Historical Timeline

This is a historical timeline of key events, movements, legislation, and other milestones in the long struggle for racial justice in the United States. It provides context for all Bending the Arc Project films and stories. Each timeline entry links to additional information and resources for further learning, including videos featuring Alabama historians.

\

1619

The White Lion

This English privateer ship brought the first 20-30 enslaved Africans to what would eventually be the United States, marking the beginning of a legalized system of full-blown chattel slavery.

I
more info

 16th–19th centuries

THE MIDDLE PASSAGE:
The Transatlantic Slave Trade

From about 1518 to the mid-19th century, 12.5 million enslaved African men, women, and children made the brutal 21-to-90-day voyage to the Americas aboard overcrowded ships manned by crews mostly from Portugal, Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and France.

\
\

1790-1865

The Domestic Slave Trade

When Congress outlawed the transatlantic slave trade beginning in 1808, enslavers chose to perpetuate slavery by forcing reproduction in the local slave population and by domestic trade. As a result of the increased demand for slave labor due to the booming cotton industry, an estimated one million enslaved people were forcibly transferred from the upper South to the lower South between 1810 and 1860.

1788

THE US CONSTITUTION:
Freedom, Power, and Servitude

The word “slavery” doesn’t appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution; but despite the absence of the word, the institution of slavery is all over the document.

\
\

1793

THE INVENTION OF THE COTTON GIN:
Slave Labor in the Global Economy

Eli Whitney designed the cotton gin as a machine to help save labor for harvesting cotton. Ironically, enslavers used the cotton gin to uphold and expand the institution of slavery, allowing it to become an even more dominant feature of the Southern economy.

I
more info

1791-1804

THE HAITIAN SLAVE REVOLT

This revolution represented the largest slave uprising since the unsuccessful revolt of Spartacus against the Roman Republic nearly 1,900 years earlier. It challenged long-held European beliefs about alleged Black inferiority and about enslaved people’s ability to achieve and maintain their own freedom.

\
\

1800-1831

SLAVE REVOLTS IN THE US

Like the self-liberated enslaved people who fought against French colonial rule in what is now Haiti, enslaved people in the U.S.—including Gabriel Prosser in Virginia in 1800, Denmark Vesey in South Carolina in 1822, and Nat Turner in Virginia in 1831—launched revolts that, while unsuccessful, were important forces in the fight for freedom.

I
more info

1820

THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE

By passing this law, the U.S. Congress admitted Missouri to the Union as a state that allowed slavery, while admitting Maine as a free state. It also banned slavery from the remaining Louisiana Purchase lands located north of the southern border of Missouri.

\
\

1830-1850

THE TRAIL OF TEARS AND SLAVERY:
Tragedies in Lockstep

This was the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of approximately 60,000 people of the “Five Civilized Tribes” of indigenous people between 1830 and 1850 by the United States government. These five nations were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to newly designated Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.

I
more info

1833-1865

THE ABOLITION MOVEMENT

In the very picture of contrast, the movement to abolish slavery—and the Underground Railroad—developed while those who believed in the institution were passing federal laws allowing the capture and return of runaway enslaved people within the U.S.

\
\

1857

THE DRED SCOTT DECISION:
“Separate but Equal”

This Supreme Court decision went well beyond the issue of Dred Scott’s right to freedom. The Court attempted to quash the debate once and for all between North and South over the issue of slavery, saying that Congress had no authority to regulate slavery in the territories. The decision relegated all Blacks to a permanent legal status of inferiority, dashing the hopes of antislavery reformers.

I
more info

1858

THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES:
Foreshadowing the Civil War

Thousands of spectators and newspaper reporters from around the country watched as incumbent Illinois Democratic U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas squared off with Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln in a series of seven debates. They debated slavery and the battle over its extension into new territories, making for a lively discussion.

\
\

1859

JOHN BROWN’S RAID ON HARPER’S FERRY

On the night of October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a small group in a raid against a federal armory in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an attempt to start an armed revolt of enslaved people and destroy the institution of slavery.

