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13.0 Introduction

The term "civil rights" refers to the rights of individuals safeguarded by the Constitution against encroachment by government. Thus the American Constitution seeks to ensure to every American his basic civil rights, to enjoy his life and liberty and to pursue his happiness without discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, or any other irrelevant characteristic. The concept of civil rights arises from the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment which lays down that "...nor shall any state deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

It is true that the Declaration of Independence laid down the idea of individual dignity and equality. The Bill of Rights further reaffirmed this belief. However it has been the central preoccupation of Americans to act by this creed, and to see that African Americans, (or Mexican Americans or American Indians) are given the constitutional rights as well as the educational and social opportunities to take full part in the political system created by the American Constitution. Since under the Constitution each person has the right to live, work and participate in public affairs, free of discrimination because of his race, religion or national origin. There are several important landmarks in the civil rights crusade in America.


13.0 - Introduction
13.1 Slavery and Civil Rights
13.2 Segregation in the United States
13.3 Breaking down Segregation
13.4 The Civil Rights Movement

13.5 Civil Rights for Minorities and Women
13.6 Affirmative Action

Chapter 14

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