.. governor George Wallace carries out a 1962 campaign promise to stand in the schoolhouse door to prevent integration of Alabama’s schools. Wallace confronts Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, who brought a proclamation from President Kennedy. At a second confrontation later the same day, Wallace withdraws and allows the black students to register. The following day, June 12, in Jackson, Mississippi NAACP state chairman Medgar Evers is shot to death as he returns home. Byron de la Beckwith of Greenwood, Mississippi is later charged with the murder, but his two trials both result in mistrials.
The March on Washington, on August 28, becomes the largest and most dramatic civil rights demonstration in history. More than 250,000 marchers, including 60,000 whites, fill the mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. King and other civil rights leaders meet with President Kennedy in the White House. King’s I Have A Dream Speech is the high point of the event. On September 15, a bomb explodes during Sunday school in Birmingham’s sixteenth Avenue Baptist Church, killing four little girls, aged eleven to fourteen.
This is the twenty-first bombing incident against blacks in Birmingham in eight years. No perpetrators are found. President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22. Upon assuming office, President Johnson urges the speedy passage of Kennedy’s civil rights bill as a fitting tribute to the murdered president. 1964 Time magazine names King Man of the Year in its January 3 issue.
In April, demonstrations begin in St. Augustine, Florida. Mrs. Malcolm Peabody, the mother of the governor of Massachusetts, is arrested. In May, King is jailed for demonstrating in St. Augustine, where protests meet violent reaction from white segregationists.
King witnesses the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2. This is the most far-reaching civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. Among other provisions, it guarantees blacks the right to vote and access to public accommodations. It also authorizes the federal government to sue to desegregate public public facilities and schools. In July, riots erupt in New York City’s Harlem after a fifteen year old black boy is shot by an off-duty policeman. The initial rioting is followed by uprisings throughout the summer in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, as well as in Bedford-Stuyvesant; Rochester, NY, New Jersey; Chicago and Philadelphia.
On August 4, the bodies of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner are found by FBI agents in a shallow grave near Philadelphia, Mississippi. All three had been shot. Chaney had been brutally beaten. Neshoba county sheriff Lawrence Rainey and his deputy, Cecil Price, are arrested for conspiring to violate the Civil Rights Code. Ultimately, Price and six others are convicted.
Sheriff Rainey is found not guilty. In September, New York City begins busing students to end segregation in public schools. King is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway on December 10. He is the twelfth American, third black and at age thirty-five, the youngest person to win the coveted prize. 1965 The Selma campaign is initiated on February 2, when King is arrested for demonstrating as part of the SCLC’s voter registration drive.
Several days later, a federal district court bans the literacy test and other technicalities used against black voter applicants, and on February 9, King meets with President Johnson at the White House to discuss voting rights. Jimmie Lee Jackson, a twenty-six year old black man, is fatally shot by state troopers during a demonstration in Marion, Alabama, on February 18. Three days later, on February 21, Malcolm X, Black Muslim leader, is assassinated at a rally of his followers in the Audubon Ballroom in New York. Eventually three blacks are convicted of his murder. On March 7, demonstrators in Selma are beaten by state patrolmen as they attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on a march from Selma to the state capitol in Montgomery.
That evening, Reverend James Reeb and two other white Unitarian ministers are beaten by white segregationists in Selma. Reeb dies two days later. The three men who are later indicted for the murder are all acquitted by a Selma jury. President Johnson addresses a joint session of Congress on March 15 to appeal for the passage of the Voting Rights Bill, which he submits two days later. In the televised address, he uses the slogan of the non-violent movement – We Shall Overcome.
On March 21, King and three thousand protestors begin a five-day march from Selma to the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery. By agreement, only three hundred are allowed to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and continue the entire way to the state capitol. They are escorted by hundreds of army troops and national guardsmen. In Montgomery, they are met by twenty-five thousand marchers. Mrs. Viola Liuzzo, a civil rights worker from Detroit, is shot to death while driving returning marchers back to Selma on March 25. The next day, President Johnson denounces the Ku Klux Klan and announces the arrests of four Klan members in connection with the murder.
