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Eyes on the Prize | Timeline

Timeline: Eyes On The Prize

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1955
Baseball's Brooklyn Dodgers, whose second baseman Jackie Robinson became the first African American major league player in 1947, win their only World Series title.

Notable books include The Strange Career of Jim Crow, by C. Vann Woodward; Notes of a Native Son, by James Baldwin; and Black Power, by Richard Wright. Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking is a best-seller.


1956
Communist leader Nikita Khrushchev tells the West, "We will bury you!" The Soviet military crushes an uprising in Hungary.

Popular singer Nat King Cole is attacked by six white men while performing in Birmingham, Alabama.

Bill Russell begins playing for the Boston Celtics; he will later become the first African American coach in the NBA.


1957
Jackie Robinson retires, and the Brooklyn Dodgers relocate to Los Angeles. Jim Brown makes his NFL debut and leads the football league in rushing.

The Soviets launch Sputnik, the first space satellite. The first United Nations peacekeeping force is formed.

Miles Davis and Ray Charles release their first recordings.


1960
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, which depicts race relations in Alabama, wins the Pulitzer Prize.

Berry Gordy founds Motown Records in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Its roster will include such legendary African American artists as The Supremes and Marvin Gaye.

The first prescription drug for healthy patients, Enovid, is approved for birth control.

Two standout African American athletes, boxer Cassius Clay (who will later change his name to Muhammad Ali) and sprinter Wilma Rudolph, win gold medals at the Summer Olympics in Rome.


1961
Paul Newman stars in the movie "The Hustler"; ABC's "Wide World of Sports" debuts. Joseph Heller wins acclaim for his anti-war book Catch-22.

An American plot to invade Cuba and overthrow Communist leader Fidel Castro goes wrong at the Bay of Pigs.

Langston Hughes publishes the book-length poem "Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz."


1962
American James Watson shares the Nobel Prize in medicine with British researchers Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins for their work on DNA.

Astronaut John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the earth, witnessing four sunsets in a single day.

Rachel Carson's influential book Silent Spring warns about the human consequences of environmental pollution, particularly the widespread use of insecticides.


Early 1963
The Supreme Court mandates free legal representation for poor criminal defendants.

Influential black intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois dies.

TV chef Julia Child becomes known for her French cooking.

Sidney Poitier is the first African American to win the Best Actor Oscar (for "Lilies of the Field").

James Baldwin writes The Fire Next Time and demands "the unconditional freedom of the Negro."

The first liver and lung transplants are performed.


Late 1963
President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas on November 22; Vice President Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as president on board Air Force One.

California becomes the most populous state, overtaking New York.

"Little Stevie Wonder, the 12-Year-Old-Genius" is a top-selling album; Peter, Paul and Mary record "Blowin' in the Wind."

Betty Friedan writes The Feminine Mystique, helping kick off the women's rights movement.


Late 1964
The United States begins bombing North Vietnam, but President Lyndon Johnson pledges he won't "send American boys 9 or 10,000 miles away from home to do what Asian boys should do for themselves."

Johnson begins a "war on poverty" at home and wins re-election over Republican Barry Goldwater in a landside.

The Surgeon General links smoking and cancer, and cigarette packages start displaying warning labels.

Zip codes are introduced.


Early 1965
The Department of Housing and Urban Development is created.

The first American combat troops arrive in Vietnam, and the first anti-war "teach-in" takes place in the United States. Congress makes the destruction of a draft card a criminal offense.

Bill Cosby wins an Emmy for his role in the television hit, "I Spy."

Baseball player Willie Mays wins the National League's Most Valuable Player award.


Late 1965
The Watts riots in an impoverished black neighborhood in Los Angeles lead to 34 deaths and 4,000 arrests.

Congress passes the Clean Air Act, and also establishes Medicaid.

By the end of the year, the U.S. has some 200,000 troops in Vietnam.


1966
The Supreme Court establishes Miranda rights for criminal suspects, including the right to remain silent.

Robert Weaver becomes the first African American Cabinet member when President Lyndon Johnson appoints him Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Former President Harry Truman is issued the first Medicare ID card.

The Endangered Species List debuts.

U.S. troop strength in Vietnam doubles to 400,000; General William Westmoreland declares, "We have stopped losing the war." By year's end, 6,000 American soldiers have died.


Early 1967
In the Six-Day War, Israel attacks Egypt in response to a blockade of the Straits of Tiran. Other Arab states join Egypt in the conflict; in just a few days, Israel has occupied the Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, the West Bank and Golan Heights.

As the war in Vietnam escalates, boxing champion Muhammad Ali refuses to join the U.S. military. He loses his title and is charged with the crime of refusing induction.

NASA's mission and methods are carefully scrutinized following a deadly fire in the Apollo 1 capsule.


Late 1967
Sidney Poitier stars in three hit films, "In the Heat of the Night," "To Sir, with Love" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner."

The Supreme Court rules that laws against interracial marriage are unconstitutional.

William Styron's bestselling novel The Confessions of Nat Turner, about a slave revolt, wins the Pulitzer Prize.


