1861: The Civil War begins.
1863: January 1, Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation.
1865: Civil War ends. Lincoln assassinated (April15). Freedman's Bureau, to help former slaves, established. Ku Klux Klan organize in Pulaski, Tenn. The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution is ratified stating that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude....shall exist" in the United States.
1867: Some 2,000 Chinese working on the Central Pacific Railroad strike for better pay. "Chinese Mary" is burned to death for her gold by whites in Helena, Mont.
1868: Fourteenth Amendment, making African Americans full citizens of the United States and prohibiting states from denying them equal protection or due process of law, is ratified. Congress reports that 373 freed slaves have been killed by whites.
1869: Knights of Labor formed "to uphold the dignity of labor."
1870: The Fifteenth Amendment enacted, guaranteeing the right to vote will not be denied or abridged on account of race. At the same time, however, the first "Jim Crow" or segregation law is passed in Tennessee mandating the separation of African Americans from whites on trains, in depots and wharves. In short order, the rest of the South falls into step. By the end of the century, African Americans are banned from white hotels, barber shops, restaurants, theaters and other public accommodations. By 1885, most southern states also have laws requiring separate schools.
In Wyoming, Mrs. Louisa Swain becomes first woman to cast a legal ballet in the nation. The Rev. Hiram R. Revels (R-MISS) and Joseph H. Rainey (R-S.C.) become first African Americans to sit in Congress. Union pacific announces it will hire Chinese laborers at $32.50 a month rather than pay whites $52.
1873: The first community welfare organizations, or "mutualistas" spring up In the Southwest. Primarily social organizations, they also provide decent burials for poor Chicanos and address dealing with abusive police or politicians.
1875: Congress passes the first Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing African Americans equal rights in transportation, restaurant/inns, theaters and on juries. The law is struck down in 1883 with the Court majority arguing the Constitution allows Congress to act only on discrimination by government and not that by private citizens.
1876: Sioux and Cheyenne Indians win Battle of Little Big Horn, killing Gen. George Custer. The battle is an outgrowth of continued U.S. violation of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty as white settlers flock to the sacred Black Hills seeking gold.
1877: With the election of Rutherford B. Hayes as President, Reconstruction is brought to an end and most federal troops are withdrawn from the South while those remaining do nothing to protect the rights of African Americans. The return of "home rule" to the former sessionist states also means the restoration of white supremacy and the beginning of the disenfranchisement and segregation of African Americans.
First national strike occurs, aimed at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and is marked by violence; 19 workers are killed by police and troops in Chicago, nine in Baltimore. Chief Joseph, the revered leader of the Nez Perce tribe surrenders to federal troops and makes famous comment, "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever."
1882: Over the veto of President Chester Arthur, Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act restricti ng the immigr ation of all Chines e laborers for 10 years and requirin g Chines e to carry identific ation cards. In 1892 the act is extende d for another 10 years.
1888: Congress passes the Scott Act prohibiting resident Chinese laborers who leave the united States from returning unless they have family in the country.
1890: In the Battle of Wounded Knee, U.S. troops kill 200 Dakota Indian men, women, and children in the last conflict of the so-called "Indian Wars."
In Mississippi, a state constitutional convention meets to write a suffrage amendment, including a poll tax and a literacy test designed -successfully- to exclude African Americans from voting. South Carolina follows suit in 1895, Louisiana in 1898. By 1910, African Americans are effectively barred from voting by constitutional provisions in North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, and Oklahoma as well.
The Woman Suffrage Amendment is introduced in Congress for the first time but defeated.
Treaty with China allows unrestricted immigration of Chines into the country, primarily as laborers on railroads in the West
1892: Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibiting further Chinese immigration into the United States for ten years.
1896: The Supreme Court, in Plessy v. Ferguson, rules that state laws requiring separation of the races are within the bounds of the Constitution as long as equal accommodations are made for African Americans, thus establishing the "separate but equal" doctrine that justifies legal segregation in the South. Justice John Harlan, in lone dissent, says Constitution is "colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens."
1900: Lynching has become virtually a fact of life as a means for intimidating African Americans. Between 1886 and 1900, there are more than 2,500 lynchings in the nation, the vast majority in the Deep South. In the first year of the new century, more than 100 African Americans are lynched, and by World War I, more than 1100.