I
more info

1860

THE CLOTILDA:
The Last Slave Ship

The schooner Clotilda was the last known U.S. slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States, arriving at Mobile Bay in autumn 1859 or July 9, 1860. Although U.S. involvement in the Atlantic slave trade had been banned by Congress, the practice continued illegally, especially through slave traders based in New York. The sponsors of the Clotilda’s voyage were based in the South.

\
\

1860-1861

PREFACE TO THE CIVIL WAR:
The Fall of a House Divided

Despite not being on the ballot in 10 states, Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election. His victory triggered declarations of secession by seven slave states of the Deep South; the economies of all of these states were based on cotton that was cultivated by enslaved labor. They formed the Confederate States of America (CSA) after Lincoln was elected in November 1860, before he took office in March 1861.

I
more info

1861-1865

AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN THE CIVIL WAR

It wasn’t until January 1863 that the U.S. government would recruit African- Americans for the army. Harriet Tubman was one of those recruits. While best known for her legendary exploits leading enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad, Tubman played a less known but similarly remarkable role as a spy during the Civil War.

\
\

1863

THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as enslaved people” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

I
more info

1865

THE 13TH AMENDMENT

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War, abolished slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

\
\

1868

THE 14TH AMENDMENT

If the 13th Amendment defined what Blacks were not (that is, enslaved people), the 14th Amendment spelled out what they were: citizens of the United States. As persons “born or naturalized in the United States,” they were “citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

I
more info

1870

THE 15TH AMENDMENT

In theory, the 15th Amendment provided Black men with the most basic privilege of citizenship in a republic: the right to participate in the election of political leaders.

\
\

1865-1877

RECONSTRUCTION:
Rebuilding and Redefining the South

The era following the Civil War was turbulent, as efforts were made to reintegrate Southern states into the United States and expand the rights of 4 million newly freed people.

I
more info

1877

THE COMPROMISE OF 1877

In this compromise, Blacks, who had gained never-before-imagined rights through Reconstruction, were the clear losers; with the withdrawal of federal troops, their new rights—including their right to vote— were threatened.

\
\

1896

“SEPARATE BUT EQUAL”:
The Plessy v. Ferguson Case

This landmark 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine. As a result, restrictive Jim Crow legislation and separate public accommodations based on race became commonplace.

I
more info

1901

THE 1901 ALABAMA CONSTITUTION:
Codifying White Supremacy

Alabama, in establishing its constitution, followed the 1875 “Mississippi Plan,” a blueprint for thwarting Black rights and eliminating the Black vote.

\
\

1915

“BIRTH OF A NATION”:
The Second Rising of the Klan

The first Ku Klux Klan was a terrorist organization formed by white supremacists after the Civil War; it was shut down by the federal government in the early 1870s. The second incarnation of the Klan was inspired by the controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation, which the Washington Post called “the most reprehensively racist film in Hollywood history.”

I
more info

1931

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS

In 1931, nine Black teenagers were falsely accused and imprisoned for the rape of white women on a train near Scottsboro, Alabama. Even when one of the women who falsely accused the teenagers recanted her story and testified for the defense, the court continued to rule against them. The case produced two landmark U.S. Supreme Court verdicts.

\
\

1948

INTEGRATION OF THE MILITARY:
Truman Opens the Door to the Civil Rights Movement

When President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, calling for the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces, he ended 170 years of officially sanctioned discrimination.

I
more info

1948

THE DIXIECRATS:
Southern Secession from the Democratic Party

After President Harry Truman introduced a pro-civil rights platform in 1948, a group of Southerners walked out of the Democratic Party’s national convention. These so-called Dixiecrats ran their own candidate for president that year—South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond, who got more than a million votes.

\
\

1949-1965

BOMBINGHAM:
Explosive Racism in “The Magic City”

The blasts that destroyed houses of faith and the homes of African-American leaders were not simply shots across the bow of the civil rights movement, but guided missiles into the sitting rooms of the Movement’s leaders.

I
more info

1954

BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION:
The Civil Rights Movement Begins

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. it helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.

