May 4 - U.S. Freedom Riders begin interstate bus rides to test the new U.S. Supreme Court integration decision.
May 5 - Mercury program: Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space aboard Mercury-Redstone 3.
May 6 - Tottenham Hotspur F.C. becomes the first team in the 20th century to win the English league and cup double. This being the last time Tottenham won the English League.
May 8 - Briton George Blake is sentenced to 42 years imprisonment for spying.
May 9 - In a speech to the National Association of Broadcasters, FCC chairman Newton N. Minow describes commercial television programming as a "vast wasteland".
May 14 - American civil rights movement: A Freedom Riders bus is fire-bombed near Anniston, Alabama and the civil rights protestors are beaten by an angry mob.
May 15 - Heinrich Matthaei alone performs the Poly-U-Experiment and is the first human to recognize and understand the genetic code. This is the birthdate of modern genetics.
May 16 - Park Chung Hee takes over in a military coup in South Korea.
May 19 - Venera 1 becomes the first man-made object to fly-by another planet by passing Venus (however, the probe had lost contact with Earth a month earlier and does not send back any data).
May 21 - American civil rights movement: Alabama Governor John Patterson declares martial law in an attempt to restore order after race riots break out.
May 22 - An Earthquake rocks New South Wales.
May 24 - American civil rights movement: Freedom Riders are arrested in Jackson, Mississippi for "disturbing the peace" after disembarking from their bus.
May 25 - Apollo program: President Kennedy announces before a special joint session of Congress his goal to put a man on the Moon before the end of the decade.
May 27 - Tunku Abdul Rahman, Prime Minister of Malaya, holds a press conference in Singapore, announcing his idea to form the Federation of Malaysia, comprising Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo (Sabah).
May 28 - Peter Benenson's article "The Forgotten Prisoners" is published in several internationally read newspapers. This is later considered the founding of the human rights organization Amnesty International.
May 30 - Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, totalitarian despot of the Dominican Republic since 1930, is killed in an ambush, putting an end to the second longest-running dictatorship in Latin American history.
- In France, rebel generals Maurice Challe and Andre Zelelr are sentenced to 15 years in prison.
- South Africa officially leaves the Commonwealth of Nations.
- President John F. Kennedy and Charles De Gaulle meet in Paris. (source: Wikipedia)