TIME HAS ALWAYS REPORTED ON CIVIL RIGHTS
as a moral issue as well as a legal one. Follow the progress of America's march toward racial equality with these highlights from TIME's coverage over the years.
The stouter rope is found, and one end is fastened carefully about the Negro's neck....
From Saturday Night
May 5, 1923
When the South continued to lynch Negroes after alien lynchings ceased, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was organized to do something about it and anti-lynching legislation became a permanent sectional issue.
From Lynch & Anti-Lynch
Apr. 26, 1937
To the Southern Negro, Jim Crow has meant, among other things, outmoded railway coaches, the rear rows of seats on trolleys and busses.
From No More Jim Crow?
May. 12, 1941
Negro troops being shipped through El Paso, Texas, were ... given cold handouts. They could see German prisoners of war seated in the restaurant and fed hot food.
From Unhappy Soldier
Jul. 10, 1944
The Negro has suffered more than any other group of Americans. He has seen the white man at his worst, and he might have turned cynically against the white man's faith and values. But he has not.
From The U. S. Negro, 1953
May. 11, 1953
When Warren finished reading at 1:20 the ruling was crystal clear: the U.S. Supreme Court held that racial segregation in the public schools violates the Constitution. The decision was unanimous.
From "To All on Equal Terms"
May. 24, 1954
Negroes who pay for the same interstate accommodation as whites must get the same accommodation as whites; they must also be permitted to use the same railroad waiting rooms and washrooms as whites.
From Integration on the Rails
Dec. 5, 1955
On Dec. 1, 1955 Mrs. Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old Negro seamstress, was ordered by a Montgomery City Lines bus driver to get up and make way for some white passengers. She refused, was arrested and fined $10.
From Double-Edged Blade
Jan. 16, 1956
Convening in January, the U.S. Congress appeared certain to pass the first major civil rights legislation since Reconstruction.... But as Congressmen return from their Easter vacations, the civil rights package is in the deepest sort of trouble.
From The Civil Rights Bill
May. 6, 1957
A segregationist mob had ruled Little Rock for an ugly moment in U.S. history. Now the face of the law was that of a young U.S. Army paratrooper in battle gear outside Central High School.
From The Meaning of Little Rock
Oct. 7, 1957
In her first class at the University of Georgia last week, pretty Negro Coed Charlayne Hunter, 18, heard a psychology lecture on human behavior. The subject was timely, for that morning she and Hamilton Holmes, 19, breached a sorry human-behavior barrier: the 175-year-old tradition of segregation at the campus in Athens.
From Shame in Georgia
Jan. 20, 1961
Never before had a U.S. President appealed to the nation for an end to all discrimination against Negroes. And never had a President so forcefully pointed out that the Negroes' right to equality with whites rests not upon law alone, but also upon morality.
From The Long March
Jun. 21, 1963
The Negro revolution is presently characterized by acts—at lunch counters, on the streets, behind prison bars. But these acts would be far less effective were it not for words—the words of the U.S. Constitution, of constitutional amendments, of judges, and acts of Congress, words given the force of law by presidential fiat.
From A Legal History of Negro Progress
Jun. 21, 1963
King, never pausing, brought silence as he continued. 'I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.'
From Beginning of a Dream
Sep. 6, 1963
Civil rights groups, without being specific, claim that it [the civil rights bill] is too weak. The bill's opponents, without being specific, insist that it is so strong as to ruin the framework of the Republic.
From What the Civil Rights Bill Would Do
May. 29, 1964
Amid the controversy and chaos, it was easy to lose sight of the central point: voting rights. But that was what Selma, Alabama, was all about.... King called for a march from Selma to the state capitol at Montgomery, 50 miles away.
From The Central Points
Mar. 19, 1965
The voting rights bill that President Johnson sent to Congress last week ... is designed to deal with the two principal means of frustrating the 15th Amendment: the use of onerous, vague, unfair tests and devices enacted for the purpose of disenfranchising Negroes, and the discriminatory administration of these and other kinds of registration requirements.
From Enforcing the 15th
Mar. 26, 1965
From bottom to top, Southern justice is white. This fact shadows the Negro's every activity from driving a car to engaging in sexual intercourse; from borrowing money to suing for personal injury; from seeking police protection to defending against criminal charges. To Southern Negroes, the courthouse is not a citadel of justice.
From Breaching the White Wall of Southern Justice
Apr. 15, 1966
The 1966 civil rights bill seemed something of an anticlimax. It sought to right some blatant wrongs, most notably discrimination in the selection of juries and the sale or rental of housing.... The sad, even outrageous, but inescapable fact seems to be that the white is not yet acclimatized to the notion of having a Negro for a neighbor. So the bill last week became the first civil rights measure to be killed by Congress in nine years.
From Ahead of Its Time
Sep. 30, 1966
In the violent summer of 1967, Detroit became the scene of the bloodiest uprising in half a century.... But the eruption, if not a 'civil rights' riot, was certainly a Negro riot. It was fed by a deep well of nihilism that many Negroes have begun to tap.
From The Fire This Time
Aug. 4, 1967
Until last June, when the U.S. Supreme Court killed Virginia's miscegenation law, 16 states still banned interracial marriage....In a year when blackwhite animosity has reached a violent crescendo in the land, two young people and their parents showed that separateness is far from the sum total of race relations in the U.S.—that to the marriage of true minds, color should be no impediment.
From A Marriage of Enlightenment
Sep. 29, 1967
Moribund as he entered the emergency ward, Martin Luther King Jr., 39, was pronounced dead within an hour of the shooting. His death was the twelfth major assassination and the most traumatic in the civil rights struggle since 1963.
From The Assassination
Apr. 12, 1968
Yet, despite its absurdity, the fantasy of a blackless America continues to turn up. It is a fantasy born not merely of racism but of petulance, of exasperation, of moral fatigue. It is like a boil bursting forth from impurities in the bloodstream of democracy.
From What America Would Be Like Without Blacks
Apr. 6, 1970
The landmark law [the Voting Rights Act of 1965], which was renewed in 1970 and 1975, abolished literacy tests, forbade any other barriers to the registration of black voters and required six Southern states with a long history of discrimination to clear with the Justice Department any changes in their election laws.
From Pondering the Voting Rights Act
By Walter Isaacson
May. 11, 1981
The energy that once created protests has been channeled into politics, spurring impressive victories at the polls, a steady surge in black voter registration and serious debate about whether a black should run for President in 1984. Replacing the old guard of civil rights activists, black mayors are emerging as a powerful force in national politics and public policy.
From From Protest to Politics
By Maureen Dowd
Jun. 6, 1983
It has been a revolution without much fanfare, but a revolution nonetheless. While the nation's attention focused on the plight of the urban underclass, millions of black Americans marched quietly into the mainstream, creating a vibrant middle class.
From Between Two Worlds
By Richard Lacayo
Mar. 13, 1989
The combination of legal revisionism and residential segregation is effectively ending America's bold attempt to integrate the public schools.
This historic reversal has been welcomed by many in the African-American community.
From The End of Integration
By James S. Kunen
Apr. 29, 1996
During the civil rights era, poor and middle-class blacks were united in their need for basic access to schools, housing and jobs. Now a growing black middle class has moved out of the inner cities and become increasingly detached from the needs of poor blacks.
From Recharging The Mission
By Anita Hamilton and Peter Baily
Jan. 17, 2005
For more about Civil Rights see the TIME Archive Martin Luther King Jr. Collection