Martin Luther King timeline


  • Born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15 to Alberta Williams King and Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr.


  • Dr. King attended and finished his early education at David T. Howard Elementary School and Atlanta University Laboratory School. He attended Booker T. Washington High School and left before graduation due to his acceptance and early admission in Atlanta's Morehouse College program for advanced placement In the Fall of 1944. He was 15 years of age.


  • James Farmer organized C.O.R.E. (The Congress of Racial Equality), Spring, 1942.


  • The first lunch counter sit-ins took place in Chicago, Illinois at Jack Spratt's Coffee Shop, May 14, 1943.


  • The Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945, ending World War II.

  • Ebony magazine published its first issue on November 1, 1945.


  • The U.S. Supreme Court banned segregation in interstate bus travel on June 3, 1946.

  • Race riots occurred in Athens, Alabama on Aug 10 and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 29, 1946.

  • The National Committee on Civil Rights was created by President Harry Truman to investigate racism in America, December 5, 1946.


  • " Freedom Riders " made up of an interracial group tested the laws of interstate bus travel in the segregated South, April 9, 1947.

  • Jackie Robinson became the first African-American to play major league baseball as a third baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers club, April 15, 1947.

  • Dr. King decided to become a minister and delivered his first prepared sermon in his father's church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, at age 18 in the Summer of 1947.

  • President Truman's Committee on Civil Rights condemned racial injustices towards Blacks in America. A report was issued on October 29, 1947, entitled " To Secure These Rights ."


  • A. Philip Randolph pointed the way for nonviolent protest to segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces, March 31, 1948.

  • Dr. King was ordained as a Baptist minister and received his B.A. degree in Sociology from Morehouse College in June at the age of 19. In September he entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.

  • Inspired by the preachings of Dr. A.J. Muste and Dr. Mordecai Johnson on the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi , Dr. King was moved to study intensely Gandhi's writings and movement while still a student at Crozer Theological Seminary, September 1948 - June 1951.


  • William L. Dawson , Democratic Congressman from Illinois, became the first Black to head a standing committee in Congress as Chairperson of the House Expenditures Committee, January 18, 1949.

  • Judge William H. Hastie was named Judge of U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, October 15, 1949.


  • Dr. Charles Drew , the father of the blood bank, died April 1, 1950.

  • Dr. Carter G. Woodson , the father of black history, died April 3, 1950.

  • Gwendolyn Brooks was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry, May 1, 1950.

  • Dr. Ralph J. Bunche received the Nobel Peace Prize for his mediations in the Palestine dispute. He became the first Black to receive a Nobel citation, September 22, 1950.


  • Dr. King graduated from Crozer Theological Seminary with his B.D. degree at age 22 in June, 1951.

  • Dr. Ralph J. Bunche was appointed Undersecretary of the United Nations, the highest ranking American in the U.N. Secretariat, December 25, 1951.


  • Dr. King married Coretta Scott, June 18, 1953.

  • The first bus boycott started in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in this year on June 19, 1953.

  • Riots erupted in Chicago at Thrumbull Park Housing project site on August 4, 1953.


  • On May 17, 1954, the U.S Supreme Court, in a landmark decision, ruled unanimously in Brown vs Board of Education that racial segregation in the public schools of America was unconstitutional.

  • Mary Church Terrell , outstanding black civil rights activist, died on July 24, 1954.

  • Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. became first black general in the U.S. Air Force, October 27, 1954.

  • Dr. King became the pastor of Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama on October 31, 1954.


  • Marion Anderson became the first black to sing at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, January 7, 1955.

  • Roy Wilkins became the executive director of the NAACP on April 11, 1955, succeeding Walter White , who died on March 21, 1955.

  • Mary McLeod Bethune , educator and civil rights leader, died on May 18, 1955.

  • The U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation of the public schools "with all deliberate speed" on May 31, 1955. This order implemented the May 17, 1954 decision.

  • Dr. King received his Ph.D in Systematic Theology from Boston University on June 5, 1955.

  • Emmett Till , age 14, was lynched and brutally defaced in Money, Mississippi on August 28, 1955.

  • Dr. King's first child was born - Yolanada Denise (born in Montgomery, Alabama, November 17, 1955).

  • The Interstate Commerce Commission banned segregation in buses and all waiting rooms involved in interstate travel, November 25, 1955.

