This Far by Faith




About the Series

1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
Next Timeline
Timeline: 1946-1966
1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues

1954: AN URBAN PEOPLE back to top

By 1954, 65% of all African-Americans live in urban areas. It is the first time in America's history that the majority of blacks live outside the South, and marks the completion of the population shift begun during the Great Migration. Leaving the South, however, did not guarantee leaving discrimination behind. The status of blacks as Americans facing discrimination on a daily basis remained much the same. They lived in substandard housing. Black workers continued to be concentrated in less-skilled jobs. They were the last hired; first fired. The average income of an African-American family was only three-fifths of that of a white family. These conditions set the stage for the urban riots of the 1960s.

1954: BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION back to top

In the landmark Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court reverses Plessy v. Ferguson, declaring that "separate but equal" public education is unconstitutional. In the coming years, civil rights activists will chip away the remaining vestiges of legal discrimination, from segregated buses and restaurants to voting rights.

1955: MONTGOMERY BUS BOYCOTT back to top

"Segregation is Illegal on Buses in Alabama" headline

On December 1, Rosa Parks, a 43-year-old black woman, refuses to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus to a white man. Her arrest sparks a black boycott of the city buses. Martin Luther King, Jr., a relatively unknown 26-year-old Baptist minister, becomes the spokesperson and organizer of the boycott and is catapulted into national prominence. In 1956, the Supreme Court declares that segregation on buses is unconstitutional, and buses throughout the U.S. are forced to desegregate.

1957: SCLC FOUNDED back to top

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and other southern black ministers found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to bring about the end of segregation. The SCLC adopts nonviolent protest as the cornerstone of its strategy and builds alliances with local community organizations across the South. King heads the SCLC and builds it into a powerful civil rights organization.


By 1958, unemployment for blacks is 14.4% and 6.9% for whites. The economic indicators for black Americans lead some to argue that the 1954 school desegregation had made little difference to the majority of African-American's living outside the South. Indeed, the benefits of desegregation flowed first to the black upper classes: by the end of the decade, there would be at least twenty-five black millionaires, and more than four hundred who earned fifty thousand dollars a year. 10% of black Americans earned between fifteen and fifty thousand dollars a year. At the time, their achievements were lauded as a sign that times had gotten better. Nevertheless, the black upper classes contributed (in time and money) to the civil rights effort: for them, times may have gotten better, but things had gotten worse.

1959: SHANGO TEMPLE FOUNDED back to top

In 1959, Walter Eugene King takes the Yoruba name Adefunmi and becomes a Santeria priest. He forms the Shango Temple in NYC. Over the years, the Shango Temple distances itself from the Santeria community, stressing ritualism and nationalism in lieu of the Catholic-Yoruba synthesis of Santeria. In 1964, Adefunmi changes the temple name to the Yoruba Temple.

1960: SNCC FOUNDED back to top

Prathia Hall, Jack Chatfield, and other SNCC members in front of burned remains of Mt. Olivet Baptist Church, Southwest Georgia

Black college students found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). The organization is dedicated to ending segregation and giving young blacks a stronger voice in the civil rights movement. SNCC members demonstrate the efficacy of non-violent sit-ins, a tactic that is soon taken up by other civil rights groups. SNCC members participate in the Freedom Rides, trips taken on interstate buses to challenge the segregation of restrooms, restaurants, and waiting rooms of bus stations. After the Freedom Rides, SNCC focuses on voter registration. Friction between SNCC and SLCC develops, and by 1965 some SNCC members question the effectiveness of non-violent activism, precipitating a dramatic shift in SNCC practices.

1960: NOI MEMBERSHIP GROWS TO 100,000 back to top

The Nation of Islam expands with Elijah Muhammad at the helm. The Nation's spokesperson, Malcolm X, travels the country on speaking tours. Malcolm X's enraged eloquence and message of self-defense and black nationalism reflects the anger and alienation of many urban blacks, drawing huge crowds and coverts.


The black Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama is bombed while Sunday school is in session, and four young girls are killed. Thousands of mourners, white and black, attend the funeral services. Four suspects are soon identified, but FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover blocks their prosecution. Alabama Attorney General Bill Baxley reopens the case in 1971, and Robert Edward Chambliss is convicted of one count of murder. The case is opened again in 1997, and two aging former Klansmen, Thomas Blanton Jr. and Bobby Frank Cherry, are sentenced to life in prison.

1963: "I HAVE A DREAM" back to top

Martin Luther King, Jr. gives the "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln memorial as part of the March on Washington. Over 250,000 people participate, making it the largest protest assembly in the country's history. In his speech, King lays out a vision of an America that will "rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.'" The following year, King wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

1964: CIVIL RIGHTS ACT back to top

In the wake of President Kennedy's assassination, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is passed. The Act effectively desegregates public facilities, stating: "All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation…without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin."

1965: VOTING RIGHTS ACT back to top

Close-up of hands signing "freedom vote"

Congress passes the Voting Rights Act in 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting practices. The 1965 Act bans the literary tests and poll taxes used since Reconstruction to prevent blacks from voting. The Act comes on the heels of a major march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights led by Martin Luther King, Jr. The march begins in Selma with a few thousand participants, and concludes in Montgomery with approximately 25,000 supporters.

1965: MALCOLM X ASSASSINATED back to top

By the time he was assassinated in 1965, Malcolm X had left the Nation of Islam and taken the name Malik el-Hajj Shabazz. His murder short-circuits what could have been a multi-racial Islamic coalition working for civil rights. Malcolm's work helped "so-called Negroes" in the United States realize that they are an African people, and helped Africans on the continent understand their relationship to black Americans.

1966: BLACK PANTHERS FORMED back to top

The Black Panthers march in protest of the trial of co-founder Huey P. Newton in Oakland, California

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton co-found the Black Panthers in Oakland, California. Unlike the civil rights activists who preach non-violence, the Black Panthers authorize the use of violence as self-defense. The first point of their founding 10-Point Platform reads: "We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community. We believe that black people will not be free until we are able to determine our destiny."The Black Panthers gain notoriety for patrolling the streets in black berets, black jackets, and armed with weapons. Their message of self-determination and power wins thousands of followers throughout the country.

Martin Luther King takes a stand against the Vietnam War because it is sapping resources from domestic social programs. His action sets him against President Lyndon Johnson, who has been an ally.

1966: BLACK POWER back to top

SNCC, now headed by Stokley Carmichael, rejects its historical strategy of non-violence to embrace a doctrine of "Black Power," which emphasizes black nationalism and self-reliance. Violence is accepted as a legitimate form of self-defense. CORE endorses Black Power. The SCLC and NAACP do not.

Back to Journey 1959: Shango Temple Founded 1958: Discrimination Persists 1963: Birmingham Church Bombing 1965: Voting Rights Act 1966: Martin Luther King Takes Stand Against Vietnam War 1965: Malcolm X Assassinated 1966: Black Panthers Formed 1964: Civil Rights Act 1963: "I Have a Dream" 1960: NOI Membership Grows to 100,000 1954: Brown v. Board of Education 1957: SCLC Founded 1955: Montgomery Bus Boycott 1960: SNCC Founded 1954: An Urban People