Civil Rights Timeline

Note: Seattle events are in bold text.

1948 May 3 US Supreme Court declares racially restrictive covenants to be unenforceable in court.
1954 May 17 US Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education declares segregation in public schools unconstitutional, nullifying the earlier judicial doctrine of "separate but equal."
1955 December 1 Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in defiance of Jim Crow law in Montgomery, Alabama.
1955 December 5 Twelve-month long Montgomery Bus Boycott begins. On November 13, 1956, the US Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling that Montgomery's bus segregation law is unconstitutional. Montgomery City Council passes an ordinance desegregating seating on city buses. The boycott ends December 21, 1956.
1956 Civic Unity Committee creates Greater Seattle Housing Council to encourage dialogue between proponents of open housing and the real estate industry, but is unsuccessful in developing an open housing policy.
1957 State of Washington passes Omnibus Civil Rights Act making housing discrimination illegal when federal and state government loans are still in place.
1957 September President Eisenhower mobilizes the National Guard to ensure nine African-American children can enroll in a previously all white school in Little Rock, Arkansas.
1959 Omnibus Civil Rights Act challenged in King County Superior Court.
1960 February 1 Four Black students begin sit-in at the segregated Woolworth's lunch counter in downtown Greensboro, NC.
1961 May 4 The first Freedom Ride bus left from Washington D.C. for the south, testing the Supreme Court ruling declaring segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional. The Freedom Riders encountered violence and brutality through the summer.
1961 October Seattle Employment Discrimination campaign aims toward selective buying, as well as "shoe-in" and "shop-in."
1961 December 11 Seattle City Council convenes a public hearing to consider NAACP request for an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in the sale and rental of housing because of race, color, etc. Council declines to act and recommends petitioners start initiative petition to place measure on ballot.
1962 Summer Fair Housing Listing Service created in Seattle by 24 organizations, bringing together blacks desiring to purchase housing outside of Central District and white homeowners willing to sell to minorities.
1962 December 17 Mayor's Citizen's Advisory Committee on Minority Housing recommends open housing ordinance banning discrimination in the sale or rental of housing in report submitted to Council. Mayor and Council delay action for a year.
1963 Urban League and NAACP resign from Greater Seattle Housing Council because they believed the Council was not effective in changing discriminatory housing practices.
1963 Central Area Civil Rights Committee (CACRC) formed.
1963 April 16 Martin Luther King is arrested in Birmingham, Alabama. He writes his pivotal "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" to the nation's clergy, arguing that there is a moral imperative to disobey unjust laws.
1963 June 12 NAACP field secretary Medger Evers is murdered in Jackson, Mississippi.
1963 July 1 400-person protest march; 35 youth from interracial Central District Youth Club stage Seattle's first sit-in, occupying Mayor's office for almost 24 hours.
1963 July 1 Seattle Human Rights Commission proposed by City Council and Mayor. Council establishes Commission on July 17 (Ord. 92191).
1963 July 15 Shortly after first sit-in, City Council establishes Human Rights Commission and authorizes it to draft open housing ordinance.
1963 July 20 City Council Chamber sit-in involving 300 protesters.
1963 August 28 Martin Luther King leads march in Washington D.C. Over 250,000 join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. Martin Luther King delivers his famous "I have a dream" speech. Performances are given by Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and many others. Speakers include Walter Reuther, Josephine Baker and Rosa Parks.
1963 August 28 1,000 demonstrators march from First AME Church to Federal Courthouse in Seattle. Coincides with Martin Luther King's March on Washington.
1963 August 28 The Seattle Public School District becomes the first major school system in the country to initiate a voluntary desegregation plan.
1963 September 3 Seattle Human Rights Commission recommends an ordinance to prevent discrimination in the rental and sale of housing accommodations.
1963 September 15 Four young girls are killed when the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, is bombed.
1963 October 20 March in support of open housing draws 1,200 people. March ends at Garfield High School playground.
1963 October 25 Seattle City Council, meeting as a Committee of the Whole, holds a public hearing on an the open housing bill recommended by the Seattle Human Rights Commission. The bill City Council's Committee of the Whole approved (7-2) was stripped of the emergency clause. Leaving the emergency clause in the bill would have ensured the open housing ordinance became law after a final vote by City Council. Taking the emergency clause out meant the bill sent to Full Council for a final vote would be on an open housing ordinance subject to overturn by referendum instead of becoming law. Voting against the final version of the bill with the emergency clause taken out were Wing Luke and Charles M. Carroll.
