10 Historical Events of the 1950s Never to be Forgotten

1. The U.S. Supreme Court declares segregation in public schools unconstitutional in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

On February 28, 1951 the NAACP filed their case as Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. The Board of Education of Topeka (KS). The District Court ruled in favor of the school board and the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. When the Topeka case made its way to the United States Supreme Court, it was combined with the other NAACP cases from Delaware, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The combined cases became known as Oliver L. Brown et. al. vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, et. al. On May 17, 1954 at 12:52 p.m. the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision that it was unconstitutional, violating the 14th amendment to separate children in public schools for no other reason than their race.

2. 14-year-old Emmett Till is killed by white men while visiting family in the south

In 1955 after offending a white woman in a grocery store, young Emmett Till was brutally murdered. The brutality of his murder and the fact that his killers were acquitted drew attention to the long history of violent persecution of African Americans in the United States.

3. Rosa Parks is arrested after refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery Bus

On December 1, 1955, after a long day’s work at a Montgomery department store, where she worked as a seamstress, Rosa Parks boarded the Cleveland Avenue bus for home. She took a seat in the first of several rows designated for “colored” passengers. s the bus Rosa was riding continued on its route, it began to fill with white passengers. Eventually, the bus was full and the driver noticed that several white passengers were standing in the aisle. He stopped the bus and moved the sign separating the two sections back one row and asked four black passengers to give up their seats. Three complied, but Rosa refused and remained seated. On the evening that Rosa Parks was arrested

4. Marian Anderson becomes the first African-American to perform with the Metropolitan Opera.

On January 7, 1955, Anderson became the first African-American to perform with the Metropolitan Opera in New York. On that occasion, she sang the part of Ulrica in Giuseppe Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera (opposite Zinka Milanov, then Herva Nelli, as Amelia) at the invitation of director Rudolf Bing.

5. Nat King Cole becomes the first African-American to host a prime time show on national television.

The Nat King Cole Show” premiered on NBC on November 5, 1956. Initially it was a 15-minute program broadcast on Mondays from 7:30 to 7:45 pm.

6. Gwendolyn Brooks receives the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.

Brooks won the Pulitzer Prize in 1950 for her second book of poetry, “Annie Allen.” She is the first African-American to receive such a distinction.

7. Ralph Ellison publishes Invisible Man.

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man was published by Random House in 1952. The novel is about a black man who renders himself invisible; it addresses many of the social and intellectual issues facing African-Americans early in the twentieth century.



8. Florida NAACP official Harry T. Moore is killed by a bomb

Harry T. Moore and his wife, Harriette Vyda Simms Moore, also an educator, were the victims of a bombing of their home in Mims, Florida on Christmas night 1951. He died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital in Seminole County while she died January 3, 1952, at the hospital in Sanford, Florida. Forensic work in 2005-6 resulted in the naming of the probable perpetrators as four Ku Klux Klan members, all long dead by the time of the investigation.


9. Little Rock, Arkansas Crisis

By 1957, the NAACP had registered nine black students to attend the previously all-white Little Rock Central High, selected on the criteria of excellent grades and attendance. Called the “Little Rock Nine.” Their enrollment was followed by the Little Rock Crisis, in which the students were initially prevented from entering the racially segregated school by Orval Faubus, the Governor of Arkansas. The students attended after the intervention of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.


10. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) is founded

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference is established in Atlanta. King is appointed as the organization’s first president. The SCLC is founded as a civil rights organization in 1957, as an offshoot of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), which successfully staged a 381-day boycott of the Montgomery Alabama’s segregated bus system. Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, Ralph Abernathy, Fred Shuttlesworth, and others, founded the SCLC in order to have a regional organization that could better coordinate civil rights protest activities across the South.




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