United States enters World War II; President Roosevelt prohibits racial discrimination within the defense industry


African American pastor and statesman Adam Clayton Powell begins an 11-term career in the U.S. House of Representatives

Jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie begins a stint at the Onyx Club in New York City, where he pioneers the style of bebop jazz


Ebony magazine is founded


Jackie Robinson signs with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first Africa American to play for a major league baseball team


African American diplomat Ralph Bunche wins the Nobel Peace Prize for his work as a U.N. mediator during the Arab-Israeli crisis in the Middle East

First year since colonial times in which no lynchings are reported in the United States


U. S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education verdict bans racial segregation in public schools and other public facilities


Under the direction of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., black citizens of Montgomery, Alabama, stage a bus boycott when commuter Rosa Parks is jailed for refusing to give up her seat to a white person on a crowded bus


President Dwight D. Eisenhower orders 1,000 federal troops to enforce public school desegregation in Little Rock, Arkansas


CBS airs Mike Wallace and Louis Lomax’s five-part documentary The Hate That Hate Produced, which gives the Nation of Islam and its spokesperson, Malcolm X, national exposure


Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded to coordinate youth-directed civil rights efforts in the South


President Kennedy calls for an affirmative action program to establish equity in awarding government-backed contracts

Police forces in Birmingham, Alabama, use high-powered hoses and dogs on peaceful civil rights marchers led by Martin Luther King Jr.; the event draws sympathy and support in the North for the civil rights cause

Black civil rights activist and NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers is murdered at his home in Mississippi

Martin Luther King Jr. gives his famous “I have a dream” speech before a crowd of more than 200,000 civil-rights protesters in the nonviolent March on Washington

White supremacists bomb the Sixteenth Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four young girls


Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, which establishes the Equal EmploymentOpportunity Commission and ratifies the Economic Opportunity Act, enabling blacks to benefit from Head Start and Upward Bound programs

Martin Luther King Jr. receives the Nobel Peace Prize for his civil rights efforts


Clashes between African American residents and police in south-central Los Angeles ignite the catastrophic Watts Riots, the largest race-related disturbance in U.S. history

Nation of Islam leader Malcolm X is assassinated while delivering a speech at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, New York


Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale found the Black Panther Party in Oakland, California; the organization offers numerous community aid programs and services to African Americans

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) espouse the concept of Black Power, which is articulated by Stokely Carmichael and other leaders

African American studies professor Maulana Karenga creates the holiday Kwanzaa, modeled after a traditional African harvest festival, to celebrate traditional African values in the United States; celebration of the holiday has since spread to other countries

Senate confirms Thurgood Marshall as the first black justice ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court

Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated while standing on the terrace of his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee

James Earl Ray is convicted of the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. and receives a 99-year prison sentence

Credit: sparknotes