Module F966: Historical Themes
Topic: Civil Rights in the USA 1865-1992
This module focuses on the theme of civil rights in America. It examines the struggles of citizens in the USA to gain equality before the law without regard to ethnic origin, gender or wealth.
The module examines the development of civil rights for the following groups;
1. African Americans
2. Native Americans
3. Trade Union and Labour Rights
The USA 1865-1992
‘We hold these truths to be self- evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness’
Thomas Jefferson, 1776
The issue of civil rights is essential to understanding the establishment and the development of the United States. It is an issue that has been at the centre of debate within America since the colonists fought for, and won their freedom from British rule in the American War of Independence. The idea is present throughout the Declaration of Independence, and Jefferson’s words helped to create an image of the USA as a land of freedom, opportunity and promise.
When the Constitution was produced in 1787, many states refused to ratify it until civil and political rights were incorporated in it, the first ten amendments – known as the Bill of Rights – were included.
Despite the promises made in the Bill of Rights and the words of Thomas Jefferson, at this time there were already 500,000 men, women and children who were slaves. Though some white people disapproved of the practice of slavery, the institution remained until the end of the American Civil War in April 9, 1865.
This racial inequality was not confined to African Americans. Native Americans also faced discrimination and were not classified as American citizens. In addition to this as America expanded from the original thirteen colonies hundreds of people of differing cultural...