1910: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is founded by W.E.B Du Bois, Jane Addams, John Dewey and others.
The Mexican Revolution brings an influx of immigrants to the United States looking for work.
1912: The Mexican ambassador formally protests the mistreatment of Mexicans in the United States, citing a number of brutal lynchings and murders.
1916 Rep. Jeannette Rankin (R-Mont.) Becomes first woman elected to Congress.
1917: The Jones Act grants full citizenship to Puerto Ricans and gives them the right to travel freely to the continental United States. However, because Puerto Rico is not a state, like citizens in the District of Columbia, Puerto Ricans are represented in Congress by a delegate with only limited powers and are unrepresented in the Senate.
1920: The Nineteenth Amendment gives women the right to vote and is ratified by the required 36 states.
1922: In Ozawa v. United States, the Supreme Court denies Japanese residents the right to naturalization because they are "ineligible for citizenship," as are foreign-born Chinese. In Congress, the Cable Act declares that " any woman citizen who marries an alien ineligible to citizenship, shall cease to be a citizen."
1924: After 10,000 Native American soldiers in World War I, Congress passes the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, granting American citizenship to Native Americans. Several Indian nations, including the Hopi and the Iroquois, decline citizenship in favor of retaining sovereign nationhood.
The Immigration Act bars any "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from entering the United States.
1928: The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is founded to fight discrimination, help educate Chicanos and protest segregation, killings and other abuses.
1930: Continuing discrimination against Japanese in the United States leads to formation of the Japanese American Citizenship League.
Mass deportation occurs of Mexican workers during the 1930's large numbers of whom are U.S. citizens. Over 400,000 are deported to Mexico; the deportees are accused of usurping "Americans" from jobs during the Depression. (p> 1939: African American contralto, Marian Anderson, barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from singing in Washington D.C.'s Constitution Hall, sings instead to a crowd of 75,000 people at Lincoln Memorial.
The Legal Defense Fund established as the legislative arm of the NAACP. A year later the two become separate organizations.
1941: President Roosevelt issues executive order banning discrimination against minorities in defense contracts.
1942: U.S. government places in barbed wire encircled "relocation camps" some 110,000 Japanese Americans. Guards are ordered to shoot anyone seeking to leave.
The Bracero Program, created under a joint U.S.-Mexico agreement, permits Mexican nationals to work in U.S. agricultural areas on a temporary basis and at wages lower than domestic workers.
1943: Congress, seeking to reward China for becoming an ally in the war against Germany and Japan, repeals all previous Asian Exclusion Acts and establishes an annual quota of 105 Chinese emigres to the United States each year.
1947: Jackie Robinson becomes first African American to play major league baseball.
1948: Supreme Court, in Shelly v. Kramer, declares illegal the government support enforce ment of restricti ve covena nts under which private parties could exclude minoriti es from buying homes in white neighbo rhoods.
Democratic party endorses civil rights platform, prompting Southern walkout and formation of States Rights Democratic Party (better known as the Dixiecrats) and nomination of Strom Thurmond as presidential candidate.
1952: Tuskegee Institute reports that, for the first time in the 71 years it has been keeping records, there were no lynchings of African Americans during the year.
1954: In Brown v. Board of Education, the decision widely regarded as having sparked the modern civil rights era, the Supreme Court rules deliberate public school segregation illegal, effectively overturning "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. Chief Justice Earl Warren, writing for a unanimous Court, notes that to segregate children by race "generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone." Thurgood Marshall heads the NAACP/Legal Defense Fund team winning the ruling.
Hernandez v. Texas becomes the first Mexican American discrimination case to reach the Supreme Court. The case involves a murder conviction by a jury that includes no Latinos. Chief Justice Earl Warren holds persons of Mexican descent are "persons of a distinct class" entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment.
1955: On August 28, 14 year old Emmett Till is beaten, shot and lynched by whites after allegedly saying "bye, baby" to a white woman in a store in Mississippi.
In Alabama, on December 1 Rosa Parks refuses to up her bus seat to a white man, precipitating the Montgomery bus boycott, led by Martin Luther King, Jr.
