- Brown v. Board decision declares segregation in public schools illegal.
- The Montgomery Bus Boycott begins on December 5 after Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on the bus. This boycott lasts 381 days and ends with the desegregation of the Montgomery, Alabama bus system on December 21, 1956. As a pastor of a Baptist church in Montgomery, Martin Luther King, Jr. leads this black bus boycott and becomes a national hero.
- The Southern Christian Leadership Conference establishes and adopts nonviolent mass action as its cornerstone strategy to gain civil rights and opportunities for blacks. Working initially in the South under the leadership of Martin Luther King, by the mid 1960's King enlarges the organization's focus to address racism in the North.
- King's Letter from Birmingham Jail inspires a growing national civil rights movement. In Birmingham, the goal is to end the system of segregation completely in every aspect of public life (stores, no separate bathrooms and drinking fountains, etc.) and in job discrimination. This same year, he delivers his I Have a Dream Speech on the Washington Mall, which becomes an enduring symbol of King's legacy and influence.
- In Birmingham, a white man is seen placing a box containing a bomb under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church, a black congregation. The explosion kills four black girls attending Sunday school. Twenty-three others people are also injured in the blast.
- President Johnson announces the "Great Society" with "abundance and liberty for all", and declares a "War on Poverty." Congress authorizes the Civil Rights Act, the most far-reaching legislation in U.S. history to ensure the right to vote, guarantee access to public accommodations, and the withdrawal of federal funds to any program administered in a discriminatory way.
- Beginning this year, growing frustrations in black communities over urban decay and lack of opportunities erupts into a wave of race riots through U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Newark (NJ) and Detroit Michigan. The years 1964 to 1971 see more than 750 riots, killing 228 people and injuring 12,741 others. Additionally, more than 15,000 separate incidents of arson leave many black urban neighborhoods in ruins.
- Voting Rights Act is passed, authorizing direct federal intervention to enable blacks to vote.
- Malcolm X is assassinated by members of the Nation of Islam (Black Muslims) in New York City.
- Robert C. Weaver is appointed Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. He is the first black to hold a Cabinet position in U.S. history.
- Edward Brooke (Massachusetts Republican) becomes the first black to serve in the Senate since Reconstruction.
- On April 4, 1968, James Earl Ray assassinates Martin Luther King, while he is standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. In outrage of the murder, many blacks take to the streets in a massive wave of riots across the U.S.
- Congress authorizes the 1968 Civil Rights Act, providing federal enforcement provisions for discrimination in housing. The 1968 expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. This law enabled housing opportunities for blacks beyond the "ghetto."