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Research: The Making of the Documentary

Timeline of Events: Before Production


1860s: Civil War, end of slavery, Congress passes 14th Amendment guaranteeing blacks equal protection and, seemingly, public accommodation.

1870s-1890s: Southern states turn back freedoms guaranteed to blacks by the 14th Amendment. Supreme Court decides Hall v. DeCuir (1878), which holds that one state cannot enforce an integration law on another state due to the Interstate Commerce Clause, and Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which allows segregation so long as facilities are “separate but equal,” which in fact they were not.

April 28, 1941: Arthur Mitchell, a black congressman from Chicago, wins Supreme Court decision outlawing segregation in first class travel, establishing that “separate but equal” accommodations must indeed be equal.

April 1942: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) formed in Chicago by Jim Farmer, George Houser and Berniece Fisher. Houser and Farmer also work as race relations secretaries for the Fellowship of Reconciliation.

July 17, 1944: Irene Morgan arrested in Gloucester, Va., for refusing to give up her seat on an interstate bus headed to Maryland. NAACP lawyers Thurgood Marshall and Spottswood Robinson take her case.

June 3, 1946: Marshall and Robinson win Morgan v. Virginia in the Supreme Court, basing their argument not on the 14th Amendment, but Hall v. DeCuir. Their logic was if it is an “undue burden on commerce” for one state to enforce an integration law on another, so too would it be for a state to impose its segregation laws on interstate passengers.

Fall 1946: With few Southern states enforcing the Morgan decision, George Houser, Bayard Rustin and other leaders of the Congress of Racial Equality devise the idea of an interstate “Journey of Reconciliation” to the Upper South, in which whites and blacks would travel together, purposely violating local Jim Crow laws.

Bayard Rustin and George Houser, circa 1947
Bayard Rustin and George Houser
(click to enlarge)
April 9-23, 1947: Rustin and Houser lead eight white men and eight black men in the Journey of Reconciliation through Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky. A second trip is suggested for an interracial group of women, but does not materialize.

1949: Rustin, Igal Roodenko and Joe Felmet sentenced to 30 days on a chain gang for violating North Carolina Jim Crow laws on the Journey.

May 17, 1954: Supreme Court decides Brown v. Board of Education, overturning Plessy v. Ferguson and holding segregation unconstitutional.

August 1955: 14-year-old Emmett Till is lynched in Money, Mississippi.

December 1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Ala., sparking a year-long bus boycott there led by the Rev. Martin Luther King. Bayard Rustin serves as an advisor to the boycotters.

May 1961: Under Jim Farmer, CORE launches a second Journey of Reconciliation, this time called a “Freedom Ride,” and this time targeting segregated bus stations as well as the buses themselves. The travelers, which include women and men, head to the Deep South, where they are brutally beaten. Jim Peck is the only veteran of the 1947 journey to participate.

August 28, 1963: March on Washington held, in which Dr. King gives his “I Had a Dream” speech. The event - then the largest mass protest to date in American history - is largely organized by Rustin.

November 22, 1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

1964: Congress passes Civil Rights Act, permanently guaranteeing equal public accommodations.

1965: Congress passes Voting Rights Act.


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