What Are the Key Events in the History of African American Civil Rights?

The history of African American civil rights is a long and tumultuous one, filled with many key events that have shaped the course of American history. From slavery to the present day, African Americans have fought for their rights and equality under the law. In this article, we will take a look at some of the most important events in African American civil rights history.

Slavery and the Civil War

The most significant event in African American civil rights history was undoubtedly the abolition of slavery in 1865. The Civil War, fought from 1861 to 1865, was largely fought over the issue of slavery and its expansion into new territories. President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declared that all slaves in Confederate states were free, and after the Union victory in 1865, slavery was officially abolished by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.

Jim Crow Laws

Despite being legally free after the Civil War, African Americans faced significant discrimination and segregation throughout much of the country during what is known as the Jim Crow era. Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation and denied African Americans basic rights such as voting, education, and access to public spaces like restaurants and theaters. The landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s was a crucial period in African American civil rights history. Led by figures like Martin Luther King Jr., activists used nonviolent protest techniques like sit-ins, boycotts, marches, and civil disobedience to demand equal treatment under the law. The movement culminated in landmark legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination based on race or gender.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

One of the most significant events of the Civil Rights Movement was the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-56. After Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus, African Americans organized a boycott of the city’s buses. The boycott lasted for over a year and eventually led to the Supreme Court ruling that segregation on public transportation was unconstitutional.

March on Washington

Another key event of the Civil Rights Movement was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Over 250,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. to demand civil rights legislation and an end to segregation. It was at this march that Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Black Lives Matter

While significant progress has been made since the Civil Rights Movement, African Americans still face systemic racism and discrimination today. The Black Lives Matter movement, founded in 2013 after the killing of Trayvon Martin, aims to bring attention to police brutality and racial inequality. The movement has sparked protests and discussions around the world and has brought renewed attention to ongoing issues of racism in America.


The history of African American civil rights is a complex one with many significant events that have shaped American history as we know it today. From slavery to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, African Americans have fought tirelessly for their rights and equality under the law. While there is still much work to be done, these key events serve as a reminder of just how far we have come and how far we still have to go towards achieving true racial equality in America.