King and the Black Freedom Struggle Chronology from 1896 to 1968


18 May

In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court upholds the concept of "separate but equal" public facilities.


In Buffalo, N.Y., the Niagara Movement meetings begin.


31 May

The first conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is held in New York City with three hundred black and white Americans in attendance.



The National Urban League (NUL) is founded to assist southern black emigrants to the North.


21 June

In Guinn v. the United States, the Supreme Court rules against the "Grandfather clauses" used in southern states to deny blacks the right to vote.


13 July-1 October

More than twenty-five race riots occur across the country, leaving over one hundred people dead. Harlem Renaissance author James Weldon Johnson calls this time the "Red Summer."


8 May

A. Philip Randolph organizes the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, an influential black labor union.


27 April

King’s future wife, Coretta Scott, is born in Heiberger, Alabama. Her parents are Obie and Bernice Scott.


15 January

Michael King (later known as Martin Luther King, Jr.) is born at 501 Auburn Ave. in Atlanta, Georgia.

7 November

Elijah Muhammad becomes the leader of the Nation of Islam.


30 January

Martin Luther King, Sr., stages a protest against the segregation of elevators at the Fulton County Courthouse.

August - September

King, Sr., and the Atlanta branch of the NAACP lead a voter registration drive in anticipation of a local school bond referendum.


26 February

King, Sr., is chosen to lead the NAACP membership drive in Atlanta.


8 November

King, Sr., as head of the Atlanta Baptist Ministers Union, leads several hundred black Atlantans on a voter registration march to City Hall.


20 March

The NAACP creates the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc., which will become the principal legal arm of the civil rights movement.



Lester B. Granger is named executive director of the National Urban League, a position he will hold until 1961.

1 May

A. Philip Randolph issues a call for one hundred thousand blacks to march on Washington, D.C. to protest employment discrimination in the armed forces and war industry.

25 June

Acting to avert A. Philip Randolph’s threatened mass march on Washington, D.C., President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Executive Order 8802, forbidding racial discrimination in defense industries and in government service and establishing the President’s Committee on Fair Employment Practices.



The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) is founded.


17 April

King travels to Dublin, Georgia, to deliver his oration "The Negro and the Constitution."

24 April

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) is founded.



The Women’s Political Council, an organization for black women and later the initiator of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, is founded by Mary Fair Burks after Montgomery, Alabama’s League of Women Voters refuses to accept black members.      

2 April

The U. S. Supreme Court, in the case of Primus King v. State of Georgia, declares the "white primary" to be unconstitutional, thus removing a significant legal barrier to black voting in the state.

3 June

In Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia, the Supreme Court bans segregation in interstate bus travel.


King quits his job as a laborer at the Atlanta Railway Express Company when a white foreman calls him "nigger."

6 August

The Atlanta Constitution publishes King’s letter to the editor stating that black people "are entitled to the basic rights and opportunities of American citizens."


12 March

King is elected chair of the membership committee of the Atlanta NAACP Youth Council in a meeting on the Morehouse College campus.

9 April

The Committee on Racial Equality (CORE) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) send sixteen black and white "Freedom Riders" through the South to test compliance with the Supreme Court’s 3 June 1946 decision in Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia. Throughout the two week "Journey of Reconciliation," twelve arrests are made.


25 February

King is ordained and appointed assistant pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

8 June

King receives his bachelor of arts degree in sociology from Morehouse College.

14 September

King begins his studies at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.


23 February

The Atlanta branch of the NAACP votes to support a lawsuit filed by King, Sr., seeking to win equal pay for black teachers.

5 June

The Supreme Court issues three important anti-segregation decisions. Sweatt v. Painter orders the University of Texas Law School to admit black students because a law school founded for blacks could not be equal to the established and prestigious white law school. McLaurin v. Oklahoma abolishes segregation at school in classrooms, libraries, and cafeterias because "such restrictions impair and inhibit his ability to study, engage in discussions and exchange views, with other students, and, in general, to learn his profession." And Henderson v. United States prohibits dining-car segregation on railroads.

12 June

King, Walter R. McCall, Pearl E. Smith, and Doris Wilson are refused service by Ernest Nichols at Mary’s Cafe in Maple Shade, New Jersey. Nichols fires a gun into the air when they persist in their request for service.

22 September

Dr. Ralph E. Bunche, Principal Director of the Department of Trusteeship and Information from Non-Self-Governing Territories at the United Nations, is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediation of the Palestine conflict.