  • Mrs. Rosa Parks , a 42 year old seamstress, refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus and was arrested. Dr. King became involved in the incident. As a means of protest the Montgomery Improvement Association was organized, December 4, 1955. Dr. King was elected president. On December 5, 1955, the famous boycott was started. This was the catalytic event which started Dr. King on the road to become America's crusader and most famous civil rights leader.


  • Dr. King's home was bombed January 30, 1956 - no one was hurt.

  • On February 21, 1956, a suit was filed in U.S. District Court asking that Montgomery's segregation laws be declared unconstitutional. On June 4 the U.S. District Court ruled that racial segregation on the city bus line was unconstitutional . On November 13, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this ruling prohibiting segregation on buses by declaring Alabama's laws unconstitutional. Montgomery's victory came on December 21, 1956 when, for the first time, black passengers could legally take any seat on the city's buses. Public buses were finally desegregated.

  • On Deceber 27, 1956, Tallahassee, Florida followed and desegregated its buses after a six month boycott.


  • An unexploded bomb was discovered on Dr. King's front porch on January 27, 1957.

  • On January 12, mostly concerned ministers, labor leaders, lawyers, and activists got together and formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in an effort to gain information and strategy for ending segregation in their cities and towns. The meeting was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Dr. King was elected president, February 14, 1957.

  • The Congress of the United States passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957 on September 9, 1957. This was the first civil rights legislation since 1875.

  • President Eisenhower sent in federal troops to enforce court-ordered integration of Little Rock Arkansas' schools. Nine black students were escorted into the school by court order on September 24 and 25, 1957.

  • Martin Luther King III was born on October 23, 1957.


  • Dr. King published his book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story (New York: Harper and Brothers, September 17, 1958). Dr. King was almost killed by a deranged black woman, who stabbed him as he was autographing his new book in a department store in Harlem, New York, September 20, 1958.


  • Dr. King and Coretta went to India as a guest of Prime Minister Nehru in efforts to study and learn more about Gandhi's philosophy and techniques of nonviolence from February 2 through March 10, 1959.

  • Dr. King published his book, The Measure of a Man (Philadelphia: Christian Education Press, 1959).


  • The sit-in demonstrations gained strength, with Greensboro, North Carolina's Woolworth's lunch counter as their focal point, February 1, 1960.

  • The city of San Antonio, Texas became the first major southern city to integrate its lunch counters due to the sit-in demonstrations on March 16, 1960.

  • The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formally organized, mainly as a college student protest group. Its founding date was April 15, 1960 at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

  • President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law on May 6, 1960.

  • Dr. King was arrested for breaking the state of Georgia's trespassing law while picketing. He was transferred to Reidsville State Prison but was released on $2000 bond on October 19, 1960.


  • Dexter Scott, Dr. King's third child was born January 30, 1961.

  • C.O.R.E. (Congress of Racial Equality) tested the newly established interstate desegregation laws. An integrated group of Freedom Riders left Washington, DC on Greyhound buses, and, upon arrival near Anniston, Alabama, the bus was burned, and the riders were beaten, May 4, 1961.

  • Thurgood Marshall , chief counsel for the NAACP, was appointed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President John F. Kennedy on September 1, 1961.


  • Riots broke out on the campus at the University of Mississippi , requiring 12,000 federal marshals to restore order when James Meredith enrolled at the Oxford Campus under court order on September 30, 1962.


  • Dr. King's forth child, Bernice Albertine, was born March 28, 1963.

  • Birmingham, Alabama police chief, Eugene " Bull " Connor , became a symbol of extreme racism when he broadcast to the entire world his methods of stopping the Black protest movement. He used dogs and fire hoses on peaceful marchers, among them young children and women, April 3, 1963.

  • Sit-in demonstrations were held in Birmingham, Alabama to protest public accommodations in eating facilities. Dr. King was arrested during one of the demonstrations, April 12, 1963.

  • In a moment of reflection, Dr. King, while in his Birmingham cell, wrote about his concerns and criticism on the pace of justice in civil rights for Black Americans. These thoughts were expressed in his moving " Letter from a Birmingham Jail ," April 16, 1963.

  • Governor George Wallace stood in the door of the University of Alabama , refusing the entrance of Black students, June 11, 1963.

  • Civil Rights Leader Medgar Evers was assassinated in front of his home in Jackson, Mississippi on June 12, 1963.

  • On August 28, 1963, after meeting with President John F. Kennedy , Dr. King delivered his famous " I Have a Dream " speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd estimated at 250,000.

  • Dr. King published his book, The Strength to Love (Harper and Row Publishers, September 1, 1963).

