Humanities › History & Culture Civil Rights Movement Timeline From 1951 to 1959 Key Dates from the Early Fight for Racial Equality Share Flipboard Email Print The Black Freedom Struggle Introduction Slave Revolts, Abolition, and the Underground Railroad Nat Turner's Rebellion How Slaves Resisted Abolitionist Pamphlet Campaigns The Underground Railroad The Fugitive Slave Act Women Abolitionists The Missouri Compromise and Dred Scott John Brown and His Raid Slavery and the Civil War Emancipation Reconstruction Resistance to Black Codes Radical Reconstruction The Black Church Opposition to Reconstruction: The Rise of the KKK and Other Hate Groups Early 20th Century Rise of Pan-Africanism The Harlem Renaissance Black Soldiers in WWI and WWII Understanding the Jim Crow South The Black Press and Jim Crow The National Association of Colored Women The Southern Civil Rights Movement The SCLC SNCC The Black Panthers 1950s 1960 - 1964 1965 - 1969 Freedom Songs Black Power Politics and Race in Late 20th Century Redlining and Housing Segregation Black Representation in Government: Jesse Jackson, Shirley Chisolm, and more Affirmative Action Resisting Racism in Policing and the Justice System Rodney King The War on Drugs The Million Man March Police Racism, Violence, and Black Lives Matter Resisting Racism Today Underwood Archives/Getty Images By Lisa Vox Professor of History Ph.D., History, Emory University M.A., History, Emory University B.A., Rhodes College Lisa Vox, Ph.D. is a History professor, lecturing at several universities. Her work focuses on African American history, including the Civil Rights Movement. our editorial process Lisa Vox Updated January 22, 2018 This civil rights movement timeline chronicles the fight for racial equality in its early days, the 1950s. That decade saw the first major victories for civil rights in the Supreme Court as well as the development of nonviolent protests and the transformation of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. into the movement's preeminent leader. 1950 The U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the segregation of African Americans in graduate and law schools. The initial case was fought by Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Marshall used this win to begin building a strategy to fight the “separate but equal” doctrine established in 1896. 1951 Linda Brown, an 8-year-old girl in Topeka, Kan., lives within walking distance of a whites-only elementary school. Because of segregation, she has to travel by bus to a more distant school for African American children. Her father sues the school board of Topeka, and the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear the case. 1953 The Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tenn., which runs workshops on organizing protests for individuals such as union organizers, issues invitations to civil rights workers. 1954 The Supreme Court decides Brown v. Board of Education on May 17, arguing that "separate but equal" schools are inherently unequal. The decision legally prohibits school segregation, declaring it unconstitutional. 1955 Rosa Parks attends a workshop for civil rights organizers at the Highlander Folk School in July.On Aug. 28, Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago, is killed near Money, Miss., for allegedly whistling at a white woman.In November, the Federal Interstate Commerce Commission forbids segregation on interstate buses and trains.On Dec. 1, Rosa Parks refuses to give her seat to a white passenger on a bus in Montgomery, Ala., sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.On Dec. 5, the Montgomery Improvement Association is established by a group of local Baptist ministers. The organization elects the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, president. In this role, King would lead the boycott. 1956 In January and February, whites angry about the Montgomery Bus Boycott bomb four African American churches and the homes of civil rights leaders King, Ralph Abernathy, and E.D. Nixon.On court order, the University of Alabama admits its first African American student, Autherine Lucy, but finds legal ways to prevent her attendance.On Nov. 13, the Supreme Court upholds an Alabama district court ruling in favor of the Montgomery bus boycotters.The Montgomery Bus Boycott ends in December, having successfully integrated Montgomery's buses. 1957 King, along with Ralph Abernathy and other Baptist ministers, helps found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in January. The organization serves to fight for civil rights, and King is elected its first president.The governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, obstructs the integration of Little Rock High School, using the National Guard to block the entry of nine students. President Eisenhower orders federal troops to integrate the school.Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1957, which creates the Civil Rights Commission and authorizes the Justice Department to investigate cases of African Americans being denied voting rights in the South. 1958 The Supreme Court decision Cooper v. Aaron rules that a threat of mob violence is not reason enough to delay school desegregation. 1959 Martin Luther King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, visit India, the homeland of Mahatma Gandhi, who won independence for India through nonviolent tactics. King discusses the philosophy of nonviolence with Gandhi's followers. Updated by Femi Lewis.