6-8 May

King graduates from Crozer with a bachelor of divinity degree, delivering the valedictory address at commencement.

13 September

King begins his graduate studies in systematic theology at Boston University.



CORE begins sit-ins in Baltimore, Maryland.

19 June

Blacks in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, start a bus boycott protesting discrimination.


24 January

King delivers a trial sermon, "The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life," at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.

7 March

By a unanimous vote, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church calls King to its pastorate.

17 May

In Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the U.S. Supreme Court declares racial segregation in public schools unconstitutional.


Malcolm X, formerly Malcolm Little, becomes a minister of the Nation of Islam’s New York Temple No. 7.

1 September

King begins his pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

5 September

King delivers his first sermon as pastor of Dexter and presents his "Recommendations to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church for the Fiscal Year 1954-1955," which are accepted by the congregation.


2 March

Fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin is arrested for allegedly violating Montgomery’s ordinance requiring segregation on the city’s buses. King, Jo Ann Robinson of the Women’s Political Council, Rosa Parks of the Montgomery NAACP, and others later meet with city and bus company officials.

11 April

Roy Wilkins is chosen to succeed Walter White as Executive Director of the NAACP.

5 June

King is awarded his doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University.

26 August

Rosa Parks, the secretary of the Montgomery NAACP, informs King that he has been elected to the executive committee.

28-31 August

Fourteen-year-old Emmett Till, a black teenager from Chicago, is murdered by white men after allegedly whistling at a white woman while vacationing with relatives near Money, Mississippi.

10 October

The U. S. Supreme Court orders the University of Alabama to admit Autherine Lucy, a black applicant.

25 November

The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) outlaws segregation on public transportation in interstate travel and in waiting rooms.

1 December

Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to vacate her seat and move to the rear of a city bus in Montgomery to make way for a white passenger. Jo Ann Robinson and other Women’s Political Council members mimeograph thousands of leaflets calling for a one-day boycott of the city’s buses on Monday, 5 December.

2 December

E. D. Nixon calls King to talk about the arrest of Parks and to arrange for a meeting of black leaders at Dexter that evening.

5 December

Rosa Parks is convicted and fined fourteen dollars. In the afternoon, eighteen black leaders meet to plan the evening mass meeting at Holt Street Baptist Church. The group organizes itself as the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and elects King as president.

13 December

Parks authorizes the NAACP to undertake the legal aspects of her case. In a statement to the press, King suggests that the boycott could last for a year.


12 January

After the city of Montgomery rejects an MIA compromise to end the boycott, the MIA executive board decides to boycott the buses indefinitely.

23 January

Mayor Gayle declares that there will be no more discussions with black leaders until the MIA is willing to end the boycott. At a meeting of the MIA executive board, King offers his resignation, but it is not accepted. A large crowd attending a mass meeting at Beulah Baptist Church affirms support for the boycott.

27 January

According to King’s later account in Stride Toward Freedom, he receives a threatening phone call late in the evening, prompting a spiritual revelation that fills him with strength to carry on in spite of persecution.

30 January

At 9:15 p.m., while King is speaking before two thousand congregants at a mass meeting at First Baptist Church, his home is bombed. Coretta Scott King and their daughter, Yolanda Denise, are not injured. King addresses a large crowd that gathers outside the house, pleading for nonviolence.

6 February

After several days of demonstrations, white citizens and students riot at the University of Alabama against the court-ordered admission of Autherine Lucy, the first black student in the school’s history. The university’s board of trustees responds by barring Lucy from attending classes.

28 February

"In Friendship," a northern-based organization dedicated to help raise funds for the southern civil rights struggle, is founded in New York City by Bayard Rustin, Stanley D. Levison, and Ella J. Baker.

19 March

King, the first of eighty-nine leaders to be tried on boycott-related charges, appears in a Montgomery courtroom for his four-day trial. He is convicted on 22 March.

24 April

Bus lines in thirteen southern cities discontinue segregation in response to the 23 April Supreme Court ruling of Flemming v. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company striking down segregated seating on buses in Columbia, S.C., and making segregation on any public transportation illegal. However, officials in Alabama and Georgia pledge to resist the ruling.

1 June

Alabama outlaws the NAACP throughout the state. State injunctions elsewhere require the disclosure of NAACP membership lists. NAACP membership in the South plummets from 128,716 members in 1955 to 79,677 in 1957.

