King and the Black Freedom Struggle Chronology






print version



Strength to Love, King's book of sermons, is published.

"Strength to Love"

24 February

A. Philip Randolph announces that the Negro American Labor Council (NALC) will plan a mass "pilgrimage" to Washington, D.C. in order to dramatize the employment crisis of African Americans.

A. Philip Randolph

26 February

At the annual convention of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X for the first time appeals for unity in the fight for black civil rights and urges cooperation between the Muslims, the NAACP, and CORE.

1 March

The NAACP, SCLC, SNCC, and CORE launch a voter registration campaign in Greenwood, Mississippi.

28 March

In Greenwood, Mississippi, SNCC leaders Bob Moses and James Forman are arrested as African Americans march to the Leflore County courthouse to register as voters.

3 April

SCLC and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights launch a protest campaign in Birmingham.

12 April

King is arrested in Birmingham after violating a state circuit court injunction against protests.

King arrested in Birmingham

16 April

Responding to eight Jewish and Christian clergymen’s advice that African Americans wait patiently for justice, King pens his "Letter from Birmingham Jail."

19 April 

King and Abernathy are released on bond.

2 May

In Birmingham, Alabama over one thousand black children march in the "Children’s Crusade."

7 May

Conflict in Birmingham reaches its peak when high-pressure fire hoses force demonstrators from the business district. Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, among others, is wounded. In addition to hoses, Police Commissioner Eugene "Bull" Connor employs dogs, clubs, and cattle prods to disperse four thousand demonstrators in downtown Birmingham. Later, Alabama governor George Wallace sends two hundred fifty state highway patrolmen and 575 troopers armed with tear gas, machine guns, and sawed-off shotguns into the city. By 8 May, twelve hundred law officers have descended on Birmingham.

children demonstrators are sprayed with water from fire hoses

8 May

King and twenty-six others are jailed in Birmingham for parading on Good Friday without a permit.

10 May

King, Fred Shuttlesworth, and Ralph Abernathy work out a tentative desegregation plan with a committee of white Birmingham businessmen.

11 May

In Birmingham, segregationists bomb both the motel at which King is staying and the house of his brother, the Rev. A. D. King.

27 May

In Watson v. City of Memphis, the U.S. Supreme Court decides that the concept of "deliberate speed," established by the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision was not to be used to delay the integration of schools. The Supreme Court abandons the concept of "deliberate speed" and calls for prompt implementation of the Brown decision.

11 June

In a private meeting, President John F. Kennedy warns King of FBI surveillance and counsels him to sever contacts with alleged ex-communists Jack O’Dell and Stanley Levison. King will later resume secret contacts with Levison, a longtime friend and trusted advisor.

12 June

Civil rights leader Medgar W. Evers is murdered at his home in Jackson. It was not until 1994 that white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

23 June

King speaks at a freedom rally in Detroit, Michigan, to 125,000 protestors.

28 August

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom attracts more than two hundred thousand demonstrators to the Lincoln Memorial. Organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the march is supported by all major civil rights organizations as well as by many labor and religious groups. King delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech.

King at March on Washington

After the march, King and other civil rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy and Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson in the White House.

civil rights leaders and Kennedy

15 September

Four black schoolgirls, Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley are killed by a bomb explosion at Birmingham’s Sixteenth St. Baptist Church. The twenty-first time in eight years that African Americans had been the victims of bombings in Birmingham, the murders, like the previous cases, remain unsolved.

bombed Birmingham church

King sends President John F. Kennedy a telegram urging for immediate federal action before "the worst racial holocaust the nation has ever seen" erupts in Birmingham. King sends Governor Wallace a telegram telling him that, because of "your irresponsible and misguided actions..., the blood of four little children and others... is on your hands."

18 September

King delivers the eulogy at the funerals of Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, and Cynthia Dianne Wesley, three of the four children that were killed during the 15 September bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Carole Robertson, the fourth victim, was buried in a separate ceremony.

19 September

President John F. Kennedy meets with King and six other leaders, who tell the president that African Americans in Birmingham are "almost on the verge of despair as a result of this reign of terror."

10 October

U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy authorizes the FBI to wiretap King’s home phone in Atlanta and subsequently approves taps on SCLC’s phones as well.

7 November

Nearly eighty thousand disenfranchised African Americans in Mississippi cast "freedom ballots" in a mock election designed to prove that black residents want to vote.

30 December

SNCC agrees to a plan, formulated by Bob Moses and Allard K. Lowenstein, to bring thousands of white volunteers to a Mississippi Summer Project in 1964.





print version