\
\

1950-1969

THE THIRD RISE OF THE KLAN:
Violence in the Civil Rights Era

This era saw a surge in bombings, beatings, and shootings of Black and white activists, often carried out in secret by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Those actions outraged the nation, winning support for the civil rights cause.

I
more info

1955

EMMETT TILL:
The Face of Racial Violence

The murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi produced images that made it impossible for white Americans to remain indifferent to racial violence or to stay neutral in the fight for human rights.

\
\

1955-1956

THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT

Rosa Parks’s refusal to submit to Jim Crow regulations by refusing to give up her seat on a bus was a deliberate act of protest. News of her arrest for that act sent shock waves through the city’s Black and white neighborhoods.

I
more info

1958

THE ATTEMPTED BOMBING OF TEMPLE BETH-EL

The attempted Temple Beth-El bombing is an anomaly among Birmingham bombing incidents because it was one without an explosion. This yields questions: Were the 54 sticks of dynamite that didn’t detonate on April 28, 1958 a sign of divine intervention in the space of hatred? Or was the dynamite never meant to go off? Were the explosives simply intended to frighten Jews away from participating in the civil rights movement?

\
\

1961

THE FREEDOM RIDES

The 1961 Freedom Rides sought to test Boynton v. Virginia, the 1960 Supreme Court decision that segregation of interstate transportation facilities, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional.

I
more info

1963

THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE

Toward the end of April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and fellow leaders in the civil rights movement faced a grim reality in Birmingham, Alabama. With diminished support and dwindling volunteers, their campaign to end segregationist policies was teetering on failure. But an unorthodox plan to recruit Black children to march turned the tide.

\
\

1963

THE BOMBING OF THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH

Outrage over the death of the four young girls in this terrorist attack built increased support for the continuing struggle to end segregation. That support would help lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

I
more info

1964

THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.

\
\

1965

THE SELMA MARCHES

The three 1965 Selma marches were organized to protest the blocking of Black Americans’ right to vote by the systematic racist structure of the Jim Crow South. Marchers in the first march on March 7 (“Bloody Sunday”) were beaten back by state troopers. In the second march on March 9 (“Turnaround Tuesday”), the marchers again encountered state troopers and turned around. The third march to the capitol (March 21-25) was successful.

I
more info

1965

THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965

Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965, this act aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented Black Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The passage of the act was a significant victory for the civil rights movement.

\
\

1968

THE ASSASSINATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The day before, the civil rights leader had said in his last sermon, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. 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.”

I
more info

1979

BIRMINGHAM ELECTS ITS FIRST BLACK MAYOR

The fatal shooting death of a young Black woman at the hand of a white policeman was the catalyst that completed the transformation of Birmingham from a Jim Crow town to a Southern city progressive enough to elect its first Black mayor.

\
\

2008

THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA:
The First African-American President of the US

For generations, African Americans fought the urge to tell their children that they could aspire to the highest office of the land. In a country where their ancestors had been enslaved and the succeeding descendants had been relegated to at-best-second-class citizenship, the notion that one of their own could become president seemed the stuff of fairy tale. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 represented generations of organizing. That’s what made the campaign slogan of Barack Obama—“Yes We Can”—a stroke of genius. And, on November 4, 2008, they did.

I
more info
\

1619

The White Lion

This English privateer ship brought the first 20-30 enslaved Africans to what would eventually be the United States, marking the beginning of a legalized system of full-blown chattel slavery.

I
more info
\

 16th–19th centuries

THE MIDDLE PASSAGE:
The Transatlantic Slave Trade

From about 1518 to the mid-19th century, 12.5 million enslaved African men, women, and children made the brutal 21-to-90-day voyage to the Americas aboard overcrowded ships manned by crews mostly from Portugal, Spain, Great Britain, the Netherlands, and France.

\

1790-1865

The Domestic Slave Trade

When Congress outlawed the transatlantic slave trade beginning in 1808, enslavers chose to perpetuate slavery by forcing reproduction in the local slave population and by domestic trade. As a result of the increased demand for slave labor due to the booming cotton industry, an estimated one million enslaved people were forcibly transferred from the upper South to the lower South between 1810 and 1860.

