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| Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63 || |
|May: At age 25, King gives his first sermon as pastor-designate of Montgomery's Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. ||1954 ||May: French surrender to Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu. Unanimous Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board outlaws segregated public education.|
|December: Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus, leading to the Montgomery bus boycott, which King is drafted to lead. ||1955 || |
|October: King spends his first night in jail, following his participation in an Atlanta sit-in. ||1960 ||February: Four students attempting to integrate a Greensboro, North Carolina, lunch counter spark a national sit-in movement. |
April: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee is founded.
November: Election of President John F. Kennedy
|May: The Freedom Rides begin, drawing violent responses as they challenge segregation throughout the South. King supports the riders during an overnight siege in Montgomery. ||1961 ||July: SNCC worker Bob Moses arrives for his first summer of voter registration in rural Mississippi. |
August: East German soldiers seal off West Berlin behind the Berlin Wall.
|March: J. Edgar Hoover authorizes the bugging of Stanley Levinson, King's closest white advisor. ||1962 ||September: James Meredith integrates the University of Mississippi under massive federal protection. |
|April: King, imprisoned for demonstrating in Birmingham, writes the "Letter from Birmingham Jail." |
May: Images of police violence against marching children in Birmingham rivet the country.
August: King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech before hundreds of thousands at the March on Washington.
September: The Ku Klux Klan bombing of Birmingham's 16th Street Baptist Church kills four young girls.
|1963 ||June: Mississippi NAACP leader Medgar Evers assassinated. |
November: President Kennedy assassinated.
| Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65 || |
| || ||November: Lyndon Johnson, in his first speech before Congress as president, promises to push through Kennedy's proposed civil rights bill. |
|March: King meets Malcolm X for the only time during Senate filibuster of civil rights legislation. |
June: King joins St. Augustine, Florida, movement after months of protests and Klan violence.
October: King awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and campaigns for Johnson's reelection.
November: Hoover calls King "the most notorious liar in the country" and the FBI sends King an anonymous "suicide package" containing scandalous surveillance tapes.
|1964 ||January: Johnson announces his "War on Poverty." |
March: Malcolm X leaves the Nation of Islam following conflict with its leader, Elijah Muhammad.
June: Hundreds of volunteers arrive in the South for SNCC's Freedom Summer, three of whom are soon murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
July: Johnson signs Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
August: Congress passes Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing military force in Vietnam. Democratic National Convention rebuffs the request by the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party to be seated in favor of all-white state delegation.
November: Johnson wins a landslide reelection.
|January: King's first visit to Selma, Alabama, where mass meetings and demonstrations will build through the winter. ||1965 ||February: Malcolm X speaks in Selma in support of movement, three weeks before his assassination in New York by Nation of Islam members. |
| At Canaan's Edge: America in the King Years, 1965-68 || |
|March: Voting rights movement in Selma peaks with "Bloody Sunday" police attacks and, two weeks later, a successful march of thousands to Montgomery. |
August: King rebuffed by Los Angeles officials when he attempts to advocate reforms after the Watts riots.
| ||March: First U.S. combat troops arrive in South Vietnam. Johnson's "We Shall Overcome" speech makes his most direct embrace of the civil rights movement.|
May: Vietnam "teach-in" protest in Berkeley attracts 30,000.
June: Influential federal Moynihan Report describes the "pathologies" of black family structure.
August: Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act. Five days later, the Watts riots begin in Los Angeles.
|January: King moves his family into a Chicago slum apartment to mark his first sustained movement in a Northern city. |
June: King and Stokely Carmichael continue James Meredith's March Against Fear after Meredith is shot and wounded. Carmichael gives his first "black power" speech.
July: King's marches for fair housing in Chicago face bombs, bricks, and "white power" shouts.
|1966 ||February: Operation Rolling Thunder, massive U.S. bombing of North Vietnam, begins. |
May: Stokely Carmichael wins the presidency of SNCC and quickly turns the organization away from nonviolence.
October: National Organization for Women founded, modeled after black civil rights groups.
|April: King's speech against the Vietnam War at New York's Riverside Church raises a storm of criticism |
December: King announces plans for major campaign against poverty in Washington, D.C., for 1968.
|1967 ||May: Huey Newton leads Black Panthers in armed demonstration in California state assembly. |
June: Johnson nominates former NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall to the Supreme Court.
July: Riots in Newark and Detroit.
October: Massive mobilization against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C.
|March: King joins strike of Memphis sanitation workers. |
April: King gives his "Mountaintop" speech in Memphis. A day later, he is assassinated at the Lorraine Motel.
|1968 ||January: In Tet Offensive, Communist guerillas stage a surprise coordinated attack across South Vietnam. |
March: Johnson cites divisions in the country over the war for his decision not to seek reelection in 1968.