March Towards Equality

A century after the Civil War, the civil rights struggle of the 1960s forced the nation to confront its failed policy of 'separate but equal.'


Fifteen Picketed Howard Johnson, New York City, 1962 (gelatin silver print)/ Indianapolis Museum of Ar
The struggle for equal rights for African-Americans during the mid-20th century was a long and difficult process. We cannot begin to do this topic justice in this format, so instead we offer a general timeline of major events and people along with links to material and images in the Bridgeman archive. We'd be happy to assist with research for any upcoming projects, just email requests to

1954 The landmark case, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. Supreme Court justices declared segregation in schools unconstitutional, overturning a law from 1896 which upheld the constitutionality of 'separate but equal.'

1955 Rosa Parks was jailed after refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus to a white rider. Park's actions triggered a successful year-long boycott of the bus system by her peers which crippled the finances of Montgomery's transit system.

1957 The Federal government uses military force to escort a group of children known as the Little Rock Nine, into Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.

1960 Four African-American college students hold a sit-in to integrate a Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, NC, launching a series of similar protests across the South.

Identification, Rosa, 2001 (oil on canvas) by Colin Bootman
The March on Washington: A Crowd of Seated Marchers, 28th August 1963 (b/w photo) by Nat Herz

1961 The first Freedom Ride is organized by the Congress of Racial Equality, an organization dedicated to non-violence, to try to integrate interstate public bus travel.

1962 Malcolm X becomes the minister of the Nation of Islam. As an advocate of African-American pride and separatism he rejects the non-violent civil rights movement and it's advances towards integration.

1963 Martin Luther King Jr. gives his 'I Have a Dream' speech in Washington, D.C. at the March on Washington, the largest civil rights demonstration of all time.

1963 Four African-American girls are killed in the bombing of a Baptist church in Birmingham, Alabama by a KKK splinter group. The tragedy contributed to support for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

1964 The SNCC, CORE and the NAACP organize a massive voter registration drive in Mississippi. During the event, known as the 'Freedom Summer,' three workers were murdered. Black voter registration rose from 7% to 67% in the five months following.

1964 Romare Bearden, one of the greatest modern African-American artists, completes his Black-aesthetic collage series 'Projections.'

1964 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act into law, which gives the federal government power to prosecute discrimination in employment, voting and education.

1964 Martin Luther King, Jr. is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

1965 A year after separating from the Nation of Islam, Malcom X is assassinated in New York by gunmen affiliated with the organization.

1967 Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African-American justice on the Supreme Court.

1968 Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

1971 Rev. Jesse Jackson founded Operation PUSH (People United to Serve Humanity), an influential movement emphasizing the economic and educational advancement of African-Americans.

1971 Fifteen African-American members of Congress formed the Congressional Black Caucus in order to present a unified voice in Congress. 

Malcolm X, 1968 (screenprint on plexiglass) by Bernard Rancillac/ Musee Cantini, Marseille, France / DACS



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