\

1788

THE US CONSTITUTION:
Freedom, Power, and Servitude

The word “slavery” doesn’t appear anywhere in the U.S. Constitution; but despite the absence of the word, the institution of slavery is all over the document.

\

1793

THE INVENTION OF THE COTTON GIN:
Slave Labor in the Global Economy

Eli Whitney designed the cotton gin as a machine to help save labor for harvesting cotton. Ironically, enslavers used the cotton gin to uphold and expand the institution of slavery, allowing it to become an even more dominant feature of the Southern economy.

I
more info
\

1791-1804

THE HAITIAN SLAVE REVOLT

This revolution represented the largest slave uprising since the unsuccessful revolt of Spartacus against the Roman Republic nearly 1,900 years earlier. It challenged long-held European beliefs about alleged Black inferiority and about enslaved people’s ability to achieve and maintain their own freedom.

I
more info
\

1800-1831

SLAVE REVOLTS IN THE US

Like the self-liberated enslaved people who fought against French colonial rule in what is now Haiti, enslaved people in the U.S.—including Gabriel Prosser in Virginia in 1800, Denmark Vesey in South Carolina in 1822, and Nat Turner in Virginia in 1831—launched revolts that, while unsuccessful, were important forces in the fight for freedom.

I
more info
\

1820

THE MISSOURI COMPROMISE

By passing this law, the U.S. Congress admitted Missouri to the Union as a state that allowed slavery, while admitting Maine as a free state. It also banned slavery from the remaining Louisiana Purchase lands located north of the southern border of Missouri.

I
more info
\

1830-1850

THE TRAIL OF TEARS AND SLAVERY:
Tragedies in Lockstep

This was the ethnic cleansing and forced displacement of approximately 60,000 people of the “Five Civilized Tribes” of indigenous people between 1830 and 1850 by the United States government. These five nations were forcibly removed from their ancestral homelands in the Southeastern United States to newly designated Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.

I
more info
\

1833-1865

THE ABOLITION MOVEMENT

In the very picture of contrast, the movement to abolish slavery—and the Underground Railroad—developed while those who believed in the institution were passing federal laws allowing the capture and return of runaway enslaved people within the U.S.

I
more info
\

1857

THE DRED SCOTT DECISION:
SEPERATE BUT EQUAL

This Supreme Court decision went well beyond the issue of Dred Scott’s right to freedom. The Court attempted to quash the debate once and for all between North and South over the issue of slavery, saying that Congress had no authority to regulate slavery in the territories. The decision relegated all Blacks to a permanent legal status of inferiority, dashing the hopes of antislavery reformers.

I
more info
\

1858

THE LINCOLN-DOUGLAS DEBATES:
Foreshadowing the Civil War

Thousands of spectators and newspaper reporters from around the country watched as incumbent Illinois Democratic U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas squared off with Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln in a series of seven debates. They debated slavery and the battle over its extension into new territories, making for a lively discussion.

I
more info
\

1859

JOHN BROWN’S RAID ON HARPER’S FERRY

On the night of October 16, 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a small group in a raid against a federal armory in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), in an attempt to start an armed revolt of enslaved people and destroy the institution of slavery.

I
more info
\

1860

THE CLOTILDA:
The Last Slave Ship

The schooner Clotilda was the last known U.S. slave ship to bring captives from Africa to the United States, arriving at Mobile Bay in autumn 1859 or July 9, 1860. Although U.S. involvement in the Atlantic slave trade had been banned by Congress, the practice continued illegally, especially through slave traders based in New York. The sponsors of the Clotilda’s voyage were based in the South.

I
more info
\

1860-1861

PREFACE TO THE CIVIL WAR:
The Fall of a House Divided

Despite not being on the ballot in 10 states, Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 presidential election. His victory triggered declarations of secession by seven slave states of the Deep South; the economies of all of these states were based on cotton that was cultivated by enslaved labor. They formed the Confederate States of America (CSA) after Lincoln was elected in November 1860, before he took office in March 1861.