On March 30, the House Un-American Activities Committee opens a full investigation of the Klan and its shocking crimes. On August 6, President Johnson signs the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Six days of rioting break out in Watts, the black gheto of Los Angeles, on August 11, leaving thirty-five dead. More than thirty-five hundred people are arrested in one of the worst riot in the nation’s history. 1966 Robert Weaver, named head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, becomes the first black to serve in a presidential cabinet, and Constance Baker Motley becomes the first black woman to be named a federal judge.
In February, King and his family move into a tenement apartment in Chicago to initiate the Chicago Project. The SCLC joins forces with Al Raby’s Coordinating Council of Community Organizations. King meets with Black Muslim leader Elijah Muhammad in Chicago. On May 4, more than 80 percent of Alabama’s registered blacks vote in the Alabama Democratic primary. The first major black vote since Reconstruction causes sheriffs James Clark of Selma and Al Lingo of Birmingham to lose their offices. James Meredith is shot on June 6 – the first day of his 220 mile March Against Fear from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. King and other civil rights leaders decide to continue the march.
In Greenwood, Mississippi, Stokely Carmichael, the newly elected head of SNCC, and Willie Ricks use the slogan Black Power for the first time in front of reporters. Designating July 10 Freedom Sunday, King initiates a drive to make Chicago an open city, demanding an end to discrimination in housing, schools and employment. Rioting erupts on Chicago’s West Side on July 12. Two black youths are killed. King begins negotiations with Mayor Richard Daley. Illinois governor Otto Kerner orders four thousand National Guardsmen to Chicago. On August 5, King is assaulted with stones as he leads marchers through Chicago’s Southwest Side.
SNCC and CORE march on Chicago’s Cicero suburb on September 4. King and SCLC do not participate. Two hundred blacks, protected by National Guardsmen, are fiercely attacked and forced to retreat. 1967 On February 15, President Johnson proposes the 1967 Civil Rights Act to Congress, including a strong open-housing provision. The bill does not pass, but similar provisions are later incorporated in the 1968 Civil Rights Act. At a news conference in New York on April 16, King warns that at least ten cities could explode in racial violence this summer because conditions that caused riots last summer still exist.
On June 2, riots begin in the Roxbury section of Boston. More than 60 people are injured, and nearly 100 are arrested. Before the summer is over, riots occur in Neward, Detroit, Milwaukee, and more than 30 other American cities. In Detroit alone, 43 die and 324 are injured. In an historic ruling on June 19, a federal judge orders schools in Washington, D.C. to end de facto segregation by the fall semester.
On July 26, King, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, and Whitney Young issue a joint statement appealing for an end to the riots, which have proved ineffective and damaging to the civil cause and the entire nation. The following day, the president appoints Governor Kerner of Illinois and Mayor Lindsay of New York to head a riot commission to investigate the cause of disorders and recommend means of preventing or containing them in the future. On November 7, Carl Strokes is elected mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, the first black elected mayor of a major U.S. city. On November 27, King announces the inception of the Poor People’s Campaign, focusing on jobs and freedom for poor people -black and white.
1968 On February 12, sanitation workers go on strike in Memphis, Tennessee. King leads a demonstration in Memphis on March 28 in support of the striking sanitation workers. When the march becomes violent, one black is killed and more than fifty people are injured. King leaves Memphis distressed over the violence. He returns April 3 in the hopes of leading a peaceful march.
He tells a crowd at the Memphis Masonic Temple, I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land. The following day, April 4, Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated in the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis. He dies at St. Joseph’s Hospital of a gunshot wound in the neck.
Rioting in Washington’s black section is the most in the capital’s history. The President declares April 7 a national day of mourning for King. On April 8, Coretta Scott King assumes her husband’s place leading a massive silent march through the streets of Memphis. Thousands of people attend King’s funeral on April 9 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Millions more watch on television. The 1968 Civil Right Act prohibiting racial discrimination in the sale or rental or housing is passed by Congress on April 11.