About the timeline
This is a timeline of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. While blacks
in this state had been struggling and dying for
justice and equality long before 1948, I decided that this year represented a good starting point. I wanted the timeline to
be more representative of the post World War II era. The teacher salary equalization lawsuit filed by Gladys Noel Bates
in 1948 preceded a round of protests throughout the state that did not end until the 1970s. Although Mrs. Bates lost both
the suit and her job, it remains significant because it is the state's first lawsuit for equal pay. NAACP leaders from throughout
the state and nation helped to raise money and plan strategy for the case. These efforts in turn energized Mississippi's black leadership to attack segregation and discrimination on as many fronts as they thought possible. I chose 1970 as an ending
point because the federal government finally took it upon itself to ensure enforcement of the nation's desegregation statutes.
From this point in Mississippi history, it seems clear that the era of "the closed society" had come to an end.
The timeline highlights some of the major dates and occurrences in national civil rights history. These events will provide
context for the lesser known events taking place inside the state of Mississippi. For example, events like the Brown
decision, the Greensboro sit-ins, the March on Washington, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have a direct bearing on
Mississippi happenings like the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, the Ole Miss riots, Freedom Summer, and the
origins of the Black Power movement. Taken together, all these occurrences help to shed light on the development of
democracy in the U.S.
Students and teachers alike can use this tool to study not only black history, but Constitutional and American political
history as well. It is my hope that the events and voices on this timeline will inspire some of America's youth to carry on
the legacy of struggle so prevalent in Mississippi during the 1950s and 1960s. Using the voices and stories of ordinary
individuals, this timeline demonstrates that significant social and economic change often begins at the grassroots level, a
segment of society often ignored by scholars. Finally, I believe that by highlighting the stories of lesser known movement participants, those who study the history of civil rights in the U.S. will have a more comprehensive and inclusive record
from which to work.
Of course, this timeline does not include all -- or even most -- events that occurred during the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi. Much of the struggle for freedom was not in mass demonstrations that were captured by television cameras.
Many events were individual acts of resistance that went unnoticed by the media and most people outside of the state.
I've included many of the mass protests that people undertook to bring attention to their oppression, some of the more
heinous murders that received public attention, and a few events that largely escaped public notice. This timeline is a launching point for learning about the movement. People who want more detailed information can consult the books listed in the
bibliography. For those wanting to listen to the complete interviews, they are housed at Tougaloo College Archives and
at the University of Southern Mississippi's McCain Library and Archives and the Center for Oral History and Cultural
This timeline is part of the larger Civil Rights Documentation Project, an initiative funded by the Mississippi Humanities
Council through a grant from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The work for the Project is being
conducted by the Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage at the University of Southern Mississippi and the Tougaloo College Archives. Already included in the Civil Rights Documentation Project are the Mississippi Civil Rights Oral History Bibliography, a listing of all oral histories in the United States on the topic of the movement in Mississippi and new oral
history interviews on grassroots participants in the movements in Grenada, Meridian, the Gulf Coast, and Vicksburg.
Curtis J. Austin
Asst. Professor of History
University of Southern Mississippi
For more information and for updates or additions to this timeline visit the website at http://www-dept.usm.edu/~mcrohb.