5 June

In response to the outlawing of the NAACP, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) is organized in Birmingham, led by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth.

The three-judge U.S. District Court panel rules two-to-one in the case of Browder v. Gayle that segregation on Alabama’s intrastate buses is unconstitutional.

27 June

King addresses the forty-seventh annual NAACP Convention in San Francisco on "The Montgomery Story."

11 August

King testifies before the platform committee of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, recommending a strong civil rights plank in the party platform.

13 November

The U.S. Supreme Court affirms the lower court opinion in Browder v. Gayle declaring Montgomery and Alabama bus segregation laws unconstitutional.

14 November

King speaks at MIA mass meetings at Hutchinson Street Baptist Church and Holt Street Baptist Church, where eight thousand attendees vote unanimously to end the boycott when the court mandate arrives.

21 December

Montgomery City Lines resumes full service on all routes. King, Ralph Abernathy, E. D. Nixon, and Glenn Smiley are among the first passengers to ride the buses in an integrated fashion.

25 December

The home of minister and civil rights activist Fred L. Shuttlesworth is bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.


10 January

In the early morning four black churches and the parsonages of MIA leaders Robert Graetz and Ralph Abernathy are bombed in Montgomery. In the afternoon King meets with FBI agents in Montgomery and requests that they investigate the bombings.

11 January

Southern black ministers meet in Atlanta to share strategies in the fight against segregation. King is named chairman of the Southern Negro Leaders Conference on Transportation and Nonviolent Integration (later known as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SCLC).

14 January

King reportedly collapses while speaking at an MIA meeting at Bethel Baptist Church.

18 February

King appears on the cover of Time magazine.

5 March

At an impromptu press conference during a ceremony on the University of Ghana campus, King charges the administration with ignoring the southern racial situation. Following the ceremony King meets Vice President Richard M. Nixon, and the two agree to a future meeting in Washington.

6 March

King attends the independence celebrations of the new nation of Ghana in West Africa and meets with Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah.

17 May

The District Commissioner of Washington, D.C. presents King, Wilkins, and Randolph with the key to the Capital. At the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, King delivers "Give Us The Ballot," his first national address, to the thousands gathered before the Lincoln Memorial.

13 June

King and Ralph D. Abernathy meet for two hours with Vice President Richard M. Nixon to secure Administration support for civil rights and issue a statement on their meeting..

8-9 August

The third meeting of the Southern Leaders Conference is held at Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery. The organization’s name is changed to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and King announces the launching of a "Crusade for Citizenship," a massive voter registration drive in the South.

29 August

The Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first major civil rights legislation since 1875, is passed.

23 September

After weeks of resistance from Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, nine black students successfully enter Little Rock's Central High School with protection from the National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division authorized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.


23 June

King and other civil rights leaders meet with President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Washington.

3 September

While attempting to attend the arraignment of a man accused of assaulting Ralph Abernathy, King is arrested outside Montgomery’s Recorder’s Court and charged with loitering. He is released a short time later on $100 bond.

5 September

King is convicted for disobeying a police order and fined $14. King chooses to spend fourteen days in jail rather than pay the fine, but is soon released when Police Commissioner Clyde Sellers pays his fine.

17 September

King’s first book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story is published.

20 September

During a book signing at Blumstein’s Department Store in Harlem, New York, King is stabbed by Izola Ware Curry. He is rushed to Harlem Hospital where a team of doctors successfully remove a seven-inch letter opener from his chest.

3 October

King is released from Harlem Hospital, and begins a three-week convalescence at the Brooklyn parsonage of Sandy Ray.

25 October

A. Philip Randolph, Jackie Robinson, and Harry Belafonte lead ten thousand students in the Youth March for Integrated Schools in Washington, D.C. Coretta Scott King delivers King’s remarks to the gathering. President Dwight D. Eisenhower refuses to meet with a delegation of march leaders.


3 February

King embarks on a month-long visit to India where he meets with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and many of Gandhi’s followers.

9 March

King delivers his farewell statement on All-India Radio, in which he calls for India's unilateral disarmament.

18 March

King gives a press conference on his return to the United States and compares the race problems in the United States to the caste in India.

18 April

Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, King, Daisy Bates, Jackie Robinson, and Harry Belafonte lead approximately twenty five thousand high school and college students in a second Youth March for Integrated Schools in Washington, D.C.

