1948: Truman signs Executive Order 9981

Signed on July 26th, 1948 by President Harry Truman, Executive Order 9981 abolished segregation of the armed forces and ordered full integration.

While full integration didn't come until the Korean War, Executive Order 9981 was an important first step towards the "equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race" that were called for in the order.

More on Executive Order 9981:

Photo: File photo of Harry Truman. (AP Photo)

1954: Brown v. Board of Education ruling

One of the most influential cases of the 20th century, Brown v. Board of Education found that racial segregation in public schools violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.

The class action suit, filed by Oliver Brown with the help of the NAACP lawyers, was one of five cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court under the umbrella of Brown v. Board of Education concerning segregation in public schools.

The case was initially dismissed by a federal district court before being heard in 1952 and again in the 1953 by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court issued their ruling on May 14, 1954, stating, "We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal…"

More on Brown v. Board of Education:

Photo: Linda Brown Smith, date and location unknown. Smith was a third grader when her father started a class-action suit in 1951 of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, which led to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1954 landmark decision against school segregation. (AP Photo)

1955: Emmett Till brutally murdered

It was August of 1955 when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy, traveled to visit family in rural Money, Miss. During his time there, he had an encounter with a white shopkeeper that enraged the woman’s husband.

Till’s brutal murder, which involved several beatings, his eyes being gouged, being shot in the head and then thrown into a river tied while to a cotton gin, sent shockwaves across the nation based solely on the savagery of the killing.

The two men accused in his murder, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, went on trial that September. Witnesses were locked up so that they couldn’t testify. The courtroom was segregated. Eventually, both men were acquitted of kidnapping and murdering Till.

Some jurors in the case later said that they voted for acquittal over the only two other options – life in prison or the death penalty – because they didn’t think that punishment was acceptable in the case of a white man killing a black man.

In a subsequent magazine interview, Milam admitted to shooting Till.

More on Emmett Till:

Photo: Undated file photo of Emmett Louis Till, a black teenager from Chicago whose body was found in the Tallahatchie River near Money, Miss. on Aug. 31, 1955. (AP Photo/File)

1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat

In the grand scheme of moments that changed the civil rights movement in the United States forever, none stand out more than Dec. 1, 1955.

Parks was riding the bus in Montgomery, Ala. on that day when the bus driver, James Blake, ordered her to move into the vehicle’s colored section to make way for a white rider.

Parks was hardly the first to say no, but it was her story that set off a wave of outrage. She was arrested and charged under Montgomery’s segregation laws.

Just days later, organizers in Montgomery’s black community organized the Montgomery bus boycott, with such high-profile civil rights leaders as King, Ralph Abernathy and Edgar Nixon leading the way.

The boycott lasted 381 days and included the two-week imprisonment of Martin Luther King Jr. It ended on Dec. 20, 1956 in a victory for the leaders – Montgomery passed an ordinance striking down the segregation of seats on city buses.

More on Rosa Parks:

Photo: A Montgomery (Ala.) Sheriff's Department booking photo of Rosa Parks taken Feb 22, 1956. (AP Photo/Montgomery County (Ala.) Sheriff's office)

1957: Southern Christian Leadership Conference formed

With the Montgomery bus boycott over and victory claimed in the name of civil rights, Martin Luther King met with dozens of ministers and leaders from across the country in January of 1957.

What came out of their meeting was the eventual formation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization with a singular mission – to end segregation of all kinds throughout the South and the United States.

The SCLC, unlike other organizations, vowed to use boycotts and nonviolent forms of protest in an effort to advance its cause.

Six years after it was formed, the Conference would call for and organize the March on Washington.

Today, the SCLC has its headquarters in Atlanta and claims 57 chapters nationwide.

More on the Southern Christian Leadership Conference:

Photo: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. makes his last public appearance at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968. The following day, King was assassinated on his motel balcony. (AP Photo/Charles Kelly)

1957: Little Rock Nine escorted by Army

In 2013, Little Rock Central High School is the home of 2,422 students, 170 teachers, numerous National Merit and AP Scholars and has even been named the “Most Beautiful High School in America.” What's more, by 2011, 52.6 percent of the student population was black.

In 1957, that percentage was zero, and Little Rock Central was about to become the catalyst for social change in America.