I
more info
\

1861-1865

AFRICAN-AMERICANS IN THE CIVIL WAR

It wasn’t until January 1863 that the U.S. government would recruit African- Americans for the army. Harriet Tubman was one of those recruits. While best known for her legendary exploits leading enslaved people to freedom via the Underground Railroad, Tubman played a less known but similarly remarkable role as a spy during the Civil War.

I
more info
\

1863

THE EMANCIPATION PROCLAMATION

On January 1, 1863, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared “that all persons held as enslaved people” within the rebel states “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

I
more info
\

1865

THE 13TH AMENDMENT

The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1865 in the aftermath of the Civil War, abolished slavery in the United States. The 13th Amendment states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

I
more info
\

1868

THE 14TH AMENDMENT

If the 13th Amendment defined what Blacks were not (that is, enslaved people), the 14th Amendment spelled out what they were: citizens of the United States. As persons “born or naturalized in the United States,” they were “citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”

I
more info
\

1870

THE 15TH AMENDMENT

In theory, the 15th Amendment provided Black men with the most basic privilege of citizenship in a republic: the right to participate in the election of political leaders.

I
more info
\

1865-1877

RECONSTRUCTION:
Rebuilding and Redefining the South

The era following the Civil War was turbulent, as efforts were made to reintegrate Southern states into the United States and expand the rights of 4 million newly freed people.

I
more info
\

1877

THE COMPROMISE OF 1877

In this compromise, Blacks, who had gained never-before-imagined rights through Reconstruction, were the clear losers; with the withdrawal of federal troops, their new rights—including their right to vote— were threatened.

I
more info
\

1896

“SEPARATE BUT EQUAL”:
The Plessy v. Ferguson Case

This landmark 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionality of racial segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine. As a result, restrictive Jim Crow legislation and separate public accommodations based on race became commonplace.

I
more info
\

1901

THE 1901 ALABAMA CONSTITUTION:
Codifying White Supremacy

Alabama, in establishing its constitution, followed the 1875 “Mississippi Plan,” a blueprint for thwarting Black rights and eliminating the Black vote.

I
more info
\

1915

“BIRTH OF A NATION”:
The Second Rising of the Klan

The first Ku Klux Klan was a terrorist organization formed by white supremacists after the Civil War; it was shut down by the federal government in the early 1870s. The second incarnation of the Klan was inspired by the controversial 1915 film Birth of a Nation, which the Washington Post called “the most reprehensively racist film in Hollywood history.”

I
more info
\

1931

THE SCOTTSBORO BOYS

In 1931, nine Black teenagers were falsely accused and imprisoned for the rape of white women on a train near Scottsboro, Alabama. Even when one of the women who falsely accused the teenagers recanted her story and testified for the defense, the court continued to rule against them. The case produced two landmark U.S. Supreme Court verdicts.

I
more info
\

1948

INTEGRATION OF THE MILITARY:
Truman Opens the Door to the Civil Rights Movement

When President Harry S. Truman signed Executive Order 9981 on July 26, 1948, calling for the desegregation of the U.S. Armed Forces, he ended 170 years of officially sanctioned discrimination.

I
more info
\

1948

THE DIXIECRATS:
Southern Secession from the Democratic Party

After President Harry Truman introduced a pro-civil rights platform in 1948, a group of Southerners walked out of the Democratic Party’s national convention. These so-called Dixiecrats ran their own candidate for president that year—South Carolina governor Strom Thurmond, who got more than a million votes.

I
more info
\

1949-1965

BOMBINGHAM:
Explosive Racism in “The Magic City”

The blasts that destroyed houses of faith and the homes of African-American leaders were not simply shots across the bow of the civil rights movement, but guided missiles into the sitting rooms of the Movement’s leaders.

I
more info
\

1954

BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION:
The Civil Rights Movement Begins

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka was a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled unanimously that racial segregation of children in public schools was unconstitutional. it helped establish the precedent that “separate-but-equal” education and other services were not, in fact, equal at all.

