Timeline

1966

June 11th, 1966

Dozens Participate in NAACP’s Birmingham March Against U.S. Steel Employment Discrimination

Despite the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in employment based on race, sex, religion, and national origin, African Americans were continuously relegated to low-paying, unskilled jobs. Many industries refused to train or promote African Americans, only permitting white employees to compete for supervisory positions.

During the summer of 1966, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branches in Birmingham and Pittsburgh held peaceful protests outside of the US Steel Corporation to bring awareness to issues of employment discrimination. On June 11, 1966, dozens participated in an NAACP-organized march demanding an end to discriminatory labor practices at US Steel in Birmingham. The NAACP also filed more than 200 complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of US Steel's African-American employees alleging unfair hiring and promoting practices. Complaints included allegations that the company promoted white workers over more senior African-American employees. Still, the company continued to promote itself as a color blind employer.

Leaders of the NAACP argued that continued workplace discrimination forced African Americans and their families to remain in cycles of poverty. Also, they asserted that automation was eliminating many of the unskilled lower-paying jobs that African-American employees filled. Without opportunities to be trained or promoted on the job, a significant number faced unemployment.

These racial differences in employment outcomes helped to perpetuate economic inequality that continues to plague communities of color. For the past fifty years, the African American unemployment rate has consistently been twice as high as the unemployment rate for whites. The average family wealth for whites is nearly six times the average family wealth for African American and Hispanic families.

1967

June 11th, 1967

Riots Erupt in Tampa, Florida, After Police Kill Unarmed Black Teen

On June 11, 1967, Officer James Calvert shot unarmed Martin Chambers, 19, in the back, killing him and setting off three days of riots in Tampa, Florida.

Police pursued Martin Chambers that day because they suspected that he and two other young men had robbed a local photo supply store. While chasing Chambers, a white officer, James Calvert, shot the teenager in the back, killing him. According to newspaper accounts, Calvert shot Chambers as a last resort when the teen would not stop running, and aimed for his shoulder but missed. Chambers died later that day, shortly after arriving at the hospital.

News of the shooting spread quickly throughout Tampa's African American neighborhoods. That night, citizens began a three day riot, burning and looting businesses in the Central Avenue area. State Attorney Paul Antinori heard testimony from Calvert and three young African American men who witnessed the shooting. The young men reported that Calvert shot Chambers after he had stopped running and had his hands up against a chain link fence. Calvert testified that Chambers was still running when shot, and said he feared that if he did not shoot, Chambers would escape.

Just two days after Chambers was killed, Antinori ruled the shooting was justified. In his remarks, Antinori argued that Calvert’s shot was necessary because Chambers was a felon fleeing apprehension. Without acknowledging that Chambers had not been convicted of a crime, Antinori explained that people who broke the law accepted the risk that law enforcement might have to use force to do their jobs. City officials and African American community leaders feared that the disappointing verdict would incite more violence but the riots ended. In 1990, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement review also found the shooting justified.