This year will mark the fifty year anniversary of several major turning points in the civil rights movement. Many of the events below are sure to be recognized with marches, rallies and other silver anniversary celebrations and remembrances.
Fifty years ago, 1963 started with the infamous incident of Alabama Governor George Wallace’s inaugural address where he proclaimed, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” That same summer, Martin Luther King, Jr. galvanized an audience of thousands on the national mall with his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.”
Here are eight turning points in civil rights that occurred fifty years ago:
2. April 16: Martin Luther King writes the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail after he, Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth are arrested for “parading without a permit.” King’s open letter to members of the clergy powerfully outlined why Blacks could no longer wait from justice and was published in May of 1963 in the The New York Post Sunday Magazine. King later published the letter as the book Why We Can’t Wait.
3. May: During protests in Alabama, Commissioner of Public Safety Bull Connor uses police dogs and fire hoses on Black protesters — many of them children and teens. The footage would go around the nation and the world and become a major turning point in the civil rights movement.
4. Jun 11: In Alabama, federal troops force Governor George Wallace to allow Black students to enter the University of Alabama after he stands in the schoolhouse door and delivers a speech on states rights to uphold segregation. Two Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood entered the school after President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard. Federal marshals led by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach made Wallace step aside. Malone would become the first African American to graduate from the University of Alabama in history.
6. Jun 12: NAACP field director for Mississippi, Medgar Evers, 37, is shot to death in front of his home by by Byron De La Beckwith, who was acquitted twice for the murder before being convicted in 1994.
7. August 28: Over 300,000 Blacks and Whites gather at the Lincoln Memorial to hear speeches against racism; among them is Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream speech. Though the speech was only 17 minutes, it has become one of the most famous in American history.
8. September 15: On a Sunday morning before services, the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama is bombed, killing four girls: Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Denise McNair — and injuring 22 others. The church reopens on June 7, 1964 after $300,000 in donations were received. Four members of the Ku Klux Klan, Thomas Blanton (convicted in 2001 of the murders and currently in prison), Bobby Cherry (convicted in 2002, died in prison in 2004) and Robert Chambliss (convicted in 1977, died in jail in 1985) are responsible.
LAUREN VICTORIA BURKE, Politic365 Managing Editor, publishes the blog Crewof42 on Black members of Congress. She can be heard every Tuesday on the radio on The Earl Ingram Show at 4 p.m. EST. Ms. Burke has enjoyed employment with USAToday.com and ABC News and holds a B.A. in history from The American University. Contact: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @Crewof42.