An Overview to Know Your Civil Rights

14th amendment paper

Civil rights guarantee equal protection under the law for all people. This means that typically marginalized groups have the same access and rights under the law as “mainstream” groups. In the United States, the right to vote or to use public services and facilities are examples of civil rights. If you are in Riverside, nearby or surrounding areas and believe that law enforcement or others violated your rights, speak with a Riverside civil rights lawyer right away. 

The following is a brief overview of how the Constitution provides civil rights:

The Thirteenth Amendment

The U.S. Constitution was made the official law of the land in 1788, though it wasn’t until 1791 that the Bill of Rights was added. At the time, neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights addressed slavery and a variety of other crucial civil rights issues. Because of that, the 13th Amendment is really considered the first “civil rights act” in U.S. history. The 13th Amendment was made law in 1865, and the amendment says, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States.”

The next year, the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed and gave citizens the right to execute contracts and buy/sell the property. The law was intended to give former slaves the ability to buy land and own homes, but it did nothing for women and failed to specify a right to vote.

The Fourteenth & Fifteenth Amendments

In 1868, the 14th Amendment gave male citizens over the age of 21 the right to vote. With black men still being turned away at the voting booths after this amendment became law, the 15th Amendment was passed in 1870. It attempted to finish the work of the 14th Amendment. The 15th Amendment says that it’s illegal for any state to stop a man from voting because of his race or ethnicity.

That same year, the Civil Rights Act of 1870 was made law—it again prevented racial voter discrimination. Congress was back at the drawing board in 1871 with another civil rights act that put the federal government in control of voting on election day. Still chipping away at the South’s Jim Crow system, the Civil Rights Act of 1875 gave Black Americans the right to serve on juries and the right to access “public accommodations and public conveyances.”

The Nineteenth Amendment

It wasn’t for another half-century that women were given the right to vote. While civil rights for black men were rolled out immediately after the slaves were freed, women fought tooth and nail for decades to vote. Many of the early voting rights activists did not live long enough to see the 19th amendment ratified in 1920 (like the Equal Rights Amendment, which was proposed in 1923 and not ratified until 1972).

Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964, 1965, & 1968

The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s lead to a variety of new laws:

  1. Created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  2. Made various methods of voter discrimination like literacy tests and poll taxes punishable crimes
  3. Gave the Attorney General the ability to get injunctions against and criminally prosecute state officials who denied voting rights
  4. Housing rights for marginalized groups
  5. Banned discrimination in schools and on federally-funded projects
  6. Specific protections for Native Americans

Additional civil rights bills passed through Congress in the 80s, 90s, and 00s.

Need a Riverside, CA, Civil Rights Lawyer?

DeLimon Law is passionate about protecting civil rights. Daniel DeLimon was voted “Attorney of the Year” four times, is a former District Attorney, and has 17 years of litigation experience. Reach out to DeLimon Law today if you feel your civil rights have been violated.

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