Civil-rights refer to the freedoms and rights that an individual is entitled to as member of a society or country. These rights include freedom of association, of speech, of religion, to education and press. It refers to the right to equal and fair treatment from public authority and government. These rights are usually granted by a country’s constitution or other laws and statutes while the courts are mandated with determining whether the rights of an individual have been violated (Graham 14).
The United States of America has clearly defined the right of individuals in its constitution as well as each state having a bill of rights in their own constitutions. Many sections of the constitution further insist on the fair and just treatment of all citizens. This has been improved by the First Amendment, which prohibits the Congress from making any legislation that restrict freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of the press, freedom to religion and freedom of speech. This amendment also prevents the Congress from declaring any religion as the state religion. The constitution has made sure that any treatment of an individual by the government that violates the right to autonomy, life, or own property is done so after following due process of law. The due process referred to, is any of the judicial processes that determine whether some one is guilty or not. It additionally requires that criminals and wrongdoers be informed of their rights and the charges against them (Graham 16).
However, the United States of America is a multi-ethnic society, with a population of many races, religions and cultures. This separates the country into minority groups and majority depending on the race or religion. But the most significant aspect that separates the American society has been race. The minority group comprise Blacks, American Indians, Hispanics and Asians (Lawson 12). This group of minorities have received unfair treatment with inequitable opportunity in terms social, economic and political progress. Before the civil rights reforms of the late 19th and 20th century, blacks were not allowed to vote and in some states, not to own property. But it is the blacks who have made the most advancement regarding the fight for civil rights.
After the American Civil War, many laws and legislations were passed to protect the rights of the blacks. The first significant step that was taken by the then government was to abolish Slave Trade. The situation was further improved by the state granting former slave full citizenship as well as protection form the states as regards right to individuals. However, other acts of the government contributed to denying the blacks other forms of civil freedom. One of the decisions made in 1896 necessitated a Rail Company to construct separate employee housing for the blacks and the whites (Lawson 21). This was a precedent for many other such separate treatments of the blacks and white introducing a new idea called segregation.
The term segregation was introduced in many Southern States to refer to a rule established for “equal but separate” blacks and whites. Lawson explains that this rule meant that the state would build houses, public schools, hospitals and other facilities meant for specific races (30). Transport systems and other amenities such a hotels would serve different races. Black could only attend black schools, use black buses and go to hospital for the blacks. The situation was so dire that the states deliberately neglected the black society economically imposing heavy taxes as well denying them the rights to vote.
However, the black community began to fight back. Cases were lodged in courts and state representative council to decry the situation. One of the significant victories for the black was a Supreme Court ruling that declared the segregation of public schools to be illegal (King and King, 28).
It is important to note one of the black men who fought vehemently for the black community. Martin Luther King Jr. Was a clergy man turned activist after experiencing one of the hardest kinds of discrimination and racial segregation. He is known for his unrelenting struggle for civil rights of the blacks becoming the most prominent figure in the advancement of civil rights in the United States in the 1950s. To end this oppression, King believed that ordered, nonviolent protest against these segregation laws, would lead to broad media coverage of the struggle for black against these oppressive laws (King and King 21). He applied many principles of the Christian Left, a form of Christianity that embraces social justice, and used the tactics of nonviolent protest with great success by methodically choosing the technique of protest and the places in which protests were carried out. He was making great strides only to be assassinated on April 4th 1968.
The case of civil right was introduced in theaters through movies such as ‘The Help’. This film depicts a woman and her relation with two black maids during the 1960s, at a time that the country was facing a civil rights revolution. It goes against common belief that all whites hated the blacks. It suggests despite the segregation in the south, there existed intimate relations between the Whites and the Blacks
In conclusion, civil rights are now enjoyed by nearly all citizens. It is important to remember the effort that has taken to get here and to hold on to this noble belief that all humans are equal and deserve equal treatment.
Graham, Hugh Davis. Civil Rights in the United States, Penn State Press, n.d 2004.
King, Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King. I Have A Dream. Scholastic Inc., 2007.
Lawson, Steven F. Civil Rights Crossroads: Nation, Community, and the Black Freedom Struggle. University Press of Kentucky, 2006.