The Civil Rights Movement

The Civil Rights Movement sought to win the American promise of liberty and equality during twentieth-century America. From the early struggles of the 1940s to the crowning successes of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts that changed the legal status of African-Americans in the United States, the Civil Rights Movement firmly grounded its appeals for liberty and equality in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence. Rather than rejecting an America that discriminated against a particular race, the movement fought for America to fulfill its own universal promise that “all men are created equal.” It worked for American principles within American institutions rather than against them.
African-Americans endured racial prejudice that compelled them to fight racism in World War II while fighting in segregated units. It was particularly hard to accept because the war was fought against the racist Nazis who were attempting to eradicate the Jews grounded in racially-based totalitarianism. For black soldiers, the stark contradiction with American wartime ideals was as repulsive as their daily condition of fighting separately. Many black units—most famously the Tuskegee Airmen—fought just as courageously as their white counterparts. Fighting for the “Double V” for victory over totalitarianism and racism, returning black veterans were not keen on returning to the Jim Crow South with legal (de jure) segregation nor to a North with informal (de facto) segregation.
4.5 segregation laws map 1953
On the national level, African-Americans sought to overturn segregation with legal challenges up to the Supreme Court, pressuring presidents to enforce equality, and lobbying Congress for changes in the law of the land.
In the postwar years, civil rights leaders prepared a dual strategy of attacking all discrimination throughout American society. On the national level, African-Americans sought to overturn segregation with legal challenges up to the Supreme Court, pressuring presidents to enforce equality, and lobbying Congress for changes in the law of the land. On the local level, marches were held to demonstrate the fundamental immorality and violence of segregation and to change local laws.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was established by W.E.B. DuBois and other black and white, male and female reformers in 1909 to struggle for civil rights, helped lead the legal battle in the courts. The NAACP legal team, led by Thurgood Marshall, who would later become the first black justice on the Supreme Court, scored the first major success of the Civil Rights Movement with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas (1954) decision that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had set the precedent for legalizing segregation. New Chief Justice Earl Warren persuaded his fellow justices to issue a unanimous 9-0 decision for the moral force to overcome expected white southern resistance. The outcome was a landmark for black equality that initiated the Civil Rights Movement.

The good outcome led many to overlook the questionable legal reasoning employed in the decision. The Supreme Court shockingly admitted white and black schools were equal despite evidence to the contrary. Moreover, the Court stated that the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment had “inconclusive” origins related to segregated schools and doubted whether it could be applied to this case. Instead, the Court turned to social science as the basis for its decision. It referred to experiments in which black children played with dolls of different races. Members of the Court misread the evidence because the results of the studies actually showed that the segregated black children chose to play with black dolls. The Court mistakenly reported that the black children played more with the white dolls and had a “feeling of inferiority.”
The Court settled for declaring the edict that segregated schools were “inherently unequal” based on dubious social science and missed an opportunity for a constitutionally-grounded precedent banning all racial discrimination.
4.5 crowded segregated classroom
In Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote this powerful dissent: “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law” (John Marshall Harlan, Plessy v. Ferguson Dissenting Opinion, 1896).
In Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote this powerful dissent: “Our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law” (John Marshall Harlan, Plessy v. Ferguson Dissenting Opinion, 1896).

By ignoring Harlan’s understanding of the equality principle in the Constitution and settling for the use of social science, Chief Justice Warren diminished the constitutional force of the decision, which, if read narrowly, did not exactly overturn Plessy.

Even with the unanimous decision that Chief Justice Warren sought, the case encountered opposition, and it took a decade of direct action by African-Americans to win equality. In 1955, the Montgomery Bus Boycott initiated a decade of local demonstrations against segregation in the South. In December 1955, Rosa Parks courageously refused to give up her bus seat to a white man because she was tired of being treated like a second-class citizen. African-Americans applied economic pressure for more than one year to force concessions for desegregation at the local level, a charismatic young Baptist minister, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., provided vision and leadership for the emerging movement at Montgomery.

