Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his “Letter from Birmingham Jail” after being arrested on April 12 during a civil rights demonstration in Birmingham, Alabama. On the day of King’s arrest, a group of white religious leaders issued “A Call for Unity,” a statement urging an end to the demonstrations; King’s letter was a response to that statement. In his letter, King justified the movement’s tactics and admonished white churches for not supporting rights for African Americans.
Lyndon Johnson announced his “Great Society” plan in his first State of the Union message. The program called for a “war on poverty,” with social welfare legislation and increased federal support for education, health care, and voting rights.
Martin Luther King Jr. and others led more than 200,000 civil rights supporters in a March on Washington. There, King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, declaring that “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
The Montgomery bus boycott began on December 6, 1955, prompted by the arrest five days earlier of Rosa Parks. The boycotters were led by Martin Luther King Jr. They walked and carpooled to protest segregation in public transportation. They faced harassment and violence from white police and residents. In November 1956, the Supreme Court ruled in Gayle et al. v. Browser that segregation of the city’s buses was unconstitutional. African Americans returned to Montgomery’s buses on December 21, 1956.
Martin Luther King Jr. organized a freedom march from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery, Alabama, to protest voter registration interference by the police. The march was halted when Alabama state troopers stopped and beat the protestors at Pettus Bridge. The march resumed with 3,200 protestors on March 21. They were escorted at President Johnson’s orders by the National Guard. The march reached Montgomery with more than 25,000 protestors on March 25.
In Shelly v. Kraemer, the Supreme Court reinforced the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws" when it ruled that state courts could not enforce racially restrictive housing covenants.