25 November

King meets with members of the Interstate Commerce Commission to discuss the discrimination of Negro passengers on interstate travel.


31 January

King delivers his farewell address as pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

1 February

King moves from Montgomery to Atlanta to devote more time to SCLC and the freedom struggle. He becomes assistant pastor to his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In Greensboro, four black freshman of North Carolina A & T refuse to give up their "white-only" lunch counter seats at the segregated downtown Woolworth store. Ezell Blair, Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, and David Richmond ignite a wave of similar demonstrations by southern black college students.

3 March

Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., an African-American divinity student who initiated workshops on nonviolent activism in Nashville and led sit-in demonstrations, is expelled from Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School for allegedly urging students to break the law. On 30 May, ten faculty members of Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, including the Dean, resign in protest of the University’s refusal to readmit Lawson.

15 April

The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is formed at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

17 April

King appears on Meet the Press.

24 April

A race riot in Mississippi history erupts after forty to fifty African Americans conduct a wade-in at Biloxi’s all-white beach. Riots spread throughout the city. The U.S. Justice Department files suit on 17 May to compel Biloxi city officials to open the beach to African Americans.

6 May

President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs the Voting Rights Act of 1960.

25-28 May

King is found not guilty of tax fraud by a white jury in Montgomery.

29 May

A. Philip Randolph is elected president of the Negro American Labor Council (NALC), formed by black and white trade unionists dissatisfied with AFL-CIO's silence on racial discrimination in labor. The NALC will prove instrumental in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

23 June

King meets privately in New York with Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

Petersburg, Virginia, minister Wyatt Tee Walker replaces Ella Baker as executive director of SCLC. Baker will serve as an advisor to SNCC.

10 July

On the eve of the opening of the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, King, A. Phillip Randolph, and Roy Wilkins lead a Freedom March protesting the Democratic Party’s refusal to take civil rights issues seriously.

19 October

King is arrested during a sit-in demonstration at Rich’s department store in Atlanta. He is sentenced to four months hard labor for violating a suspended sentence he received for a 1956 traffic violation. He is released on $2000 bond on 27 October .


4 May

Led by James Farmer, the Freedom Riders, an integrated group of thirteen CORE members, leave Washington, D.C. on a bus tour to challenge segregated travel facilities in the South. The biracial group encounters physical violence, including beatings and arson, as well as legal harassment.

14 May

Whites burn a Freedom Riders’ bus near Anniston, Alabama, and assault riders of another bus in Birmingham. CORE decides to abandon the rides, but SNCC continues them.

21 May

After the initial group of Freedom Riders seeking to integrate bus terminals are assaulted in Alabama, King addresses a mass rally at a mob-besieged Montgomery church.

16 October

King meets with President John F. Kennedy and urges him to issue a second Emancipation Proclamation to eliminate racial segregation.

1 November

The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) finally brings into effect its nondiscrimination order to bus companies nationwide after the summer campaign by the Freedom Riders.

17 November

The Albany Movement is formed in Georgia under the leadership of Dr. W. G. Anderson.

16 December

King, Ralph Abernathy and 264 other protesters are arrested during a campaign in Albany.


7 February

King begins his "People-to-People" tour in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

16 February

In Chicago, Nation of Islam minister Malcolm X and pacifist proponent Bayard Rustin debate the topic "Integration or Separation for the Black Man?"

27 March

King starts SCLC’s second "People-to-People" tour in Petersburg, Virginia, encouraging voter registration.


The Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) is formed to coordinate voter registration activities and the resources of the NAACP, SNCC, and CORE. Bob Moses of SNCC and David Dennis of CORE head the organization.

10 July

King and Ralph D. Abernathy are convicted in Albany, Georgia of charges resulting from their December arrests. Choosing to serve their jail sentences instead of paying bail, they are released three days later by Albany Police Chief Laurie Pritchett, who wants to minimize publicity.

27 July

King and Abernathy are arrested again in Albany and stay in jail until 11 August.

28 September

During the closing session of the SCLC conference in Birmingham, Alabama, a member of the American Nazi Party assaults King, striking him twice in the face.

1 October

James H. Meredith becomes the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi.

5 December

King begins his "People-to-People" campaign in Alabama.


Strength to Love, King's book of sermons, is published.

24 February

A. Philip Randolph announces that the Negro American Labor Council (NALC) will plan a mass "pilgrimage" to Washington, D.C. in order to dramatize the employment crisis of African Americans.

