Black civil rights: Timeline of biggest Civil Rights action in the US

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The Black Lives Matter movement has gained huge momentum in the past few days since the death of George Floyd. Systemic racism, white privilege and the US black experience have been key focuses in recent protests. Express.co.uk has compiled a timeline of the biggest events in black civil rights in the US since slavery was abolished.

Slavery

Slavery came to North America in 1619 to meet with the growing labour needs in the colonies from white European settlers.

After 1619, when a Dutch ship brought 20 Africans ashore at the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, slavery spread quickly through the American colonies.

An estimated six to seven million people were enslaved and imported to the New World during the 18th century.

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Slavery was abolished in the USA

Congress outlawed the import of new enslaved people in 1808, but the enslaved population in the US almost tripled in the next 50 years.

By 1860, the number of enslaved persons had reached nearly four million, with more than half of those living in the cotton-producing states of the South.

The growth of the cotton industry led to skyrocketing demand for enslaved Africans.

Slavery was abolished in the US in 1865, but black Americans still did not have equality.

For instance:

  • The Ku Klux Klan attacked and lynched black people.
  • Segregation was still in effect meaning black people were not permitted to use white facilities such as schools and parks.
  • The 14th Amendment to the US Constitution granted newly freed slaves equal citizenship to white people, however, Supreme Court rulings meant facilities for black and white people had to be “separate but equal”.

1865 to 1950

From the official abolition of slavery, there were several attempts to improve the status of black people before the 1950s.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was established in 1909 which funded lawyers for black people who were treated badly by the courts.

But still white supremacy and systemic racism remained a core part of US society.

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The Civil Rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s

1954: Brown vs Board of Education in Topeka – a landmark case which reversed the “separate but equal” doctrine previously established by the Court. Reverend Brown and other plaintiffs won the right in the Supreme Court to send their children to a white school.

1955: Emmett Till, 14, is brutally murdered after it was alleged he whistled and made a flirtatious remark to a white woman violating the Jim Crow racial codes. In 2017, the white woman in question Carolyn Bryan admitted she had fabricated the most sensational parts of her testimony about Mr Till.

1955: Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat for a white person leading to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

1957: Nine black students attend white school Little Rock in Arkansas with military protection.

1960: Four black students in Greensboro, North Carolina, at a Woolworth’s lunch counter. It sparked a movement of sit-ins and later led to the creation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was founded in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 1960.

1961: In May the Congress of Racial Equality sent seven African Americans and six whites on a “freedom ride” on two buses from Washington, DC bound for New Orleans where they were attacked by angry segregationists and one bus was even firebombed.

1963: After campaigns of restaurant sit-ins, Freedom Rides on interstate buses and bloody civil rights marches, a quarter of a million people marched to the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream speech.

1964: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed giving the federal government more power to protect citizens against discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex or national origin.

1965: The Voting Act was passed making it illegal to do anything that might limit the number of people able to vote, such as making literacy tests mandatory before voting. Activist Malcolm X was shot to death in February of 1965.

1968: Martin Luther King Jr is assassinated leading to a wave of riots which destroyed many black communities across the US. The Fair Housing Act was passed making it illegal to discriminate when it came to housing.

The late 1960s and early 1970s: The rise of the Black Power movement.

The Civil Rights movement from 1972

1972: African American Shirley Chisholm of New York ran for US President.

1986: Oprah Winfrey launches a syndicated talk show.

1992: Riots spring up in Los Angeles after a California Highway Patrol attempted to pull an African American man named Rodney King over for speeding on a Los Angeles freeway. Mr King was on probation and had been drinking, led them on a high-speed chase and after he was caught and allegedly resisted arrest, four LAPD officers shot him with a TASER gun and severely beat him.

2008: Barack Obama becomes the 44th US President.

2013: The Black Lives Matter movement is created with the mission to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes”.

2020: George Floyd died in police custody. Video footage of his death during which he is heard begging for help and repeatedly saying he cannot breathe goes viral sparking worldwide protests about police brutality in the US.

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