Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: June 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963978 | Print ISBN: 9781412909280 | Online ISBN: 9781412963978| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Sheila V. Graham
Civil rights have been generally defined as affirmative legal promises governments make to protect the privileges and power of a specified group of people or citizens of a nation. Civil rights movements have been the way by which many marginalized groups have gained legal protection against discriminatory actions. The laws protecting the civil rights of citizens may be written or implied. Examples of such written laws in the United States are constitutional amendments such as the 13th Amendment outlawing the enslavement of peoples and the 19th Amendment protecting the right for women to vote. In a self-proclaimed democracy such as the United States, these rights have been revered as essential components of a just society. The right to “life, freedom and the pursuit of happiness,” for example, is a phrase well known to many Americans. The United States' own history, however, reveals the violation of these civil rights for multiple ...