26 February

At the annual convention of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X for the first time appeals for unity in the fight for black civil rights and urges cooperation between the Muslims, the NAACP, and CORE.

1 March

The NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, and CORE launch a voter registration campaign in Greenwood, Mississippi.

28 March

In Greenwood, Mississippi, SNCC leaders Bob Moses and James Forman are arrested as African Americans march to the Leflore County courthouse to register as voters.

3 April

SCLC and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights launch a protest campaign in Birmingham.

12 April

King is arrested in Birmingham after violating a state circuit court injunction against protests.

16 April

Responding to eight Jewish and Christian clergymen’s advice that African Americans wait patiently for justice, King pens his "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

19 April

King and Abernathy are released on bond.

2 May

In Birmingham, Alabama over one thousand black children march in the "Children’s Crusade."

7 May

Conflict in Birmingham reaches its peak when high-pressure fire hoses force demonstrators from the business district. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, among others, is wounded. In addition to hoses, Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor employs dogs, clubs, and cattle prods to disperse four thousand demonstrators in downtown Birmingham. Later, Alabama governor George Wallace sends two hundred fifty state highway patrolmen and 575 troopers armed with tear gas, machine guns, and sawed-off shotguns into the city. By 8 May, twelve hundred law officers have descended on Birmingham.

8 May

King and twenty-six others are jailed in Birmingham for parading on Good Friday without a permit.

10 May

King, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Ralph Abernathy work out a tentative desegregation plan with a committee of white Birmingham businessmen.

11 May

In Birmingham, segregationists bomb both the motel at which King is staying and the house of his brother, the Rev. A. D. King.

27 May

In Watson v. City of Memphis, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that the concept of "deliberate speed," established by the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision was not to be used to delay the integration of schools. The Supreme Court abandons the concept of "deliberate speed" and calls for prompt implementation of the Brown decision.

11 June

In a private meeting, President John F. Kennedy warns King of FBI surveillance and counsels him to sever contacts with alleged ex-communists Jack O’Dell and Stanley Levison. King will later resume secret contacts with Levison, a longtime friend and trusted advisor.

12 June

Civil rights leader Medgar W. Evers is murdered at his home in Jackson. It was not until 1994 that white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

23 June

King speaks at a freedom rally in Detroit, Michigan, to 125,000 protestors.

28 August

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom attracts more than two hundred thousand demonstrators to the Lincoln Memorial. Organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the march is supported by all major civil rights organizations as well as by many labor and religious groups. King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech.

After the march, King and other civil rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House.

15 September

Four black schoolgirls, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley are killed by a bomb explosion at Birmingham’s Sixteenth St. Baptist Church. The twenty-first time in eight years that African Americans had been the victims of bombings in Birmingham, the murders, like the previous cases, remain unsolved.

King sends President John F. Kennedy a telegram urging for immediate federal action before "the worst racial holocaust the nation has ever seen" erupts in Birmingham. King sends Governor Wallace a telegram telling him that, because of "your irresponsible and misguided actions..., the blood of four little children and others... is on your hands."

18 September

King delivers the eulogy at the funerals of Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, three of the four children that were killed during the 15 September bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Carole Robertson, the fourth victim, was buried in a separate ceremony.

19 September

President John F. Kennedy meets with King and six other leaders, who tell the president that African Americans in Birmingham are "almost on the verge of despair as a result of this reign of terror."

10 October

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy authorizes the FBI to wiretap King’s home phone in Atlanta and subsequently approves taps on SCLC’s phones as well.

7 November

Nearly eighty thousand disenfranchised African Americans in Mississippi cast "freedom ballots" in a mock election designed to prove that black residents want to vote.

30 December

SNCC agrees to a plan, formulated by Bob Moses and Allard K. Lowenstein, to bring thousands of white volunteers to a Mississippi Summer Project in 1964.


13 January

In Anderson v. Martin, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidates a Louisiana law requiring that the race of a political candidate be printed on the ballot.

18 January

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with King, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and James Farmer and seeks support for his War on Poverty initiative.

5 March

In Frankfort, Kentucky, King leads a march with ten thousand protestors who sit in to demonstrate support of the passage of a state public accommodations law.

12 March

Malcolm X founds the Muslim Mosque Incorporated (MMI) to promote the spread of orthodox islam.