1963 November 27 Seattle City Council votes on the bill approved on October 25, which approved an open housing ordinance that was subject to ratification at the general election on March 10, 1964. The bill became Ordinance 92497, defining and prohibiting unfair housing practices in the sale and offering for sale and in the rental and offering for rent and in the financing of housing accommodations. Council Members Wing Luke and Charles M. Carroll again voted against the Ordinance because it did not contain an emergency clause which would have made it a law immediately.
1963 December 9 City Council approves Ord. 92533 submitting to the voters by Charter Referendum the open housing ordinance passed in November. Carroll and Luke continue their protest votes.
1964 January Charles Z. Smith is appointed as the first African American judge on Seattle's Municipal Court.
1964 February 12 Tacoma voters defeat open housing legislation by a margin of 3-1.
1964 March 7 Over 1,500 attend open housing rally, marching from several places around the city to Westlake Plaza.
1964 March 10 Open Housing Ordinance is defeated by Seattle voters 115,627 to 54,448. J. Dorm Braman, an opponent of open housing, is elected Mayor of Seattle, defeating John Cherberg, a supporter of open housing.
1964 Summer Freedom Summer in Mississippi. The Council of Federated Organizations launches a voter registration campaign in Mississippi, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation attempts to unseat the segregated Mississippi delegation at the Democratic National Convention.
1964 Summer Drive for Equal Employment in Downtown Stores (DEEDS). The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) program attempts to pressure downtown businesses to ensure minorities would equal 24% of all new hires. CORE organizes boycotts of downtown businesses through January 1965.
1964 Summer CORE also organizes pickets and sit-ins at local real estate industry offices. A court-ordered injunction terminates the protests.
1964 July 2 President Lyndon Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act The legislation stated that uniform standards must prevail for establishing the right to vote.
1965 By the beginning of 1965, the Fair Housing Listing Service has negotiated 50 home sales outside the Central District to minorities.
1965 February 21 Assassination of Malcolm X at a rally in New York.
1965 March 7 Bloody Sunday. About 525 people start a proposed 54-mile march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol in Montgomery. They are demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. The marchers are brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies as they attempt to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
1965 March 20 More than 600 people take part in a "Freedom March" in Seattle supporting marchers in Selma. Open housing legislation and equal job opportunities are supported at the rally, which starts at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church and ends at the United States Courthouse. The principal sponsor of the rally is the Seattle Chapter of the NAACP.
1965 May 15 Sidney Gerber, founder of Harmony Homes, dies in airplane accident. Harmony built 15 homes for African Americans in previously all-white Seattle neighborhoods. Council member Wing Luke dies in the same accident.
1965 August 6 President Johnson signs the US Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act prohibited literacy tests and poll taxes which had been used to prevent blacks from voting.
1965 August 11 Riots in Watts begin after two African Americans are arrested by white police officers for a minor vehicle violation in this predominantly Black neighborhood in Los Angeles. In five days of violence, 34 people were killed and property damage was estimated at around $40 million.
1967 June 8 Operation Equality, a three-year project of the Seattle Urban League, provides counsel to minorities seeking housing, sponsors educational projects, and works with fair housing groups to list available housing. The project receives funding from a Ford Foundation grant, the second grant of its kind in the US.
1967 July Race riots in Detroit last for five days, leaving 43 people dead, 1189 injured, over 7000 people arrested, and damage estimates of $22 million. Also during the summer of 1967, a riot in Newark left 23 dead and $10 million in damage.
1967 November 7 Sam Smith is elected to the Seattle City Council, the first African American to serve on the Council.
1968 April 4 Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, TN.
1968 April 11 President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1968 prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.
1968 April 19 Seattle City Council passes fair housing ordinance unanimously (Ordinance 96619). It passes with an emergency clause, making it impossible to appeal by referendum by the voters. The bill was sponsored by six Council members, including Sam Smith.

Municipal Archives, City Clerk

Anne Frantilla, City Archivist
Address: 600 Fourth Avenue, Third Floor, Seattle, WA, 98104
Mailing Address: PO Box 94728, Seattle, WA, 98124-4728
Phone: (206) 684-8353

The Office of the City Clerk maintains the City's official records, provides support for the City Council, and manages the City's historical records through the Seattle Municipal Archives. The Clerk's Office provides information services to the public and to City staff.