CIVIL RIGHTS Notes - CIVIL RIGHTS One of the most...

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CIVIL RIGHTS One of the most influential Constitutional clauses during the mid to late 20th century has been the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that forbids any state to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” This clause has not been interpreted to mean that everyone is to be treated the same, but that certain divisions in society, such as sex, race, and ethnicity are suspect categories , and that laws that make distinctions that affect these groups will be subjected to especially strict scrutiny. In recent years, these suspect categories have been expanded to include discrimination based on age, disability, and sexual preference. CIVIL RIGHTS FOR RACIAL AND ETHNIC MINORITIES The United States has always been home to many different racial and ethnic groups that have experienced varying degrees of acceptance into American society. Today major racial and ethnic minorities include African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans. EQUALITY FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS The history of African Americans includes 250 years of slavery followed by almost a century of widespread discrimination. Their efforts to secure equal rights and eliminate segregation have led the way for others. After the Civil War, civil rights were guaranteed for former slaves in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. However, many discriminatory laws remained in states across the country, and the states of the defeated Confederacy passed Jim Crow laws , which segregated blacks from whites in virtually all public facilities including schools, restaurants, hotels, and bathrooms. In addition to this de jure (by law) segregation, strict de facto (in reality) segregation existed in neighborhoods in the South and the North. The 1896 court decision Plessy v. Ferguson supported the segregation laws. Homer Plessy sued the state of Louisiana for arresting him for riding in a “whites only” railroad car. The Court ruled that the law did not violate the equal protection clause of the 14 th Amendment, as Plessy claimed. The majority opinion stated that segregation is not unconstitutional as long as the facilities were substantially equal. This “ separate but equal " doctrine remained the Court’s policies until the 1950s. The Modern Civil Rights Movement In 1909 the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ( NAACP ) was founded to promote the enforcement of civil rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The NAACP struggled for years to convince white-dominated state and national legislatures to pass laws protecting black civil rights, but they made little progress until they turned their attentions to the courts. The NAACP decided that
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the courts were the best place to bring about change, and they assembled a legal team that began to slowly chip away at the “separate but equal” doctrine.
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