19 March

Protests resume in Birmingham after the city has failed to abide by desegregation pledges made six months earlier.

26 March

After meeting with senators Hubert H. Humphrey, Thomas H. Kuchel, Philip A. Hart, Paul H. Douglas, and Jacob K. Javits to talk about the proposed civil rights bill, King meets Malcolm X in Washington, D.C. for the first and only time.

22 April

Civil rights advocates demonstrate both inside and outside of the New York State Fair. Protests are led by CORE National Director James Farmer, who, upon release from prison, warns that the U.S. faces "a longer and hotter summer than this country has ever seen." Designed to dramatize the plight of African Americans in New York City, the Fair demonstrations result in 294 arrests.

26 April

The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) is founded as a vehicle to challenge the regular, all-white Mississippi delegation to the National Democratic Convention.


King's book Why We Can’t Wait is published.

11 June

King is arrested and jailed for demanding service at a white-only restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida.

In South Africa, African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly attempting to sabotage the white South African government.

21 June

Civil rights workers James Chaney, Mickey Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman are kidnapped and murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi by white law enforcement officials and members of the Ku Klux Klan. Their bodies are found on 4 August.

28 June

Malcolm X founds the Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU), a non-religious organization, to "reinforce the common bond of purpose between our people by submerging all of our differences and establishing a non-religious and non-sectarian constructive program for Human Rights."

2 July

King is present when President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

20 July

King and the SCLC staff launch a People-to-People tour of Mississippi to help SNCC and CORE in their activities in the state.

23 July

King meets with SNCC’s James Forman, CORE’s James Farmer, Mississippi Freedom Summer activists Bob Moses, David Dennis, and Ed King, and Bayard Rustin at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, debating the MFDP’s strategy for the Democratic Convention.

20 August

The Economic Opportunity Act is signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson, initiating the "War on Poverty."

22 August

Representing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Annie Devine, Fannie Lou Hamer, Anna Mae King, Unita Blackwell and others present their case for unseating the regular Mississippi delegation to the credentials committee of the Democratic Party at the national convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Hamer testifies before a national television audience about the physical violence faced by southern African Americans when they attempt to vote. President Lyndon B. Johnson proposes a compromise, whereby two MFDP delegates will be seated along with the regular delegates. MFDP delegates, led by Fannie Lou Hamer, angrily reject the compromise. King publicly supports the compromise.

21 October

King launches a nationwide voter turnout crusade.

18 November

After King criticizes the FBI’s failure to protect civil rights workers, the agency’s director J. Edgar Hoover denounces King as "the most notorious liar in the country." A week later he states that SCLC is "spearheaded by Communists and moral degenerates."

1 December

King meets with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover at the Justice Department.

10 December

King receives the Nobel Peace Prize at a ceremony in Oslo, Norway. He is the twelfth American and second African-American to receive the prize. He is also its youngest recipient. King declares that "every penny" of the $54,000 award will be used in the ongoing civil rights struggle.


The King family moves to their new home at 234 Sunset Avenue in Atlanta.

2 January

King launches Project Alabama, a campaign of mass marches designed to arouse the federal government to protect black voting rights.

3 January

Samuel Younge, Jr., a student at the Tuskeegee Institute and a civil rights worker stationed in Macon County, Alabama, is killed after he refuses to use a segregated gas station bathroom.

15 January

A federal grand jury in Jackson, Mississippi indicts eighteen men in connection with the 21 June 1964 murders of civil rights workers Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney near Philadelphia, Mississippi. The court charges the defendants with violating a federal civil rights statute by conspiring to deprive the three workers of their civil rights.

1 February

King is arrested with 770 others at a demonstration in Selma, Alabama.

9 February

King meets with President Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, and Attorney General Nicholas B. Katzenbach to discuss voting-rights legislation. After the meeting, King reports: "The President made it very clear to me that he was determined during his Administration to see all remaining obstacles removed to the right of Negroes to vote."

21 February

Malcolm X is assassinated in front of an audience of about four hundred people at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.

In the aftermath of Malcolm’s assassination, King sends a telegram to widow Betty Shabazz and is interviewed at a press conference.

6 March

King calls on blacks to march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama to present grievances to governor George C. Wallace.

7 March

In an event that will become known as "Bloody Sunday," voting rights marchers, led by Hosea Williams of SCLC and John Lewis of SNCC, are beaten at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama as they attempt to march to Montgomery.