As a result of the Brown decision, many white politicians and ordinary citizens engaged in what they called “massive resistance” to oppose desegregation. In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus refused to use the state National Guard to protect black children at Little Rock High School. President Dwight Eisenhower sent in troops from the 101st Airborne Division to compel local desegregation and protect the nine black students while federalizing the Arkansas National Guard to block Faubus. The Little Rock Nine attended school under the watchful eye of federal troops. The principles of equality and constitutional federalism came into conflict during this incident because the national government used the military to impose integration at the local level.

4.1 dwight d eisenhower official presidential portrait
In 1957, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus refused to use the state National Guard to protect black children at Little Rock High School. President Dwight Eisenhower sent in troops from the 101st Airborne Division to compel local desegregation and protect the nine black students while federalizing the Arkansas National Guard to block Faubus.
In the early 1960s, African-Americans continued to press for equality at the local and national levels. In 1960, black college students in Greensboro, North Carolina started a wave of “sit-ins” in which they took seats reserved for whites at segregated lunch counters. The sit-ins led to applying the economic pressure of a boycott that successfully desegregated the local lunch counters.
In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. used his moral vision and rhetoric to achieve the greatest successes of the movement for black equality and the end of segregation. King helped to organize marches in Birmingham, Alabama, where police dogs and fire hoses were turned on the Birmingham marchers and caused shock and outrage across the nation when the violence was televised. King and hundreds of others were arrested for demonstrating without a permit.
From his jail cell, King wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” defending the civil rights demonstrations by quoting the great Christian authority St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.” Employing the principles of America’s Founders, King explained that a just law is a “man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God.” King posited that just laws uplift the human person while unjust laws “distort the soul” (Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963).
He argued that just laws are rooted in human equality, while unjust laws give a false sense of superiority and inferiority. Moreover, segregation laws had been inflicted upon a minority who had no say in making the laws and thereby passed without consent, violating American principles of republican self-government.
King closed the letter by asserting that the Civil Rights Movement was “standing up for what is best in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our Judeo-Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence” (Martin Luther King, Jr. “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” April 16, 1963).
On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy responded and addressed the nation on television. "We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution,” he told the nation. For Kennedy, the question was “whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities” (John F. Kennedy, “Civil Rights Address,” June 11, 1963).
Kennedy was mindful of the historical significance of the year when he appealed to Lincoln’s Proclamation freeing the slaves: “One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free…And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free” (John F. Kennedy, “Civil Rights Address,” June 11, 1963).
On August 28, 1963, the greatest event of the Civil Rights Movement occurred with the March on Washington. More than 250,000 blacks and whites, young and old, clergy and laity, descended upon the capital in support of the proposed civil rights bill. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King evoked great documents of freedom when he said “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation” (Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have A Dream,” August 28, 1963). The Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves one hundred years before on January 1, 1863. Simultaneously, he also subtly referred to the other great document of 1863, Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address,” which was inscribed in the wall of the memorial, and begins, “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal” (Abraham Lincoln, “Gettysburg Address,” November 19, 1863).
1963 march on washington
On August 28, 1963, the greatest event of the Civil Rights Movement occurred with the March on Washington. More than 250,000 blacks and whites, young and old, clergy and laity, descended upon the capital in support of the proposed civil rights bill.
King offered high praise for the “architects of our republic” who wrote the “magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.” King began his evocative peroration “I Have a Dream” by declaring that his dream is “deeply rooted in the American dream.” “One day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal’” (Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have A Dream,” August 28, 1963).
African-Americans won the fruits of their decades of struggle for civil rights when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Act legally ended segregation in all public facilities. The act had to overcome a Southern filibuster in the Senate and the fears of conservatives in both parties that it was an unconstitutional intrusion of the federal government upon the rights of the states and into local affairs and private businesses.
Although the Fifteenth Amendment had been ratified a hundred years before, African Americans still voted at low rates, especially in the Deep South. A number of devices—literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses that prevented descendants of slaves from voting—severely curtailed black suffrage. Violence and intimidation were the main vehicles of preventing African-Americans from voting in the mid-1960s.
In March 1965, Martin Luther King and other leaders organized marches in Selma, Alabama, for voting rights. After enduring beatings by club-wielding mounted police officers on “Bloody Sunday,” the marchers eventually set out again several days later and reached Montgomery under the watchful eye of federal troops. Congress soon passed the Voting Rights of 1965, banning abridgment of the right to vote on account of race.
Yet in the wake of the great legislative triumphs for social and voting equality the summer of 1965 (and successive summers) witnessed the explosion of racial violence and rioting by black citizens in American cities. Despite gaining rights of equal opportunity African-Americans still lived under obvious economic disparities with whites. The passage of federal laws securing equal opportunity led to rising expectations of immediate equality, which did not happen. Young “Black Power” advocates also began advocating self-reliance as a race, a celebration of African heritage, and a rejection of white society. Forming groups like the Black Panthers, a minority of young African-Americans spoke in passionate terms advocating violence, leading to confrontations with police. Many white Americans were shocked and confused at the urban riots occurring just after legal equality for African-Americans had been achieved.

