Civil Rights 101

A Little History Lesson

HISTORY at Home: Lessons and Activities | HISTORY.com | HISTORY
Image from the History Channel

The 13th Amendment outlawed slavery and servitude. This was accomplished by Lincoln during his term, when turmoil rose to the point of a civil war and the country was divided. Still we fought against the worldwide epidemic of slavery and outlawed it on our own soil.

The 14th Amendment guaranteed all people born on US soil citizenship with equal protection under the law. This was the next protection granted to newly freed men as they fought to practice their rights. These men were promised that any person born or naturalized on US soil was a citizen of the United States and of the state that they lived in. They were guaranteed life, liberty and property and prevented from those being removed without the due process of the law. No state was allowed to make laws which contradicted this.

Finally, the 15th Amendment protected the rights of Americans to vote no matter their race, color or if they were previously in servitude. This amendment guaranteed all men the right to vote whether they had been enslaved at some point, their children and granted the right to all adult men.

These 3 amendments to the US Constitution were a radical transformation for our country post civil war. Though it took nearly 50 years, the next addition to the Civil Rights included the 19th Amendment which prohibited the discrimination of voting rights based on sex. You may have noticed that until this point, MEN where the only ones that were allowed to vote. But not anymore. (Note the 16-19 Amendments had to do with taxes and government structure not Civil Rights). Once these foundations were laid, we began the uphill battle to make these laws go into effect.

Where Are We Now?

Opinion | The Case Against Riots - The New York Times
Image from New York Times

In the year 2020, we have reached a point where these laws are still brought to attention to state the inequality that exists today. While I’m not arguing on the existence or lack of in areas of the country, what I will argue is how this argument has shifted over the years.

Every Generation Must Reappropriate the Lessons of the Past ...

Take a look at this picture from the 1960s. What do you see? People. Walking down the street. Some holding Bibles, flags, or signs. Now look a the image from last week in the New York Times. I can’t help but feel as though we are digressing. While we have progressed in the fight for civil rights, have we become worse people? MLK, the King, was able to achieve all of this through PEACEFUL protests that we aren’t seeing as often. The demonstrations, public speeches and petitions that women pushed until they were heard are no longer practiced. Instead we are forced into our homes to avoid the riots, protests, and looting that occur on our streets.

While there was a crime committed, the murder of an innocent man Mr. Floyd, how many more crimes have been committed in the “reform”? How have we reached the point where we no longer support the men and women who wear the shield and place themselves in the line of danger to protect their fellow man? Why do we not stand beside them in this fight against injustice? What makes a few bad people- a few bad officers- cause our ENTIRE police force to be targeted? The endless questions of the purpose of rioting, the lack of benefits to looting and the harm that we are causing to ourselves rather than address the issues are rising without answers.

Where we stand now, we should be looking forward. Trying to improve ourselves from the lessons learned in history. Not destroying our fellow man in the fight. We’ve fought the injustices of discrimination for race, color, and sex. As we continue this battle, we should look to our leaders in this time and from the past for how to conduct ourselves, learn from our mistakes and history and better ourselves.

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