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Timeline: 1950s

1954

Brown v Topeka Board of Education case

In 1950, seven year old Linda Brown had to walk a mile across railway tracks to catch a bus to a blacks-only elementary school five miles away. Linda’s father had tried to enrol his daughter in the whites-only school near their home but was refused because there was a ‘separate but equal’ school for Black Americans. The NAACP supported Mr Brown in his legal battle against the school board. The case went to the Supreme Court in Washington D.C., which ruled that schools segregated by race were unconstitutional.


1955

Emmett Till murdered

Emmett Till was a 14 year old Black American boy from Chicago who was murdered while on holiday in Mississippi. Emmett was kidnapped, beaten and shot by two white men who believed that he had been rude to the wife of one of the men. Emmett’s mother allowed photographs of his mutilated body to be published to bring public attention to the horrific racist attack on her son. Both men were put on trial but found not guilty by an all-white jury.


1955

Martin Luther King became the leader of the MIA

Martin Luther King was minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery when Rosa Parks was arrested. He was surprised to be elected leader of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) since he hadn’t been involved in local politics or civil rights campaigns. As a result of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King took part in many marches and demonstrations. His speeches and written works inspired other civil rights leaders and he became famous throughout the world.


1957

Southern Christian Leadership Conference formed

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formed to encourage and coordinate non-violent civil rights protests in the South. The SCLC supported Black American boycotts in other cities, similar to the successful Montgomery Bus Boycott. Then the SCLC focused its efforts on an unsuccessful campaign to double the number of Black Americans registered to vote in the South.


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