The Use of Multiple Timelines
For this page, I am focusing on the Civil Rights Movement in the United State from 1950 – 1970. If you were to study this time in history you would have a long list of important dates. Google “Civil Rights Timeline” or “Martin Luther King, Jr Timeline.
I cut down these lists to the most important events and tried to create a timeline but it was terribly confusing. I then divided the material into three categories:
- The life of Martin Luther King, Jr
- Decisions by the Presidents, the Congress, and the Supreme Court on this topic
- The Civil Rights Movement
These timelines are less cluttered and easier to read. Now you can see the relationships between the events in the Civil Rights Movement and the actions of the government.
It would be much easier to write a paper on the Civil Rights Movement with the three simple timelines. These would be adequate for a short report. For a longer report, you would first make larger timelines and include more detailed information.
It is interesting to note that just after the black people in Montgomery Alabama, spent over a year walking to and from work or shopping — The Montgomery Bus Boycott — the Supreme Court said that segregation on busses was not constitutional.
After the sit-ins began, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1960. After Dr. King died, Congress passes the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
Another thing that surprised me was how these Civil Rights Bills and Supreme Court Decisions did NOT change the situation. No one was prepared to rush into allowing black students in white schools so nothing happened at first. Then, further cases come up and changes were made in one school at a time. The Supreme Court said segregation was unconstitutional in 1954. After this was challenged often through the years, they finally said “Enough!” All schools will be integrated NOW. This was in 1969, fifteen years after Brown vs. the Board of Education.
Another Approach to Multiple Timelines
Here, I started with complex information and divided it into three parts. More often, I would begin with a single timeline. For example, I might do a timeline of a famous person. I might have a question about how his thinking was related to what was happening in his times. Another timeline covering the same time period might show political events, or events related to this person’s interests. For an artist, I would do a timeline of Artists and artistic movements of that time period. For a scientist, I would want a timeline of scientific discoveries or debates from that time.
Why did I choose to work on the Civil Rights Movement?
In 1950, I was nine years old. I lived in the segregated south. There were separate schools, separate bathrooms, separate water fountains, and so on. We were told that it was “Separate but Equal.” While this sounded reasonable, I gradually understood it wasn’t really equal. Someone told me that our old textbooks were given to the students in the black schools, while we got new ones. That wasn’t equal. And there were places with facilities for white people but none for black people. A friend shared with me that in my town, the only place downtown where a black person could use a bathroom was at the train station – if the train station was open. I hadn’t realized that. Our school had large libraries. Their schools had no library. I hadn’t known that. If I had known, I think I would have collected books for the black school.
The summer after seventh grade, I happened to take a workshop on “Race Relations.” I really had no idea what I was about to learn. The Brown vs. the Board of Education decision had been announced. Segregation is unconstitutional. That made sense to me. But when I shared my opinion with family, friends, classmates and teachers, there was not a single person who would agree with me. They were all convinced that “separate but equal” was best for everyone. I now realize that there may have agreed with me but were afraid to say so. In Georgia, white teachers were fired if they supported integration. The students knew that if they dared to agree with me they would be called names and worse. I only regret that our schools were not integrated until I’d finished college, was married, and living overseas.
I met my husband at a church conference where we went to the same workshop led by a man who was active in the sit-ins…. groups of students who sat on stools at lunch counters waiting to be served. After six months of daring to fight the rule that only white people could be served, they began to experience success. Meeting my husband-to-be in this setting, I knew we shared an interest in the Civil Rights Struggle that was going on, and we both wanted to participate, to do something to make a difference..
After the Selma marchers were attacked and beaten severely by the State Troopers and others, Martin Luther King called for people from all over the country to come to Selma and support their efforts. Over 8,000 people responded. My husband and I were among them. We listened to Dr. King preaching each night. We sang the Civil Rights songs. We understood that, just by being there we were putting ourselves in danger.
One white woman, Viola Liuzzo, came from Detroit to participate. She was driving people to and from the airport when she was shot and killed by Ku Klux Klan members. She tried to outrun them, and had an idea what was coming. She was singing “We Shall Overcome” when she was killed.
She left a husband and five children from seven to nineteen years old. There were uncounted black men and women along with a number of white men murdered for participating in the Civil Rights movement, but Viola Liuzzo seems to have been the only white woman.
As I mourned her death, I could not help but think, it could have been me.