In the 1970s and 1980s, plans of “affirmative action” were introduced in college admissions and in hiring for public and private jobs that soon became controversial. Intended to remedy the historic wrongs of slavery and segregation, affirmative action policies established preference or quotas for the number of African-Americans (and soon women and other minorities) who would be admitted or hired. Its proponents sought to achieve an equality of outcome in society rather than merely equal opportunity in American society. Some whites complained that this was “reverse discrimination” against whites that tolerated lower standards for the benefited groups. The most notable Supreme Court case addressing the issue was the Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) decision, in which racial preferences were upheld.

The Supreme Court essentially agreed with the supporters of affirmative action who argued that “discrimination against members of the white ‘majority’ cannot be suspect if its purpose can be characterized as ‘benign’” (Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Opinion, 1978)
The Court held in favor of affirmative action that took race into account but not specific quotas requiring a certain percentage of the favored groups.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Question 1 of 2

    The Civil Rights Act of 1964

  2. Question 2 of 2

    In Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), the Supreme Court

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Law of Demand
As prices decrease, the quantity demanded increases or as prices increase, the quantity demanded decreases.
Natural rights
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Inalienable rights
Rights which belong to us by nature and can only be justly taken away through due process.
Liberty
Except where authorized by people through the Constitution, government does not have the authority to limit freedom.
Popular sovereignty
The power of government flows from the people.
Separation of powers
A system of distinct powers built into the constitution, to prevent an accumulation of power in one branch.
Checks and balances
Powers distributed among the branches of government allowing each to limit the application of power of the other branches and to prevent expansion of power of any branch.
Federalism
The people delegate certain powers to the national government, while the states retain other powers; and the people, who authorize the states and national government, retain all freedoms not delegated to the governing bodies.
Justice
Fairness or reasonableness in the way people are treated or decisions are made.
private property
The natural right of all individuals to create, obtain, and control their possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, as well as the fruits of their labor.
limited government
Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.
representative government
(or republican government) Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
republican government
(or representative government)Form of government in which the people are sovereign (ultimate source of power) and authorize representatives to make and carry out laws.
civil discourse
Reasoned and respectful sharing of ideas between individuals is the primary way people influence change in society/government, and is essential to maintain self-government.
Constitution
The fundamental principles by which a state or nation is governed. The United States Constitution, written in 1787, lays out the roles and powers of each of the three branches of government (legislative, executive, and judicial), the protections of due process and rule of law in the states, a republican form of government, and the manner in which to amend the document.
Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson was a Virginia plantation owner who was the principle author of the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson served as a legislator and governor in Virginia, as well as an ambassador to France, Secretary of State under George Washington, Vice President under John Adams, and the third President of the United States. During his political career, Jefferson founded the Democratic-Republican Party with James Madison, and he bought the Louisiana Purchase from France. After his presidency, Jefferson started the University of Virginia near his home, Monticello.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1791, which limit government power and protect individual liberties, including the freedoms of speech, press, religion, petition, and assembly, as well as protections against cruel and unusual punishment, unreasonable search and seizure, and other due process rights.
Second Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights to create a militia and to bear arms. “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Due Process
The government must interact with all persons according to the duly-enacted laws; applying these rules equally among all persons.
Equality
Every individual is equal to every other person with respect to natural rights and treatment before the law.
Consent of the governed
The authority of the government must come from the people through elections and through the people’s interaction with government.
Individual responsibility
Individuals must take care of themselves and their families, and be vigilant to preserve their liberty and the liberty of others.
Rule of law
Government officials and citizens all abide by the same laws regardless of political power.
Declaration of Independence
The document written in 1776 by the Founders to send to Britain’s King George III in which independence from Britain was declared and the reasons for the separation were explained.
Articles of Confederation
