The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project is a university-chartered research center associated with the Department of History of The George Washington University

The George Washington University

The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project

1948 CE


A segregated beach in South Africa, 1982

The government of South Africa begins enacting more rigorous and authoritarian segregation laws that cement the ideology of apartheid into law. The laws detail how and where the colored population lives and works, strip the colored population of their ability to vote, and go to great length to maintain white racial purity.

1949 CE

The Australian Parliament passes the Social Services Consolidation Act, which provides a number of federal benefits to Aboriginal natives of Australia who meet qualifications that were largely in accord with Parliament's assimilationist policy towards the Aboriginal people.

The ILO adopts the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining.

The Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War (Geneva Convention) approves standards for more humane treatment for prisoners of war, the wounded and civilians.

The Statute of the Council of Europe asserts that human rights and fundamental freedoms are the basis of the emerging European system.

1950-1954 CE


Joseph McCarthy

U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy launches his anti-Communist campaign, charging, but not substantiating, treachery among top ranks of the U.S. Government.

1950 CE

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is established by the United Nations General Assembly. The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. The agency is to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.

The UN adopts the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons and Exploitation or Prostitution of Others.

The Mattachine Society organizes in Los Angeles to fight discrimination against gays in housing, employment and assembly, and to lobby for the enactment of a bill of rights for gays.

1951 CE

The UN adopts the Convention on the Status of Refugees.

1952 CE

The U.S. Congress passes the Immigration and Nationality Act (also known as the McCarran-Walter Act), which ends the last racial and ethnic barriers to naturalization of aliens living in the U.S., but reduces the ethnic quotas for immigrants to the U.S. from eastern and southeastern Europe.

The UN adopts the Convention on Political Rights of Women.

1953 CE


European Court of Human Rights
in Strasbourg, France

The Council of Europe creates the European Commission on Human Rights and the Court of Human Rights.

1954 CE

The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional.

1955 CE

The Daughters of Bilitis is founded in San Francisco as an organization to work for the acceptance of lesbians as respectable citizens of society.

The U.S. adopts the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners.

1957 CE

Great Britain decriminalizes homosexual behavior between two consenting adults but bans gays in the military.

The UN adopts the Convention on Nationality of Married Women.

The ILO adopts the Convention Concerning Abolition of Forced Labour.

The ILO adopts the Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Populations.

1958 CE

The ILO adopts the Convention Concerning Discrimination in Employment and Occupation.

1960 CE

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is established as an advisory body to the Organization of American States.

The Convention Against Discrimination in Education is adopted by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Following an anti-apartheid protest challenging a law dictating where colored people can go, at which 69 protestors are killed by police, the South African government bans the African National Congress (ANC) and other opposition groups.

1961 CE


ER and John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy appoints Eleanor Roosevelt to head the first Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

The European Social Charter defines economic and social rights for member states of the Council of Europe.

Peter Benenson founds Amnesty International.

1962 CE

Voting rights, though not compulsory, are extended to all Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders by the Australian Parliament. (In 1984 the electoral law is changed to remove any distinctions between indigenous peoples and other citizens.)

1963 CE

The Organization of African Unity is established, dedicated to African self-determination and the advancement of the African people.

1964 CE

The U.S. Congress passes and President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Omnibus Civil Rights Bill, banning discrimination in voting, jobs, public accommodation, and other activities.


Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.

Martin Luther King, Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

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