1955 – Rosa Parks is arrested in Montgomery, Alabama

Rosa Parks was 42 years old and on her way home from work on a Thursday evening in Montogomery, Alabama. She was sitting in the front most row of seats for blacks, when the driver directed her to move back so that white passengers could sit there instead. She refused, and was shortly arrested.

Hers was not the first such act of civil disobedience against the racist laws of the United States at that time, but it was perhaps the most significant: from this spark grew the flame of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which would lead to the laws that Parks had been arrested under being struck down the following year by the Federal Court. Martin Luther King and others participated in this boycott, and the court decision marked the first major victory of the Civil Rights Movement, setting the stage for both the racial tensions and the legal reforms of the Sixties.

Referenced in:

Rosa Parks — OutKast

1963 — Martin Luther King makes his “I Have A Dream” speech

For a speech that lasted only 10 minutes, it’s hard to overstate the importance of the speech. It’s remains one of the most-quoted speeches of the twentieth century. It crystallised the ideals of the American Civil Rights Movement into a single line; a single dream.

And yet oddly, the best known part of the speech – the “I Have A Dream” section itself – was actually an improvisation. Martin Luther King was a great writer and a great orator, but on this day, he departed from the text of his pre-written speech. He spoke with passion and vision. He spoke from the heart, articulating a vision of an America – a world – which we have still not achieved.

King would be Time magazine’s Man of the Year in 1963, would win the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize…

…and be assassinated a little under eight months later.

Referenced in:
She Is Always Seventeen — Harry Chapin