the United States of America, civil rights and liberties include
the guarantees of the Bill of Rights, the "equal protection" guarantee
of the Fourteenth Amendment, and voting rights. Not only are these
rights committed to paper in America's founding documents, but they
are enjoyed in the every day lives of the people. This might seem
a trivial distinction, but in many countries the mere guarantee of
rights on paper does not mean that those rights are actually protected
by government. Indeed, the constitution
of the former Soviet Union (USSR), included guarantees of the
rights of expression, religion and privacy. In practice, however,
these rights were regularly violated by the Soviet government.
the Bill of Rights and the
13th, 14th and 15th
Amendments all guaranteed, on paper, the same rights to black Americans
as those enjoyed by white Americans. However, nearly a century after
the Civil War, many of those rights were not realized because of intimidation,
discrimination and harassment directed at blacks, especially in the
South. The story of civil rights and liberties in this nation, then,
is not simply about the effort to include a listing of rights in the
Constitution; it is at least as much about the continual effort to
see that all Americans actually enjoy them in the course of their daily
Emancipation Proclamation Abraham Lincoln
Affirmative Action Lyndon Johnson
What to the Slave is the Fourth of July? Frederick Douglass
A Plea for Free Speech in Boston Frederick Douglass
I Have a Dream Martin Luther King, Jr.
O Captain! My Captain Walt Whitman
Abraham Lincoln James Russell Lowell
Supreme Court Decisions
Dred Scott v. Sandford 1856
Plessy v. Ferguson 1896
Brown v. Board of Education 1954
Brown II 1955
Roe v. Wade 1973
Roe v. Wade: Dissent, Rehnquist
Board of Regents v. Bakke 1978
Reasearch and Study Helps
Is the Death Penalty Constitutional?
How do you become a United States citizen?
What is "Affirmative Action" and why is it so controversial?
Think About It
Does racial discrimination still exist in America? Why? Can Discrimination
be eliminated through legislation?
What laws or policies would you recommend
to more effectively address racial discrimination in the United States?
Applying What You've Learned
the constitution of the former Soviet Union.
Note that there are many rights guaranteed in the document. In practice,
however, these rights were not afforded to the people of the Soviet
Union. Besides committing a guarantee of rights to paper, what else
is necessary to assure the enjoyment of those rights?