Early 1968
Columbia University student protesters take over campus administration buildings.

Eugene McCarthy does exceedingly well in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. As dissent and debates about the Vietnam War intensify, President Lyndon B. Johnson will decline to run for reelection.

"Hair" premieres on Broadway, depicting a Vietnam War draftee's interactions with a group of hippies. The show spawns hit songs including "Aquarius" and "Let the Sun Shine In."

Pope Paul VI issues an encyclical restating the Catholic Church's position barring all use of birth control, including the pill.

Feminists picket the Miss America Contest.


Late 1968
Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated in Los Angeles.

"The Mod Squad," a cop show featuring an interracial team of men and women, debuts on television.

At the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, American track and field medalists Tommie Smith and John Carlos raise their fists in the Black Power salute as "The Star Spangled Banner" plays.

Yale College admits women for the first time.


1969
"Sesame Street" debuts on television.

During the Apollo 11 mission, American astronauts walk on the Moon.

A rock concert in Woodstock, New York draws half a million people to see The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Joan Baez, and others.

A concert at Altamont Raceway Park in California featuring the Rolling Stones ends in tragedy when an African American teenager is killed by Hell's Angels acting as security guards.


1971
National Public Radio makes its first broadcast, covering U.S. Senate hearings on the Vietnam War.

Gloria Steinem launches Ms. magazine.

"Brian's Song," a TV movie starring James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, portrays the real-life friendship between white and black football teammates Brian Piccolo and Gale Sayers.

"Shaft," about a proud black police detective, is a hit at the movies and on the radio, inspiring dozens of imitators in the "Blaxploitation" genre.


1972
Shirley Chisholm, one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus, captures 152 delegates in her unsuccessful attempt to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Her campaign is the first serious bid by either a woman or an African American for the presidency.

Palestinian terrorists take Israeli athletes hostage at the Munich Olympics; eleven hostages are killed.


1973
Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho sign a cease-fire agreement in Paris; American troops leave Vietnam that year. The two signatories are honored with the Nobel Peace Prize but Tho declines his because his country is still at war.

Members of the American Indian Movement take the town of Wounded Knee, North Dakota and its few dozen residents hostage, claiming that a treaty signed in 1868 by the U.S. government gave the land to the Lakota Sioux.

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decides that first trimester abortion is legal.


1974
Anthropologist Donald Johanson discovers a fossil of an early hominid species, Australopithicus afarensis, in Ethiopia; he names the skeleton Lucy after the Beatles song, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."

President Richard M. Nixon resigns rather than face impeachment for his role in the Watergate burglary and its cover-up.

A militant, fringe political group, the Symbionese Liberation Army, kidnaps heiress Patty Hearst and holds her for ransom.


1978
Two popes die within a few months of each other. The third of the year, John Paul II, will become a major influence on the Catholic Church and world politics over the next two and a half decades.

The Bee Gees' "Saturday Night Fever" album becomes the soundtrack of the nation, selling 12 million copies.

Leon Spinks defeats Muhammad Ali for the world heavyweight boxing title, but Ali wins it back later in the year.


1980
The Cold War is fought in the arena of sport. The U.S. men's hockey team defeats the Russians for Olympic gold in Lake Placid, New York. The U.S. and other countries boycott the summer games in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Abbie Hoffman emerges from hiding. The former Yippie, who had protested the 1968 Democratic Convention, had jumped bail on a charge of drug possession.


1981
President Ronald Reagan appoints Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, making her the first woman justice on the high court.

AIDS is first recognized and described in US government publications and by the World Health Organization.

Members of the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army are arrested following a Brink's truck robbery where three policemen are killed. The BLA is largely composed of former Black Panthers.


1983
A hit movie, "Flashdance," creates a fashion trend of torn sweatshirts and makes its biracial star, Jennifer Beals, into a sex symbol.

Guion Bluford, Jr. becomes the first black person in space, flying on the first of his four Space Shuttle missions.

In Bob Jones University v. the United States, the Supreme Court rules that the Internal Revenue Service may revoke the tax-exempt status of private institutions due to their racial policies (dating between races is prohibited by the school).

James Watt, Secretary of the Interior, resigns in disgrace after describing some of his commissioners as "a black, a woman, two Jews, and cripple."


Recent Years
Recent presidential campaigns field a larger number of mainstream black candidates. Jesse Jackson runs as a Democrat in 1984 and 1988. Alan Keyes runs for the Republican nomination in 1996 and 2000. And in 2004, Democratic hopefuls include Carol Moseley Braun and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

In 2002, African American entertainers flex their muscles at the 74th Academy Awards. Denzel Washington wins the Best Actor Award, Halle Berry wins for Best Actress, and Whoopi Goldberg hosts the ceremony. Hollywood legend Sidney Poitier, already a two-time Oscar winner, takes home an Honorary Award that year.

When Hurricane Katrina strikes the Gulf Coast in 2005, 100,000 people, mostly African Americans, are stranded in the inundated city of New Orleans. The disaster reveals to many not only the inadequacy of emergency response plans but also the persistent poverty and racial divides still prevalent in America.

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