock Central High School. President Dwight D. Eisenhower intervenes by federalizing the National Guard and deploying Army troops to protect the students, stripping the state of power. Media coverage of the physical and verbal harassment the black students were subjected to is reported and broadcast around the world. In the end, they successfully integrate Central High.

May 4, 1961

Freedom Rides

The first of many civil rights “Freedom Rides” leaves Washington, D.C., for New Orleans. The Freedom Riders want to test the validity of the Supreme Court’s decision to outlaw racial segregation in bus terminals and through interstate bus travel. Angry white mobs – with the blessing of Alabama law enforcement – meet the convoy in Anniston and Birmingham, brutally beating the Freedom Riders and firebombing one of the buses.7

August 28, 1963

I Have a Dream

In one of the largest gatherings in the nation’s capital and one of the first to be broadcast live on national television, at least 200,000 civil rights protesters stage a March on Washington concluding at the Lincoln Memorial. The march is dedicated to jobs and freedom and takes place 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. The highlight of the event is Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.

July 2, 1964

Civil Rights Act

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964, mandating equal opportunity employment, and complete desegregation of schools and other public facilities. It also outlaws unequal voter registration requirements. Although it would take years for these changes to take effect in communities around the country, the law is a monumental victory for the civil rights movement.

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