It was Sept. 4, 1957 when Alabama Gov. Orval Faubus ordered National Guard troops to line the campus of Little Rock Central. It was a successful – albeit fleeting – attempt to keep nine black students from attending classes inside the building.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower quickly stepped in, ordering Faubus to let the students in. Finally, weeks later, those students; Melba Pattillo Beals, Minnijean Brown, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Thelma Mothershed, Terrence Roberts and Jefferson Thomas; were escorted into the school by federal troops.

Faubus went as far as to shut down each of Little Rock’s four high schools a year later, meaning that both black and white students couldn’t attend classes.

More on the Little Rock Nine:

Photo: Students being escorted onto campus (Library of Congress/US Army)

1960: Civil Rights Act of 1960 signed

Three years after Congress passed its landmark Civil Rights Act of 1957, the goal of which was to enfranchise black voters nationwide, the government built on that action with the Civil Rights Act of 1960.

This specific legislation, which President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law on May 6, 1960, was based on a series of seven goals he established a year earlier to advance the cause of civil rights. Among those directives included ensuring that orders to desegregate schools were observed and federal election records could be inspected regularly to eliminate the intimidation of black voters.

In addition to actions on those mandates, one of which included stiff penalties for those who tried to obstruct court orders to desegregate schools, Eisenhower’s signature extended the Civil Rights Commission for another two years.

The 1960 bill was hardly the last piece of civil rights legislation passed by Congress – subsequent presidents and Congresses would go on to pass even more sweeping and landmark bills advancing the cause of equal rights.

More on the Civil Rights Act of 1960:

1961: Freedom Riders leave Washington

By 1961, it had already been six years since Rosa Parks made history by refusing to move from a whites-only seat on a Montgomery, Ala. bus. As the civil rights movement progressed, though, the idea of full equality still rang with Parks’ historic action.

That’s where the Freedom Riders came into the American dialogue, and on May 4 of that year, the Freedom Rides began.

On that May 4, the first Freedom Riders set off from Washington for a weeks-long bus trip to Louisiana to protest the inaction of federal and state authorities on Supreme Court rulings barring segregation of buses. The riders, though, were met with arrest and, in some cases, brutality as they worked their way through the Deep South.

The violence culminated in Alabama and Mississippi, where both buses were burned and its occupants not only arrested but beaten by mobs of white supremacists in several cities.

More on the Freedom Riders:

Photo: This is a May 1961 file photograph of a Freedom Rider bus that went up in flames when a fire bomb was tossed through a window near Anniston, Ala. (AP Photo/File)

1962: James Meredith tries to enroll at Ole Miss

While state governments across the South continued to resist orders to desegregate schools, all Mississippi native James Meredith wanted to do was get his education.

In fact, all he was trying to do was use the Constitutional right he had to attend classes at Ole Miss, which at the time was still only accepting white students on their Oxford campus. Even the Supreme Court ruled in Meredith’s favor, concluding that he was only being barred from campus because he was black.

That wasn’t enough for Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, who personally showed up at Ole Miss to block him from enrolling, having him arrested on a voter registration law that was widely known to be segregationist.

Finally, in October of 1962, Meredith was allowed to enroll, but his presence on campus led to rioting. Two people died in the violence.

None of it deterred Meredith. The next August, he graduated from Ole Miss. His statue now stands in Oxford.

More on James Meredith:

Photo: James Meredith walking to class accompanied by U.S. marshals. (Marion S. Trikosko/Library of Congress)

1963: Birmingham's aggression against African-Americans televised

By the spring of 1963, the calls for equal rights were growing louder and louder, and in the decidedly southern city of Birmingham, Ala., those protests quickly turned violent.

Martin Luther King Jr. personally considered Birmingham to be one of the most segregated cities in America, with incredible discrepancies in employment, income and opportunity in general. Over a 17-year period, the city was hit with dozens of race-fueled bomb attacks.

But in 1963, the city’s black population finally rose up, but were treated with humiliation and brutality from every angle. Black residents held sit-ins at segregated churches, diners and libraries, leading to their arrest.

Finally, as spring turned to summer, the authorities became more aggressive. As thousands of students marched through the streets, authorities turned water cannons and police dogs onto the crowd.

The images of the savage treatment of the black marchers were broadcast to a nationwide audience, only serving to anger millions about the continuing state of race relations in the South.

Their tactics worked, though. On May 8, after the city sat paralyzed for days, the city’s white leaders began desegregating numerous businesses and services.

More information:

Photo: Firefighters turn their hoses full force on civil rights demonstrators July 15, 1963 in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Bill Hudson)

WJLA/NewsChannel 8
© 2013 Allbritton Communications Company