1956: Montgomery bus boycott ends in victory, December 21, after the city announces it will comply with a November Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation on buses illegal. Earlier in the year, King's home bombed. Autherine Lucy is first African American admitted to the University of Alabama.
1957: Efforts to integrate Little Rock, Ark., Central High School meet with legal resistance and violence; Gov. Orval Faubus predicts "blood will run in the streets" if African Americans push effort to integrate. On Sept. 24, federal troops mobilize to protect the nine African American students at the high school from white mobs trying to block the school's integration.
1959: Alaska and Hawaii are admitted as states. Hawaii, the 50th state, elects Hiram Fong (of Chinese ancestry) and Daniel Inouye (of Japanese ancestry) to represent them in Congress, the first two Asian Americans to serve in that body.
1960: February 1, Lunch counter sit-in by four college students in Greensboro, N.C. begins and spreads through the South. On April 17, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is founded.
John F. Kennedy elected president.
Following Sudan (1956) and Ghana (1957), 11 African nations achieve independence.
1961: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) organizes Freedom Rides into the South to test new Interstate Commerce Commission regulations and court orders barring segregation in interstate transportation. Riders are beaten by mobs in several places, including Birmingham and Montgomery, Ala.
1962: The United Farm Workers Union , under the leadership of Cesar Chavez, organizes to win bargaining power for Mexican Americans.
James Meredith becomes first African American student admitted to the University of Mississi ppi.
1963: June 20, President John F. Kennedy meets with civil rights leaders at the White House in an attempt to call off the March on Washington scheduled for August.
Over a quarter of a million people participate in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, and hear Martin Luther King, Jr., deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech.
Medger Evers, NAACP field secretary in Jackson, Miss., murdered on June 12, 1963. A Birmingham church is bombed on Sept. 15, killing four African American girls attending Sunday school: Denise McNair, age 11, and Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Adie Mae Collins, all 14 years old.
1963: November In and event that traumatizes the nation, President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Two days later, his alleged assailant, Lee Harvey Oswald, is also shot and killed. Vice President Lyndon Johnson becomes president.
Martin Luther King Jr., receives the Nobel Peace Prize. The Twenty-fourth Amendment, ending the poll tax, is ratified and becomes part of the Constitution.
Mississippi Freedom Summer, a voter education and registration project, begins. White northern college students volunteer to run practice elections in preparation for the Presidential election of 1964. Two white students, Andrew Goodman and Michael Scherner, and an African American civil rights worker, James Chaney, are murdered.
The Bracero Program is terminated.
1965: Selma, Ala. Voting rights campaign. Jimmie Lee Jackson, 26, participating in a march led by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, is killed by Alabama state troopers as he attempts to prevent the troopers from beating his mother and grandfather.
Selma to Montgomery march. The Voting Rights Act passes and is signed into law on August 6, effectively ending literacy tests and a host of other obstacles used to disenfranchise African American and other minority citizens.
Malcolm X, the fiery orator and Muslim leader is assassinated. For some, Malcolm X's militant rhetoric is a rival and alternative to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message of Christian non-violence.
The Watt's section of Los Angeles erupts in five days of rioting after an African American woman is killed by a fire truck driven by white men.
1966: National Organization for Women (NOW) is founded to fight politically for full equality between the sexes.
Stokely Carmichael, head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first uses the phrase "black power" during a voter registration drive in Mississippi. The phrase- and its many different interpretations by African Americans and whites-divides the civil rights movement.
1967: Sparked by a police raid on a black power hangout, Detroit erupts into the worst race riots ever in the nation, with 43 people dead, including 33 African Americans and 10 whites. During the nine months of the year, 164 other racial disturbances are reported across the country, including major riots in Tampa, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Newark, Plainfield and Brunswick, New Jersey, which kill at least 83 people.
Thurgood Marshall becomes the first African American justice of the Supreme Court.
Muhammad Ali, formerly Cassius Clay, is stripped of his heavyweight bo title for resisting military draft as a Muslim minister in the Nation of Islam.
Jose Angel Gutierrez founds the Mexican American Youth Organization in San Antonio, Texas. The group would become over time La Rasa Unida Party, the first Chicano political party.
Articles of incorporation are filed in San Antonio for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the first national Chicano civil rights legal organization.
