Timeline of Selected Events in the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi
(Highlighted Events are referenced directly or indirectly in the novel)
Medgar Evers is honorably discharged; black veterans protest
treatment in a hearing to Mississippi Senator Theodore Bilbo.
April 9: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE ) sends “Freedom Riders” on a Journey of Reconciliation through the upper South to test Morgan v. Virginia, in which the US Supreme Court ruled segregation on interstate travel to be illegal.
April: Gladys Noel Bates files suit for equal pay.
May 8: Willie McGee is executed in Mississippi for raping a white woman.
May: Brown v. Board of Education is decided by US Supreme Court,
ruling “separate but equal” schools segregating black students and
white students to be unconstitutional.
July: First “Citizens Council” is organized in Indianola, MS.
December: Medgar Evers becomes National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Field Secretary.
May 7: NAACP leader Rev. George Wesley Lee is killed in Belzoni, MS.
May: Brown v. Board of Education II decided by US Supreme Court,
ordering school districts to desegregate “with all deliberate speed.”
August 13: Political Activist Lamar Smith is killed in Brookhaven, MS.
August 28: Fourteen-year old Emmett Till, visiting family from
Chicago, is kidnapped and murdered near Money, MS. Media
coverage of the Chicago funeral, with an open casket showing the
brutality performed on his body, energizes the Civil Rights Movement.
September: Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam are tried and found not guilty
for the murder of Emmett Till.
December 1: The Montgomery Improvement Association, led by
Martin Luther King, Jr., organizes the Montgomery bus boycott in
neighboring Alabama, which lasts for over a year.
December: Black businessman Clinton Melton is gunned down at a
Glendora gas station by a friend of Bryant and Milam, in an apparent
follow-up to the Emmett Till case.
January: Look magazine publishes a story in which Roy Bryant and
J.W. Milam confess to murdering Emmett Till.
February-March: The Southern Manifesto is signed by 19 U.S.
Senators and 82 members of the U.S. House of Representatives,
including the entire congressional delegations of the states of
Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina,
and Virginia. The Manifesto, written in response to the Brown
decisions, accused the Supreme Court of “clear abuse of judicial
power.” It further promised to use “all lawful means to bring about a
reversal of this decision which is contrary to the Constitution and to
prevent the use of force in its implementation.”
March 29: The Mississippi State Legislative Session establishes the
Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission.
December 21: After the U.S. Supreme Court affirms the District
Court’s decision that segregation on buses is unconstitutional, the
Montgomery buses are desegregated.
Clyde Kennard first attempts to enroll at Mississippi Southern College,
now the University of Southern Mississippi (USM). He made
subsequent attempts in 1958 and 1959, prompting a campaign by the
Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission to discredit him, resulting
in his arrest and conviction on false charges of possession of liquor.
He was sentenced to seven years at Parchman Penitentiary, where
he was denied proper care for serious health conditions that
eventually led to his death.
June 30: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in NAACP v. Alabama, that
the NAACP has the constitutional right of freedom of assembly to
keep its membership a secret.
April: Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr., a founding member of the Biloxi NAACP,
leads the Gulf Coast wade-in to desegregate the sand beaches. In
addition, he was the major petitioner in the lawsuit against the Biloxi
Municipal School district to desegregate the public schools.
April: Mack Charles Parker, a resident of Poplarville, Mississippi, was
jailed for allegedly raping a white woman. A white mob abducted Mr.
Parker from his jail cell, beat him, took him to Louisiana, and then
shot him. Although Parker's abductors were well known and some
admitted their complicity to FBI agents, the judge in the case, Sebe
Dale, a white supremacist and member of the Citizens' Council,
encouraged the grand jury to return no indictments against the killers.
July: Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) volunteer
Robert Moses, traveling for SNCC, meets Amzie Moore in the
Mississippi Delta. The relationship would prove to be of major
significance in the Mississippi Movement.
May: Civil Rights Act of 1960 is signed into law, allowing for the
federal supervision of local voter registrars.
March 27: Nine students from Tougaloo College are arrested for
attempting to desegregate the “white only” public library. The group
became known as the Tougaloo Nine.
May 4: CORE’s Freedom Ride begins in Washington D.C., with plans
to continue throughout the Deep South to New Orleans to test
Boynton v. Virginia, which outlawed racial segregation in public
July: SCLC begins citizenship classes; Andrew J. Young is hired to
direct the program. Bob Moses arrives in McComb.
September 25: Voter Registration activist Herbert Lee is killed in
October 4: Burgland High School students are jailed in McComb for
leading a walkout of the school in protest of the expulsion of fellow
students for civil rights activism.
November 1: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
(SNCC) tests the desegregation of the bus terminal in Albany,
Georgia. Once the protestors enter the white waiting room, they are
ordered to leave by the police. The attention and experience SNCC
gained energized the youth arm of the movement, which later
became a powerful force in Mississippi.
