Skip to main content

Civil Rights in the United States

Civil Rights Practice & General Sources

Civil Rights has been defined as:

"Any of the individual rights of personal liberty guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and by the 13th, 14th, 15th, and 19th Amendments, as well as by legislation such as the Voting Rights Act. Civil rights include esp. the right to vote, the right of due process, and the right of equal protection under the law." Black's Law Dictionary (10th ed. 2014)

Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights are the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.  The amendments were proposed to gain support from Anti-Federalists who were concerned that the proposed Constitution did not adequately protect individual liberty. The Anti-Federalists opposed ratification of the Constitution because they feared it would give too much power to the federal government.  During the First Federal Congress in 1789, James Madison introduced numerous proposed amendments to the House of Representatives. The proposed amendments were greatly influenced by the Virginia Declaration of Rights which was written by George Mason in 1776. After debate in the House and Senate, the First Federal Congress proposed twelve amendments to the state legislatures for ratification. Eventually ten amendments were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures when Virginia approved the amendments on December 15, 1791.

Civil Rights Histories & Stories


University of Minnesota Law Library
Reference Desk: 612-625-4309 • Circulation Desk: 612-625-4300 • Contact Us