The first national government document developed in 1781 by the Founders. The Articles created a federal legislative branch, but there was no executive or judiciary. The states retained most of the governmental powers.
Founders
The group of people who wrote and influenced the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the United States Constitution, and the United States Bill of Rights. These men were instrumental in establishing the nation and its governmental documents and practices.
Federalist Papers
A series of 85 essays written to convince the people of New York to ratify the Constitution. The authors were James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay. These documents are considered to be the most authoritative explanation of the political theory of the Constitution.
First Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the freedom of speech, the freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition the government. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Law of Supply
As the price drops, the quantity supplied also drops.
Fourth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens’ rights against unreasonable searches and seizures of property and explains that warrants must be issued with probable cause. “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Fifth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right indictment by a jury, against double jeopardy, self-incrimination, loss of life, liberty, or property without due process, and just compensation for private property taken for public use. “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
Tenth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it states that the powers not enumerated or delegated in the Constitution are reserved for the states and the people. “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”
Eighth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects against excessive bail and fines and cruel and unusual punishments. “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Ninth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, the listing of certain rights protected by the Constitution cannot be used to deny rights not enumerated in the document. “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Alexander Hamilton
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Alexander Hamilton served as General Washington’s chief of staff, promoted the ratification of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, and founded the nation’s financial system and first political party.
James Madison
Madison was a Framer who was instrumental in writing the Constitution and Bill of Rights. He is known as the “Father of the Constitution.” Madison partnered with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write the Federalist Papers in support of the ratification of the Constitution. He also served as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, the United States House of Representatives, Secretary of State under Thomas Jefferson, and the fourth president of the United States.
George Washington
First President of the United States, George Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
John Locke
An English philosopher and physician, John Locke was one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers and is known today as the Father of Classical Liberalism.
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress, comprised of delegates from 12 of the 13 American colonies, represented the colonists during and after the American Revolution. The Continental Congress issued the Declaration of Independence and ratified the Articles of Confederation.
King George III
King George III was the King of Great Britain at the time of the American Revolution. His actions towards the American colonies, outlined in the Declaration of Independence, spurred the American Revolution.
Great Depression
Spanning ten years from 1929 to 1939, the Great Depression was one of the longest-lasting economic downturns in the history of the United States affecting the U.S. and most of the world.
Preamble
An introductory statement, preface, or introduction.
Tyranny
Cruel and unfair treatment by people with power over others.
Tyrannical
Using power over people in a way that is cruel and unfair.
John Adams
Before becoming the second President of the United States, John Adams served as the country’s first Vice President under George Washington. Adams was an advocate of American independence from Britain and a Federalist.
John Jay
Founding Father John Jay was one of the signers of the Treaty of Paris and served as the first Chief Justice of the United States. He was also one of the authors of the Federalist Papers.
Third Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects citizens against the quartering of soldiers in private homes without their approval. “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
Sixth Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the rights of impartial jury trials, the right to be informed of the accusations against you, the right to be confronted by witness, and the right to be assisted by counsel. “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
Seventh Amendment
Ratified in 1791, it protects the right of jury trials in law suits dealing with more than twenty dollars and protects against reexamination of the trial in any court if decided by a jury. “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Alexis de Tocqueville
French political thinker and historian, Alexis de Tocqueville is best known for his works Democracy in America and The Old Regime and the Revolution. He visited the U.S. in the 1830s and wrote admiringly about many aspects of American law and society.
Democracy in America
