This year will mark the 50 year anniversary of several major turning points in the civil rights movement. Many of the events below are sure to be recognized with marches, rallies and other silver anniversary celebrations and remembrances.
Fifty years ago, 1963 started with the famous incident of Alabama George Wallace’s inaugural address as governor where he proclaimed, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” That same summer Martin Luther King galvanized the audience and the nation with his most famous speech “I Have a Dream.”
1. April 3: Students in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference kick off the Birmingham campaign against segregation with sit-ins at lunch counters.
2. April 16: Martin Luther King writes the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail after he, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth are arrested for “parading without a permit.”
3. May: During protests in Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor uses police dogs and fire hoses on Black protesters — many of them children and teens. The footage would go around the nation and the world and become a major turning point in the civil rights movement.
4. Jun 11: In Alabama, federal troops force Governor George Wallace to allow Black students to enter the University of Alabama after he stands in the schoolhouse door and delivers a speech on states rights to uphold segregation. Two Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood entered the school after President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard. Federal marshals led by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach made Wallace step aside.
5. June 11: President Kennedy delivers a live speech on civil rights. He promises a Civil Rights Bill with “the kind of equality of treatment that we would want for ourselves.”
6. Jun 12: NAACP field director in Mississippi, Medgar Evers, 37, is shot to death in front of his home by by Byron De La Beckwith, who was acquitted twice for the murder before being convicted in 1994.
7. August 28: Over 300,000 Blacks and Whites gather at the Lincoln Memorial to hear speeches against racism; among them is Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream speech. Though the speech was only 17 minutes, it has become one of the most famous in American history.
8. September 15: On a Sunday morning before services, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama was bombed, killing four girls: Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair — and injuring 22 others. The church reopened on June 7, 1964 after $300,000 in donations were received. Four members of the Ku Klux Klan, Thomas Blanton (convicted in 2001 of the murders and currently in prison), Bobby Cherry (convicted in 2002, died in prison in 2004) and Robert Chambliss (convicted in 1977, died in jail in 1985).