African-American History Timeline: 1960 to 1964

March on Washington. Public Domain

1960

  • Four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College orchestrate a sit-in at a Woolworth Drug Store, protesting its policy of not allowing African-Americans from sitting at lunch counters.
  • Musician Chubby Checker records “The Twist.” The song prompts an international dance craze.  
  • Wilma Rudolph wins four gold medals and Muhammad Ali (then known as Cassius Clay) wins the gold medal in boxing at the Olympic Games in Rome.
  • The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) is established on the campus of Shaw University by 150 African-American and white students.
  • Dwight Eisenhower signs the Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law. The Act allows for federal inspection of local voter registration rolls. It also penalizes anyone who prevents another citizen from registering to vote or casting a ballot.

1961

  • Eleven members of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) begin Freedom Rides on buses leaving from Washington D.C. and head to various points in the South.
  • Despite rioting on campus, The University of Georgia admits its first two African-American students—Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter Gault.
  • Motown , a music label based in Detroit, signs acts such as the The Temptations, Supremes, and Stevie Wonder. That same year, the Marvelettes release their hit, “Please Mr. Postman.” It becomes the labels first song to reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 Pop Single Chart.

    1962

    • Ernie Davis, a student at Syracuse University, becomes the first African-American athlete to win the institution’s Heisman Trophy.
    • The Motor Town Revue leaves Detroit to tour the East Coast and South. Acts on the tour included The Miracles, Martha and the Vandellas, the Supremes, Mary Wells, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Contours, the Marvelettes and the Choker Campbell Band.
    • Wilt Chamberlain sets a basketball record when he scores 100 points in one NBA game.
    • The most prominent jazz performers are Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Dave Brubeck.

    1963

    • Sidney Poitier wins an Oscar for Best Actor for his role in the film, Lilies of the Field. The achievement makes Poitier the first African-American to win an Oscar in the Best Actor category.
    • Vivian Malone and James Hood register for classes at the University of Alabama. Despite then governor George Wallace’s promise to block the doors to prevent them from registering, Malone and Hood become the first African-American students to attend the school.
    • James Meredith is the first African-American student to be enrolled at the University of Mississippi. Meredith is escorted by U.S. Marshals and Federal Troops are sent to maintain order on campus.
    • Tennis champion Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) tournament.
    • Mississippi NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers is assassinated outside of his residence.
    • More than 200,000 people participate in the March on Washington protesting for civil rights and equality for all Americans.
    • The Sixteenth Street Baptist Church is bombed in Birmingham. Four little girls—Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley—between the ages of 11 and 14 are killed.
    • Wendell Oliver Scott becomes the first African-American driver to win a major NASCAR race.
    • Malcolm X delivers his Message to the Grassroots speech in Detroit.
    • Marian Anderson and Ralph Bunch become the first African-Americans to be awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

    1964

    • SNCC establishes the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.
    • Visual artist Romare Bearden completes his collage series “Projections.”
    • Muhammad Ali wins the first of three world heavyweight championships in Miami.
    • Malcolm X publicly disassociates himself with the Nation of Islam by establishing the Muslim Mosque in Harlem. That same year, he founds the Organization of Afro-American Unity in New York City.
    • Three civil rights workers—James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner—are killed by white vigilantes in Mississippi.
    • The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed into law.
    • The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) is led by Fannie Lou Hamer. The delegation is denied seats at the Democratic National Convention.