Written by Alexis de Tocqueville after visiting the United States, Democracy in America contains de Tocqueville’s analysis of and reflections on the United States’ democratic system and society. The first volume was published in 1835 and the second in 1840.
Magna Carta
Written in 1215, it is the oldest document in the British and American heritage of rights. Contributed to the adoption of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments of the Bill of Rights, and speaks of these rights as ancient.
Two Treatises of Civil Government
Written by John Locke in 1690, the Two Treatises of Civil Government criticize absolute power for kings and outline Locke’s suggestions for a more civilized society based on natural rights and the social contract.
Thirteenth Amendment
The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. “Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Framers
The group of people who actually attended the Constitutional Convention and participated in writing the Constitution.
Fourteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1868, it states that all people born or naturalized in the United States are citizens and ensures that “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Sixteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment gave Congress the ability to collect income taxes. “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census of enumeration.”
Eighteenth Amendment
atified in 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment introduced Prohibition, the period of United States history when the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcohol was made illegal throughout the country. “Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited. Section 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
Twentieth Amendment
The Twentieth Amendment was ratified in 1933, and it establishes procedures for presidential succession and the start and end of federal officials’ terms of office. “Section 1. The terms of the President and Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January, and the terms of Senators and Representatives at noon on the 3rd day of January, of the years in which such terms would have ended if this article had not been ratified; and the terms of their successors shall then begin.
Twenty-First Amendment
In 1933, the Twenty-First Amendment repealed the Eighteenth Amendment, ending Prohibition. “Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed. Section 2. The transportation or importation into any state, territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use therein of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited. Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several states, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the states by the Congress.”
English Bill of Rights
Passed by the British Parliament in 1689, the English Bill of Rights limited the power of the British monarch, outlined the rights of the Parliament, and guaranteed Protestants the right to bear arms.
Parliament
The legislative body of the United Kingdom (known as Great Britain or England during the Founding era).
Benjamin Franklin
One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin was a statesman, author, publisher, scientist, inventor and diplomat. He served in the Second Continental Congress during the American Revolution and helped draft the Declaration of Independence. In addition, Franklin helped negotiated the Treaty of Paris which ended the Revolutionary War and later served as a delegate to the convention that produced the U.S. Constitution.
Suffrage
The right to vote.
Republic
A government in which the power belongs to citizens through the right to vote.
Fifteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1870, it states that the right could not be restricted based on “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” “Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Seventeenth Amendment
Ratified in 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment introduced direct election of Senators. “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislatures. When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, that the legislature of any state may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct. This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.”
Nineteenth Amendment
Ratified in 1920, the amendment stated that a citizen’s right to vote must not be restricted based on gender. “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Direct Democracy
Direct democracy is a political system in which the people vote directly on policies or laws, as opposed to voting for representatives who enact laws on their behalf.
Arbitrary
Not planned or chosen for a particular reason; done without concern for what is fair or right.
Judicial Review
The process by which courts analyze the constitutionality of an act of government.
Majority rule/minority rights
laws may be made with the consent of the majority, but only to the point where they do not infringe on the inalienable rights of the minority.
Fiat
An arbitrary order or decree.
Property
Something that is owned by a person, business, etc. This includes possessions, beliefs, faculties, and opinions, and the fruits of one's labor.
Democracy
A government in which the power is held by the people.
Electoral College
A body of electors chosen by each state to vote for the president and vice president of the United States.
Virtue
Conduct that reflects universal principles of moral and ethical excellence essential to leading a worthwhile life and to effective self-government. For many leading Founders, attributes of character such as justice, responsibility, perseverance, etc., were thought to flow from an understanding of the rights and obligations of men. Virtue is compatible with, but does not require, religious belief.