April 9: Corporal Roman Duckworth is shot by a police officer in
September: A series of shootings is carried out around Ruleville,
including the homes of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker and Joe
McDonald, as well as two girls from the area.
September 30-October 1: Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black orders
James Meredith admittance to the University of Mississippi, called
“Ole Miss.” Despite Gov. Ross Barnett’s attempts to prevent it,
Meredith enrolls. A riot ensues on the UM campus, led by a white
mob protesting the university’s integration. French photographer Paul
Guihard and Oxford resident Ray Gunter are killed during the riot.
October: Leflore County Supervisors cut off surplus food distribution
in retaliation against a local voter registration drive.
February 28: SNCC worker Jimmy Travis is shot outside Greenwood.
April 23: Baltimore postal worker and CORE volunteer William Moore
is killed in Atalla, AL, while on a march from Baltimore, MD, to
June 9: Activists Fannie Lou Hamer and Euvester Simpson are
arrested and beaten by Montgomery County law enforcement in
Winona after attending a voter registration workshop.
June 12: Mississippi NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers is
assassinated in front of his home in Jackson.
April 26: The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) is
founded in Jackson. In August, the MFDP challenged the white
establishment of the Democratic Party at the party’s national
convention in Atlantic City, NJ, giving a national media voice to the
plight in Mississippi and galvanizing supporters. It is here that Fannie
Lou Hamer testifies before the Credentials Committee about the
economic tactics and violence used against her and other civil rights
activists in Mississippi.
Summer: During this period known as Freedom Summer, the Council
of Federated Organizations (COFO) organizes efforts to register
June 21: CORE workers James Chaney and Michael “Mickey”
Schwerner and volunteer Andrew Goodman disappear near
July 2: The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is signed, outlawing racial
discrimination and segregation in employment, schools, and public
July 12: The lower half of Charles Eddie Moore’s body and the
headless body of Henry Hezekiah Dee are pulled from the Mississippi
River near Tallulah, LA; FBI believes they were kidnapped near
Meadville, Mississippi, and murdered by Klansmen on May 2.
August 4: The bodies of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner are
found in an earthen dam near Philadelphia, MS.
September 6: 14-year-old Herbert Oarsby’s body is pulled from the
Big Black River near Canton, MS, dressed in a CORE t-shirt.
Black Church burnings occur throughout the state. McComb
becomes known as “the bombing capital of the world” for the number
of bombings there.
The State attempts to avoid integration of schools by establishing a
“Freedom of Choice” plan, by which parents could select the school
their children would attend. Black parents who attempted to enroll
their children in the white schools suffered various economic and
physical reprisals. This ploy to avoid school integration continued
through 1969, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Alexander v.
Holmes County Board of Education that desegregation had to
June-September: SCLC runs the Summer Community Organization
and Political Education (SCOPE) program, registering voters in
dozens of Southern counties.
August 6: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is signed into law, outlawing
practices designed to keep black citizens from registering to vote.
January 10: Local NAACP President Vernon Dahmer is killed in a
dynamite blast to his home in Hattiesburg. MS.
June 6: James Meredith is shot while on his “March against Fear.”
June 7-26: Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael, Floyd McKissick,
and others continue Meredith’s march. SNCC’s Willie Ricks leads
cries for “Black Power.”
June 10: Ben Chester White is killed by Klansmen in Natchez, MS.
October: The Black Panther Party, a self-defense organization
established to promote “Black Power,” is founded in Oakland,
California, by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale.
February 27: NAACP activist Wharlest Jackson is killed by bomb after
promotion to a “white” job in Natchez, MS.
May 11: National Guardsmen fire on a black student protest at
Jackson State University, killing civil rights worker Benjamin Brown.
June 12: In Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that the
prohibition of interracial marriage is unconstitutional.
Robert Clark becomes the first black person elected to the Mississippi
House of Representatives since Reconstruction.
January-February: Meridian church bombings and burnings.
January: School desegregation commences following the U.S.
Supreme Court ruling in Alexander V. Holmes County Board of
Education. Private white academies are founded across the state in
response to the integration of the public schools. The flight of white
students from the public schools results in the transfer of public
assets to the private schools, further depleting resources available for
The criminal justice system in the state continues to result in
disproportionate sentencing of whites and blacks and an on-going
failure to provide effective assistance of counsel in many cases.
The public schools, chronically underfunded as a result of the dual
school system, continue to be underfunded as they increasingly
became primarily for black students and poor white students in some
parts of the state.
By the 1973-1974 school year, 2/3 of Mississippi school children are
“tracked,” and thus provided with differential instruction.
In April 1973, Gov. Bill Waller vetoed the Sovereignty Commission
appropriation. The commission closed in June 1973 when unable to
get funds. It was officially abolished by legislative action in January
Education Reform Act
Provided for compulsory education, tightened teacher certification,
reorganized the State Department of Education, and provided for
sals and income tax financing for schools. Schools in the state
remain among the lowest funded in the country. The drop-out rate
results in some 50% of Mississippi children failing to graduate from