9 March

Under conflicting pressures from militants and government officials, King accepts a compromise whereby protesters would limit themselves to praying at the Edmund Pettus Bridge instead of proceeding to Montgomery as planned. Fifteen hundred marchers begin a second march to Montgomery, but are turned back because of a federal restraining order against the protest.

17-25 March

King, James Forman, and John Lewis lead civil rights marchers from Selma to Montgomery after a U.S. District judge upholds the right of demonstrators to conduct an orderly march.

26 March

Stokely Carmichael of SNCC arrives in Lowndes County, Alabama, where he and other organizers help form a new all-black independent political party, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization. It chooses a black panther as its symbol.

28 March

King calls for a national boycott of Alabama products and urges the federal government to discontinue support of all Alabama activities.

23 April

King leads a march through the slums of Roxbury in Boston after visiting the ghettos of New York City. He tells a crowd of twenty thousand that America cannot act as a nation of "onlookers" in the struggle against segregation, emphasizing that the North needs a civil rights crusade as much as the South.


While on vacation in Jamaica, King addresses a crowd of two thousand, praising native son Marcus Garvey, who had been an influential leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) during the 1920s in the United States.

26 July

At a rally at the city hall of Chicago, King criticizes the city for its de facto segregation patterns.

6 August

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1965 Voting Rights Act with King and other leaders present.

11 August

The Watts section of Los Angeles explodes in violence. Thirty-four people are killed, 1,032 injured, and 3,952 arrested during the five-day riot. On 20 August, President Lyndon B. Johnson denounces the Watts rioters and refuses to accept "legitimate grievances" as an excuse for the disorder.

12 August

King publicly opposes the Vietnam War at a mass rally at the Ninth Annual Convention of SCLC in Birmingham. He urges negotiation with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front and a halt to the bombings of North Vietnam.

11 September

Senator Thomas J. Dodd attacks King for his comments against the Vietnam War. King’s friends advice him to let the peace issue go and focus his attention on civil rights.

15 November

The Supreme Court declares that "delays in desegregation of school systems are no longer tolerable," discarding the ambiguity of its 1955 call for desegregation with "all deliberate speed."


3 January

Militant black civil rights leader Floyd McKissick succeeds James Farmer as national director of CORE. McKissick will guide CORE into a more aggressive, mostly-black organization dedicated to black liberation even if by separatist means.

26 January

King and his wife move into a rehabilitated slum apartment at 1550 South Hamlin Avenue in the North Lawndale district of Chicago for a weekly stay from Wednesday to Saturday.

23 February

In Chicago, King meets Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad.

12 March

King addresses the twelve thousand participants of the Chicago Freedom Festival.

16 May

Stokely Carmichael succeeds John Lewis as the leader of SNCC. Succeeding James Forman, Ruby Doris Smith-Robinson is elected executive secretary of SNCC.

1 June

The first White House conference devoted solely to civil rights legislation is held. SNCC is the only major civil rights organization that boycotts the conference, contending that President Lyndon B. Johnson is insincere about civil rights. CORE presses for the introduction of resolutions calling for withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam, but receives minimal backing.

6 June

James H. Meredith is shot and wounded one day after beginning his "March Against Fear," a march for voting rights, from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

7 June

King, Floyd McKissick of CORE, and Stokely Carmichael of SNCC resume James Meredith’s "March Against Fear" from Memphis to Jackson after Meredith was shot and wounded near Memphis.

17 June

In a speech given after his release from a Greenwood, Mississippi jail, Stokely Carmichael champions the "Black Power" slogan for the first time.

20 June

In an interview, King states that "it is absolutely necessary for the Negro to gain power" but criticizes the term "black power," since "the term.... tends to give the impression of black nationalism."

26 June

The "March Against Fear" ends with a fifteen-thousand-person rally in front of the state capitol in Jackson, Mississippi where Stokely Carmichael stresses the need to "build a power base... so strong that we will bring them [whites] to their knees every time they mess with us." About four thousand blacks successfully register to vote.

1 July

King informs reporters that he is "trying desperately to keep the movement nonviolent, but I can’t keep it nonviolent by myself. Much of the responsibility is on the white power structure to give meaningful concessions to Negroes."

5 July

At its annual convention, CORE endorses the "Black Power" concept.

10 July

At "Freedom Sunday" rally at Soldier’s Field, King launches a drive to make Chicago an "open city" for housing.