I
more info
\

1950-1969

THE THIRD RISE OF THE KLAN:
Violence in the Civil Rights Era

This era saw a surge in bombings, beatings, and shootings of Black and white activists, often carried out in secret by members of the Ku Klux Klan. Those actions outraged the nation, winning support for the civil rights cause.

I
more info
\

1955

EMMETT TILL:
The Face of Racial Violence

The murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi produced images that made it impossible for white Americans to remain indifferent to racial violence or to stay neutral in the fight for human rights.

I
more info
\

1955-1956

THE MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT

Rosa Parks’s refusal to submit to Jim Crow regulations by refusing to give up her seat on a bus was a deliberate act of protest. News of her arrest for that act sent shock waves through the city’s Black and white neighborhoods.

I
more info
\

1958

THE ATTEMPTED BOMBING OF TEMPLE BETH-EL

The attempted Temple Beth-El bombing is an anomaly among Birmingham bombing incidents because it was one without an explosion. This yields questions: Were the 54 sticks of dynamite that didn’t detonate on April 28, 1958 a sign of divine intervention in the space of hatred? Or was the dynamite never meant to go off? Were the explosives simply intended to frighten Jews away from participating in the civil rights movement?

I
more info
\

1961

THE FREEDOM RIDES

The 1961 Freedom Rides sought to test Boynton v. Virginia, the 1960 Supreme Court decision that segregation of interstate transportation facilities, including bus terminals, was unconstitutional.

I
more info
\

1963

THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE

Toward the end of April 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and fellow leaders in the civil rights movement faced a grim reality in Birmingham, Alabama. With diminished support and dwindling volunteers, their campaign to end segregationist policies was teetering on failure. But an unorthodox plan to recruit Black children to march turned the tide.

I
more info
\

1963

THE BOMBING OF THE 16TH STREET BAPTIST CHURCH

Outrage over the death of the four young girls in this terrorist attack built increased support for the continuing struggle to end segregation. That support would help lead to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

I
more info
\

1964

THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which ended segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, is considered one of the crowning legislative achievements of the civil rights movement.

I
more info
\

1965

THE SELMA MARCHES

The three 1965 Selma marches were organized to protest the blocking of Black Americans’ right to vote by the systematic racist structure of the Jim Crow South. Marchers in the first march on March 7 (“Bloody Sunday”) were beaten back by state troopers. In the second march on March 9 (“Turnaround Tuesday”), the marchers again encountered state troopers and turned around. The third march to the capitol (March 21-25) was successful.

I
more info
\

1965

THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965

Signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965, this act aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented Black Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The passage of the act was a significant victory for the civil rights movement.

I
more info
\

1968

THE ASSASSINATION OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Just after 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was fatally shot while standing on the balcony outside his second-story room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The day before, the civil rights leader had said in his last sermon, “I’ve seen the Promised Land. 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.”

I
more info
\

1979

BIRMINGHAM ELECTS ITS FIRST BLACK MAYOR

The fatal shooting death of a young Black woman at the hand of a white policeman was the catalyst that completed the transformation of Birmingham from a Jim Crow town to a Southern city progressive enough to elect its first Black mayor.

I
more info
\

2008

THE ELECTION OF BARACK OBAMA:
The First African-American President of the US

For generations, African Americans fought the urge to tell their children that they could aspire to the highest office of the land. In a country where their ancestors had been enslaved and the succeeding descendants had been relegated to at-best-second-class citizenship, the notion that one of their own could become president seemed the stuff of fairy tale. The election of Barack Obama in 2008 represented generations of organizing. That’s what made the campaign slogan of Barack Obama—“Yes We Can”—a stroke of genius. And, on November 4, 2008, they did.

I
more info
EDITORIAL TEAM

Solomon Crenshaw, Jr., writer; John Giggie, Ph.D., Isabella Garrison, and Pam Powell, editors

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1800s

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1900s

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2000s

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1700s

1800s

1900s

2000s

The Bending the Arc Project features the stories of both African Americans and a small group of little-known white allies who fought for racial justice during the Civil Rights Movement.

film@uucbham.org
(205) 945-8109
Copyright © 2024 Bending The Arc Project