Created by the Soviet Union, Sputnik I became the first satellite launched into space in October 1957. It was followed by Sputnik II a month later. The launch of the two satellites marked the beginning of the space race as a high stakes competition with national security implications between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets’ success in launching the satellites also prompted the US to increase federal spending on education and technology advances.
Senator Joseph McCarthy began a series of televised Congressional investigations into Communists in the US Army. The broadcasts exposed McCarthy as an unscrupulous bully, and the Senate eventually voted to censure McCarthy for his conduct during the hearings.
The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. The amendment prohibited poll taxes for federal elections, which had often been imposed by state and local governments to prevent African Americans from voting.
More than seventy-five major race riots occured in 1967. The largest was in Detroit and began when police raided an after-hours bar. The violence in Detroit lasted for five days, during which thirty-four people were killed and seven thousand arrested.
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.
Four black college students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College staged the first of the Civil Rights Movement’s sit-ins. The students sat down at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, and attempted to order but were refused service. The sit-in movement grew to more than 140 cities. Participants faced harassment, violence, and arrest in their attempts to integrate public lunch counters.