Civil Rights and Public Policy
Politics in Action: Launching the Civil Rights Movement
Rosa Parks, a 42-year-old seamstress and member of the NAACP, got arrested on a Montgomery, Alabama city bus on December 1, 1955. The bus driver was J.F. Blake. This sent the civil rights movement into high gear. Her refusal to give up her seat led to extensive mobilization of African Americans.
MLK organized a boycott of the city buses. It took the US SC to end the boycott. On November 13, 1956, the Court declared that Alabama’s state and local laws requiring segregation on buses were illegal. On December 20, federal injunctions were served on the city and bus company officials, forcing them to follow the SC’s ruling. On December 21, 1956, Rosa Parks boarded a Montgomery city bus for the first time in over a year.
Most Americans favor equality in the abstract, but not in the concrete.
Individual liberty is central to democracy, such as is the broad notion of equality.
Many call on the government to protect the rights of minorities and women, increasing the scope and power of government in the process. This is often used to check the government (state legislatures). This is also supposed to help enhance indidvidualism, not limit it.
“all men are created equal”-heart of American political culture
Civil rights: Policies designed to protect people against arbitrary or discriminatory treatment by government officials or individuals.
5.1: The Struggle for Equality
The struggle for equality has been a persistent them in our nation’s history. It involves defining the term equality. Constitutionally, it involves interpreting laws; politically, it often involves power.
Conceptions of Equality
The Declaration spoke of inalienable rights. A belief in equal rights has led to a belief in equality of opportunity.
The Constitution and Inequality
The First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression.
Fourteenth Amendment: The constitutional amendment adopted after the Civil War that states, “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.”
Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery.
Fifteenth Amendment extends the right to vote to African Americans.
Equal protection of the laws: Part of the Fourteenth Amendment emphasizing that the laws must provide equivalent “protection” to all people.
Laws, rules, and regulations inevitably classify people.
Basis of Classification
Standard of Review
Applying the Test
Race and ethnicity
Difficult to meet
Is the classification necessary to accomplish a compelling governmental purpose and the least restrictive way to reach the goal?
Moderately difficult to meet
Does the classification bear a substantial relationship to an important governmental goal?
Other (age, wealth, etc.)
Easy to meet
Does the classification have a rational relationship to a legitimate governmental goal?
5.2: African Americans’ Civil Rights
African Americans have been the most visible minority group in the United States.
The Era of Slavery
Scott v. Sanford: The 1857 SC decision ruling that a slave who had escaped to a free state enjoyed no rights as a citizen and that Congress had no authority to ban slavery in the territories.
This invalidated the Missouri Compromise and was an important milestone to the Civil War.
Thirteenth Amendment: The constitutional amendment ratified after the Civil War that forbade slavery and involuntary servitude.
This and two other Civil War amendments introduced the era of reconstruction and segregation.
The Era of Reconstruction and Segregation
No one who had served in the secessionist state governments or in the Confederate army could hold state office, the