22 July

John Lewis resigns from SNCC, pledging to remain active in the civil rights movement.

5 August

Angry whites attack civil rights marchers through Chicago’s southwest side, hitting King and others with stones.

17 August

King meets with Chicago Freedom Movement activists and city officials at Episcopal diocese offices for a "summit meeting" to discuss the housing situation for blacks in Chicago.

21 August

King, Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, James Meredith, Stokely Carmichael and Floyd McKissick debate the "black power" and "nonviolence" strategies for social change on Meet the Press.

31 August

King is booed by a large crowd of SNCC activists who contest his nonviolent standpoint at a mass meeting at Chicago’s Liberty Baptist Church.

early September

King announces that increased employment opportunities for African Americans is top priority in the Chicago Freedom Movement. Jesse Jackson will head SCLC’s Operation Breadbasket.

19 September

The Senate withdraws the Civil Rights Bill of 1966 from consideration after a successful filibuster by southern senators. The focal point for the opposition is the section outlawing discrimination in housing.

15 October

Huey Newton and Bobby Seale found the Black Panther Party for Self Defense in Oakland, California.

1 December

In a meeting at the New York estate of "Peg Leg" Bates, staff members of SNCC vote to exclude whites from participation in decision making within the group.

20 December

King announces a slum housing rehabilitation program in Chicago, sponsored by SCLC and funded by a loan from the Federal Housing Administration.


25 February

At the Nation Institute in Los Angeles, King delivers his speech "The Casualties of the War in Vietnam," which is devoted exclusively to an anti-war theme.

26 March

King leads five thousand demonstrators in a Chicago anti-war march.

4 April

King delivers "Beyond Vietnam" to a gathering of Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam at Riverside Church in New York City, suggesting the avoidance of military service "to all those who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one." King demands that the U.S.A. take new initiatives to end the war.

15 April

King leads thousands of demonstrators in a march to the United Nations building, where he delivers an address attacking U.S. policy in Vietnam. Other speakers include SNCC’s Stokely Carmichael and CORE’s Floyd McKissick. Over one hundred thousand people attend the rally, which is sponsored by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam.

12 May

H. Rap Brown succeeds Stokely Carmichael as chairman of SNCC. At a news conference, Brown announces that SNCC’s allegiance to the Black Power policy will continue and pledges to build an anti-draft movement.


King’s book Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? is published.

12 June

The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the 1963 criminal conviction against King and other ministers for leading a Good Friday march despite a state court junction against it. King will be incarcerated in jail in Birmingham from 30 October - 2 November.

13 June

Former NAACP legal counsel Thurgood Marshall is named to the Supreme Court, becoming the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

20 July

The first Black Power Conference is held in Newark, New Jersey. One thousand individuals, representing forty-five groups in thirty-sixcities, attend, including former CORE leader James Farmer, Ron Karenga of the Peace and Freedom Party, SNCC chairman H. Rap Brown, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson of SCLC.

6 August

King is interviewed on Meet the Press.

28 November

At an SCLC staff retreat, King calls for a radical restructuring of the architecture of American society. Elaborating on a suggestion by Marian Wright Edelman, who worked against discrimination and poverty in Mississippi and Washington, D.C., King outlines plans for a Poor People’s Campaign.

4 December

At Ebenezer Baptist Church, King launches the Poor People’s Campaign, a mass civil disobedience campaign in Washington, D.C. to force the government to take action against poverty.


28 March

King leads a march of six thousand protesters in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis. The march descends into violence and looting, and King is rushed from the scene.

3 April

King returns to Memphis, determined to lead a peaceful march. During an evening rally at Mason Temple in Memphis, King delivers his final speech, "I’ve Been to the Mountaintop."

4 April

King is shot and killed while standing on the of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Violence erupts in at least 125 localities nationwide; forty-six persons are killed. Twenty thousand federal troops and thirty-four thousand National Guardsmen are mobilized to quell disturbances. President Lyndon B. Johnson proclaims 9 April a day of national mourning.balcony

8 April

Coretta Scott King leads a mass march through the streets of Memphis.

9 April

King is buried in Atlanta.

11 April

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

8 June

James Earl Ray, alleged assassin of King, is captured at a London airport.

19 June

The Poor People’s Campaign culminates in a Solidarity Day March by fifty-thousand participants, half of whom are white. Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey participates.

1 August

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Housing and Urban Development Act of 1968.