Congress enacts the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 prohibiting employment discrimination against older Americans. The act is amended 12 years later to prohibit discrimination against older Americans by any housing provider who receives federal funds.
1968: March 1,The National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, popularly known as the Kerner Commission after chairman Otto Kerner, Governor of Illinois, issues its report warning that the nation is moving toward two separate societies-one black and poor, the other affluent and white. The commission, appointed by President Johnson following the 1967 disorders in Detroit and other communities, calls for major anti-poverty efforts and strengthened civil rights enforcement to eliminate the causes of the disorders.
1968: April 4, Martin Luther King, Jr. is murdered. The assassination sparks unrest and civil disorders in 124 cities across the country, including the nation's capital, Washington, D.C. On April 11, as disorders continue, President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968, aimed at curbing discrimination in housing.
1968: June 6, Sen. Robert Kennedy, campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president, is shot and killed in a Los Angeles hotel.
Rep. Shirley Chisholm (D-N.Y.) Is the first African American woman elected to Congress.
American Indian Movement (AIM) founded in Minneapolis.
The Supreme Court, in Green v. County School Board of New Kent County (Virginia), rules that "actual desegregation" of schools in the South is required, effectively ruling out so- called school "freedom of choice" plans and requiring affirmative action to achieve integrated schools.
1969: A June 27 police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village bar catering to homosexuals, results in two nights of rioting and is the symbolic beginnig of the gay rights movement. The event is commemorated each year by Gay Pride demonstrations across the nation.
1971: The Supreme Court, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, upholds busing as a legitimate and sometimes necessary tool to achieve desegregation and integration. But the Court does not rule on segregation in public schools in northern states where it is not imposed by statute.
1973: Congress passes Section 504 of the Vocation Rehabilitation Act barring discrimination against disabled people with the use of federal funds.
1973 Jan. 22, The Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, strikes down most states' restrictive abortion laws, greatly expanding the right to legal abortion.
1973: May 9, A 71-day siege by a force of more than 1,000 FBI agents, U.S. Marshals, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) police and U.S. military advisers is ended at the symbolically important hamlet of Wounded Knee at Oglala Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The village was occupied by the American Indian Movement (AIM) in an effort to spur talks with the U.S. government on violated treaty rights, BIA abuses on the reservation and civil rights concerns of Native Americans. Federal agents surrounded the town claiming that the Indians were holding "hostages" from the white trading post in the hamlet and demanded the surrender of all those occupying the village. During the siege, two AIM supporters are killed in firefights.
1973: June 21, in Keyes v. School District No. 1, Denver, Colorado, the Supreme Court, for the first time, addresses the issue of school desegregation in northern public schools, finding segregation intentionally imposed (de jure) unconstitutional even when not accompanied by statute. The Court concludes that the Denver public school system is an unlawful "dual system" that a system wide remedy is required,, and that assigning African American students to Latino schools is not an adequate desegregation plan because both groups had been subject to historic segregation.
1973: Dec.15, the Board of Trustees of the American Psychiatric Association votes unanimously to strike from its manuals the classification of homosexuality as a mental illness.
1974: The Supreme Court rules that public schools must teach English to foreign language -speaking students (Lau v. Nichols). The case involves the San Francisco school system, which does not provide any instruction in English to some 1,800 Chinese-speaking pupils. The court holds that, under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, districts receiving federal funds must provide either a bilingual or English as a second language program whenever students of a non-English speaking minority are enrolled in significant numbers.
1975: The American Medical Association calls for the repeal of all state laws barring homosexual acts between consenting adults.
1977: First National Women's Conference, held in Houston, Texas calls for a host of reforms aimed at empowering women and providing them with equal opportunity.
1978: The Supreme Court, in the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke case, upholds the principle of affirmative action but rejects fixed racial quotas as unconstitutional. The case involves Alan Bakke, denied a slot at the University of California medical school at Davis. Bakke claims he is a victim of reverse discrimination because a minority student, with lower test scores, is admitted instead on affirmative action grounds.
1979: The first Gay and Lesbian Civil Rights March on Washington draws more than 100,000 people on October 14.
1981: The first news reports of what will become the AIDS epidemic are published.