  • The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama became the site of a vicious attack on Sunday, September 15, 1963. Four little girls were killed when a bomb exploded inside the church where the children were seated. Dr. King performed a eulogy for three of the girls on September 18.

  • President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.


  • Time Magazine honored Dr. King as " Man of the Year " with a feature story and cover photo, January 3, 1964.

  • Dr. King published his book, Why We Can't Wait (New American Library Publishers, June 4, 1964).

  • A new plank in the civil rights movement started with Black and White students, called the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO). They initiated massive voter-registration drives in the Summer of 1964.

  • Dr. King was present at the White House while President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Accommodation and Fair Employment sections to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on July 2, 1964.

  • Three civil rights workers, James Chaney (black) and Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner (both white) were killed on a trip through Philadelphia, Mississippi , August 4, 1964.

  • On December 10, 1964, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.


  • Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City on February 21, 1965.

  • The Edmund Pettus Bridge incident took place in Selma, Alabama. The marchers were billy-clubbed, tear-gassed, and whipped with cattle prods, March 7, 1965.

  • The Selma to Montgomery March , which took in over 25,000 marchers, was held from March 21 to 25, 1965, with the protection of federal troops. A white civil rights worker, Mrs. Viola Liuzzo was killed driving some of the black marchers back to Selma on March 25, 1965.

  • The 1965 Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, August 6, 1965.

  • The Watts Riots erupted in California, August 11 and 12, 1965. The National Guard was called in to stop America's worst single racial disturbance. Thirty-five people died.


  • Robert C. Weaver became the first Black to serve in the cabinet of our nation. He was sworn in as Secretary of Housing and Urban Affairs, January 13, 1966.

  • The Supreme Court of the United States ruled that any poll tax levied was unconstitutional, March 7, 1966.

  • Dr. King came out against our government's policy in Vietnam May 16, 1966.

  • James Meredith was shot on a 220 mile "March Against Fear" from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson Mississippi on June 6, 1966.

  • SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael used the then-militant term, " Black Power ," in public for the first time in Greenwood, Mississippi, June 27, 1966.

  • The National Guard was called in when Summer Riots , between July 18-23, 1966, broke out in Omaha , Nebraska, Chicago , Illinois, Cleveland and Dayton , Ohio.

  • Dr. King marched on the issue for open housing in Chicago and was stoned by an angry crowd on August 6, 1966.

  • Edward Brooke , Republican of Massachusetts, was elected as a United States Senator, the first Black senator since Reconstruction, November 8, 1966.


  • Dr. King published his book, Where Do We Go from Here? Chaos or Community (Harper and Row Publishers, January 1967).

  • Summer riots took the lives of forty-three, including 324 injured in Detroit , Michigan. Twenty-three died and 725 were injured in the Newark, New Jersey riots. Dr. King, Roy Wilkins , and Whitney Young, Jr. came out in an appeal to stop the riots that took place from May 1 through October 1, 1967.

  • Thurgood Marshall was confirmed by United States Senate to sit as an Associate Justice and first Black on the U.S. Supreme Court, June 23, 1967.


  • The National Advisory Committee on Civil Disorders (known as the Kerner Commission ) came out with a statement concerning racism and riots in America on March 2, 1968.

  • Dr. King went to Memphis, Tennessee to lead a march in support of striking sanitation workers, April 3, 1968.

  • Dr. King delivered his last speech , entitled " I've Been to the Mountain Top ," at the Mason Temple, the national headquarters of the Church of God in Christ, in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3, 1968.

  • On April 4, 1968, Dr. King's life was ended by an assassin's s bullet while he was on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

  • On April 5, President Lyndon B. Johnson decreed that Sunday, April 7, 1968 be a day of national mourning in honor of Dr. King.

  • His body was viewed by mourners on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, April 7, 1968. His funeral was eulogized at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Atlanta on April 9, 1968. He was laid to rest at the South View Cemetery. More than 300,000 people marched through Atlanta with his mule-drawn coffin, April 9, 1968.

  • In the midst of the sadness of 1968, President Johnson signed another piece of civil rights legislation banning racial discrimination in the sale and rental of housing to Blacks and minorities, April 11, 1968.

  • On June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy , the brother of the late president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Los Angeles while campaigning for the presidency of the United States.
  • Dr. King's assassin was identified as James Earl Ray , who was arrested at a London airport on June 8, 1968. Ray was later sentenced to 99 years in prison for this crime on May 10, 1969. He died in prison of liver failure on April 23, 1998.

  • Shirley Chisholm of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York became the first black woman elected to Congress, November 5, 1968.


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