Here's a look at some of the monumental events in civil rights history in the United States.
Related: The 15 best quotes from Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech
Frederick Douglass, a self-taught former slave, published the first edition of his anti-slavery paper, the North Star, in March 1847. In 1851 it merged with another newspaper to become Frederick Douglass's Paper.
An anti-slavery zealot, Douglass's heated rhetoric helped bring many whites around to the cause of abolition, and he played an important role in the Civil War, eventually successfully arguing for the arming of black regiments to fight in the war.
"So this is the little lady who started this great war" is a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe at the start of the Civil War. She was the author of what would eventually be the second most published book of the 19th century.
Describing the horrors of a life in slavery but ending with the moral that compassion and love can overcome, the book is widely considering one of the key starters of the Civil War.
After the brutal battle of Antietam in 1862 forced the Confederate Army of North Virginia from United States soil, Lincoln felt confident enough to declare all slaves within the Confederacy free in order to weaken the South's ability to fight the war.
While the Emancipation Proclamation had freed the slaves living in the Confederacy, slavery itself had yet to be formally abolished. The 13th Amendment remedied that by abolishing slavery and indentured servitude.
However, as reconstruction failed in the South, many blacks found themselves better off only on paper.
The last of the Reconstruction amendments, the 15th Amendment cemented the American citizen's right to vote regardless of his skin color. However, while it did give blacks the ability to vote, many Southern states would implement voting taxes that effectively barred most blacks — who lived in poverty in the South — from being able to exercise their right.
In 1901, segregation was the law in large parts of the United States, and while black men had built the White House, were often members of the staff and had been invited before, no black man had ever been invited to have dinner with the president. So when Teddy Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington over for dinner, it caused quite a stir.
The first formal meeting between black intellectuals and civil leaders to discuss the betterment of the black man in America was called the National Negro Committee (NNC), though you probably know it as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the name that the NNC would adopt in 1910.
In 1936, Adolf Hitler was using the Summer Olympics to show the world the resurgent Germany and show off the superiority of the Aryan race. Jesse Owens, a black-American athlete, won four gold medals in the Games, a monumental moment from black athletes.
However, it should be noted that Owens considered Hitler to be better than his own president, Franklin D. Roosevelt. In Germany, Owens could stay at any hotel he wanted and could attend all the ceremonies his white competitors could. Hitler even sent Owens a commemorative cabinet photograph of himself.
"Hitler didn't snub me — it was FDR who snubbed me. The president didn't even send me a telegram."
Up until World War II, black men weren't allowed to serve in the air forces of the United States, though one, Eugene Bullard, had served with the French air corp in World War I and later served in the French infantry when he was denied the ability to fly in the United States air force.
However, under pressure, the War Department consented to the creation of segregated air units for black men. It initially thought black men would fail to enlist in sufficient numbers as the testing restrictions were thought impassable for a large number of black men. But the War Department ended up with more successful applicants than it could accommodate.
Known as the Tuskegee Airmen for their home base of Tuskegee, Ala., they served with distinction in Italy during the war, providing fighter support for white bomber crews.
Jackie Robinson was the first black professional Major League baseball player in roughly 60 years when he played his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Major League Baseball had been white only for decades, and Robinson faced intense racism and discrimination when he joined. However, by being a great player, he eventually earned the respect of many of his fellow players and Dodgers fans and was a milestone for black men in America gaining acceptance.
"It is hereby declared to be the policy of the President that there shall be equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin."
With those words, Truman desegregated the United States military, allowing black men to serve in the same units as white men. They would soon go through a baptism of fire together, as white and black men would soon find themselves fighting in Korea in 1950.
The landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, ruled that the segregation of public schools — a fact of life in much of the South — was unconstitutional by a unanimous vote.
Under the ruling, the Southern public school system was desegregated, often through force.
Fourteen-year-old Chicago native Emmet Till was visiting his grandpa in rural Mississippi. He allegedly whistled at a white woman and was then kidnapped from his house, severely beaten and then shot in the face and thrown in a river by two white men, J.W. Milam and Roy Bryant, who were later acquitted of any guilt by an all white jury despite boasting about committing the crime.
Emmet Tills' mother placed his mutilated body on public display to show what had been done to her son. Thousands showed up to see. It is considered a catalyst for the civil rights explosion of the following decade.
In Montgomery, Ala., Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white person and sit at the back of the bus, as was the custom of the segregated bus line. She inspired a movement, and the Montgomery bus line was boycotted for more than a year before it finally gave in and desegregated its buses.
Parks is widely considered one of the starters of the civil rights movement due to her actions. Southern Baptist preacher Martin Luther King Jr. was an influential leader in the boycott and began his rise to fame.
On Feb. 1, 1960, four black men went into a white-only diner in Greensboro, N.C. Though they were not served, they were allowed to sit at the counter. What followed was six months of sit-ins, at the end of which they were finally served a meal at the counter. The move inspired similar sit-ins across the nation.
Throughout the spring and summer of 1961, groups of black and white students took bus rides throughout the South to test new laws desegregating bus lines. Along the way they were met with public violence and police brutality, often being imprisoned by police and beaten by crowds. But in the end, they galvanized civil rights supporters.
One of two defining moments of King's legacy was his arrest in Birmingham, Ala., where he was jailed for his role in anti-segregation riots in the city. It was in this jail that King wrote his famous "Letters from Birmingham Jail," where he detailed his stance and declared that man had a right to resist unjust laws.
The pivotal moment for civil rights for blacks in America, the march on Washington involved more than 200,000 white and black protesters who packed the Washington Mall. It was here that King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech that forever transformed America.
In April 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a landmark piece of legislation. The act outlawed discrimination against women and racial, ethnic, national and religious minorities.
At the age of 39, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot on the balcony outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tenn., by James Earl Ray.