1982: The Equal Rights Amendment, which would have written into the constitution a ban on sexual bias, equal pay for equal work, and a guarantee of equal opportunity, falls three states short of ratification.
Supreme Court rules in Plyer v. Doe that children of illegal immigrants have a right to free public schooling. Poverty reached its highest level -14%- since 1967. African American poverty rate is 34.2 percent; Latino rate is 26.2.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is extended and strengthened by Congress, barring laws that dilute the voting power of minorities, whether or not that is the law's intention. The amendment overturns a Supreme case, Bolden v. City of Mobile (Ala.), that required proof of intentional discrimination against minority voters in order to establish a violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Wisconsin becomes the first state to adopt a civil rights law prohibiting discrimination against gay people.
1983: In Bob Jones University v. The United States, the Supreme Court, over the Reagan administration's objections, upholds the Internal Revenue Service rule denying tax exemption to private schools that practice racial discrimination.
In a report, "Personal Justice Denied," the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internm ent of Civilian s conclud es that the internm ent of people of Japane se ancestr y during World War II was not justified by military necessi ty and that grave injustic e had been done.
1984: The Supreme Court rules that states do have the right to outlaw homosexual acts between consenting adults.
1987: In a political struggle turning largely on the nominee's judicial and philosophical views of race, gender and privacy, the Senate rejects President Reagan's nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
The AIDS quilt commemorating AIDS victims is displayed for the first time during the second march on Washington for gay and lesbian rights, a demonstration drawing 200,000.
1988: President Reagan vetoes the Civil Rights Restoration Act, passed by Congress to overturn the 1984 Supreme Court ruling, Grove City College v. Bell. The act sharply limits the remedies available to the federal government in applying anti-bias rules to private organizations receiving federal subsidies. Congress enacts the measure by overriding the President Reagan's veto.
1989: The Supreme Court, in a series of rulings, severely restricts the reach of federal anti- discrimi nation employ ment laws and remedi es availabl e to fight bias. The move prompt s congres sional effort to craft new law overtur ning the Court decisio n.
1990: Congress passes -and President Bush signs- the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act, banning job discrimination against people with disabilities and requiring buildings, businesses and public transportation to be accessible. Most provisions take effect in 11992-93.
1991: Thurgood Marshall, first African American appointed to Supreme Court, resigns for Health reasons. President Bush names Clarence Thomas, a conservative African American with little background in constitutional issues, to the post. The Thomas nomination brings to the fore the issue of sexual harassment, as one of Thomas' former co-workers, law professor Anita Hill, charges Thomas sexually harassed her. Thomas denies accusations and after bitter, televise hearings that rivet the nation, he is confirmed, 52-48.
After two years of debate, vetoes and threatened vetoes, Bush reverses himself and says proposed civil rights bill is not a "quota bill." On Nov. 22, he signs the legislation at a White House ceremony. But ceremony is overshadowed by reports that the president has proposed issuing a presidential order that would end all government affirmative action programs and hiring guidelines that benefit women and minorities. After sharply negative reactions from civil rights leaders and others, the administration backs down.
1992: Voting Rights Act bilingual provisions are extended to 2007.
1993: Shortly after being sworn in, President Clinton affirms his campaign pledge to lift the ban that prohibits gays from serving in the military. On April 25, at least 300,000 (the figure is hotly debated) march on Washington supporting federal civil rights legislation protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination and opposing the military ban. Several months later on July 19, President Clinton, faced with congressional opposition to removing the ban, announces a "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue" policy regarding homosexuals in the military that falls short of lifting the ban. Congress moves to codify a restrictive interpretation of Clinton's executive order.
The Supreme Court, in two rulings affecting civil rights, roils the waters for determining proper remedies for discrimination. In St. Mary's Honor Center v. Hicks the Court holds that even when a plaintiff shows that an employer gives a dishonest reason for alleged discriminatory actions, the worker is still required to present direct evidence of the employers discriminatory intent.
In Shaw v. Reno , a sharply divided High Court rules that legislative districts drawn in a "bizarre" fashion in order to create black representation can violate the constitutional rights of white voters to equal protection of the law. The ruling, which invalidates North Carolina's majority African American 12th congressional district, is seen as opening the door to challenges of other states' reapportionment plans that are aimed at equalizing the distribution of power.