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Civil Rights Events in Alabama

laying the foundation for change

The 20 sites of the Alabama African-American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium began shaping what would become the modern Civil Rights Movement before the Emancipation Proclamation was even signed. Explore how key events at these places nurtured the African-American struggle for freedom.


First (Colored) Baptist Church is formed in Selma by freed slave Samuel Phillips, becoming the “Mother” church for all other Missionary Baptist Churches.


Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, originally Second Baptist Church, is founded in a former slave trader’s pen by members of another congregation.


A mass meeting at Old Ship AME Zion Church determines that State Normal School, today known as Alabama State University, will move from Marion to Montgomery. The school’s first commencement is held at Old Ship the following year.


W.E.B. Du Bois founds the Niagara Movement, calling for full political, civil, and social rights. The group morphed into the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.


Amid World War II, the Pittsburgh Courier, a weekly newspaper that helped influence public opinion among black Americans, begins the “Double V Campaign,” calling for integration and the possibility of fighting for freedom everywhere. “Double V” stood for two victories for African-Americans: a victory at home and a victory abroad.


The Jackson Community House becomes the first public library for blacks in Montgomery and hosts meetings for the Women’s Political Council and voter registration.


On the eve of the first day of the Montgomery Bus Boycott following Rosa Parks’ arrest, the Montgomery Improvement Association is organized in the basement of Mt. Zion AME Zion Church, electing Rev King of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church its first president.


The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church Parsonage is bombed around 9:15 pm amid civil unrest provoked by the Montgomery Bus Boycott and King’s leadership.


A mass meeting at Old Sardis Baptist Church led by Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth leads to the formation of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR). Bethel Baptist Church serves as its headquarters from 1956 to 1961.


Bethel Baptist Church and its parsonage, at the time home to Rev. Shuttlesworth, is bombed. During this period, Birmingham is nicknamed “Bombingham.”


The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded in Atlanta, GA, with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as President and Dr. Ralph Abernathy as Treasurer.


The Ballard House is purchased by Dr. Herchell Hamilton, Sr, the first board certified African-American general surgeon in Alabama, to house his medical practice. He will go on to treat numerous foot soldiers injured during the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement, becoming known as the “Battle Surgeon” and “The Dog Bite Doctor.”


Four students organize a lunch counter sit-in at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, NC, inspiring dozens of similar demonstrations in 12 states. Following the dissolution of a Montgomery sit-in organized by a professor and students from Alabama State University, a large group of marchers gathered at the Ben Moore Hotel and marched down South Jackson Street to the Courthouse.


The first Freedom Ride leaves Washington, DC for the South. The movement was organized by CORE and was intended to test the Supreme Court ruling that bus segregation was unconstitutional. More than a thousand whites attacked the Riders upon arrival in Montgomery. They were moved to First Baptist Brick-a-day Church, where they were then trapped by a mob. Following intervention from the federal government, the Riders were safely sheltered at the Dr. Richard H. Harris, Jr. House and eventually continued with their mission to Jackson, Mississippi.


The Birmingham Campaign begins, including mass meetings, lunch counter sit-ins, downtown marches, mass voter registrations, and a boycott of downtown businesses. The city obtains a court injunction against the protesters on April 10, and King is arrested on April 12th after ignoring it. King releases his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” while in solitary confinement.


St. Paul Methodist Church becomes the birthplace of the Children’s Crusade when it begins holding mass meetings and training sessions for nonviolent civil disobedience for young demonstrators. Hundreds of young adults are violently arrested and images of the ordeal become national news.


President Kennedy federalizes the Alabama National Guard after Governor George Wallace tries to prevent two African-American students from enrolling at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.


More than 200,000 people participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation. Dr. King gives his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.


16th Street Baptist Church is bombed on September 15, a Sunday morning, killing four young girls. The church was chosen due to its involvement in the Birmingham Campaign and as the departure point for many demonstrations. Over 8,000 people, both black and white, attended the girls’ funerals.


The Civil Rights Act is signed into law by President Johnson, prohibiting discrimination, mandating integration, and enforcing the constitutional right to vote.


More than 600 people, led by Hosea Williams of SCLC, attempt to march from Brown Chapel in Selma to the Capitol in Montgomery for voting rights. Marchers are met by 150 Alabama State troopers and possemen wielding clubs, bullwhips, and tear gas. John Lewis, with a skull fracture, was one of 58 people treated for injuries. The confrontation became known as “Bloody Sunday.”


Matthew and Emma Jackson begin providing shelter for workers from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which organized its demonstrations in targeted areas and participated in events like the Freedom Rides and Freedom Summer. Notable residents of the house included Bob Mants, Stokely Carmichael, Judy Richardson, and others.


The successful four-day Selma to Montgomery March led President Lyndon B. Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act, which King watched on television at the residence of Sullivan and Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson. The home had served as a headquarters for world leaders as they planned the march.


Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. seeks refuge from the Ku Klux Klan inside a small shotgun-style home owned by Theresa Burroughs in the depot neighborhood of Greensboro, AL. It later became The Safe House Black History Museum.


Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated on the second-floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. More than 100,000 mourners filled the streets of Atlanta for his funeral five days later.


President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Fair Housing Act, mandating equal housing opportunities regardless of race, religion, or national origin.


The Poor People’s Campaign culminates with the occupation of the National Mall for 42 days. Occupiers demand federal funding for full employment, annual income, anti-poverty programs, and housing for the poor. Although King did not live to participate, the Poor People’s March on Washington was King’s last project.

When & Where , A Timeline of Civil Rights Events in Alabama

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