How can we help?

You can also find more resources in our Help Center.

Civil Rights Vocabulary

STUDY
PLAY
civil rights
The positive acts the government takes to protect people from discriminatory treatment by individuals or the government. Based on categories of race, sex, national origin, age, religion, or sexual orientation.
Civil War Amendments
13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. "Cause and effect" amendments. Slaves are free in 13th amendment, blacks are citizens with equal protection under law in 14th, and can vote in 15th.
American Anti-Slavery Society
Had 250,000 members in 1838. HUGE. Women were not allowed to participate and this caused Frederick Douglass to quit.
Seneca Falls Convention of 1848
Elizabeth Caddy Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized this for 300 men and women to talk about issues. The convention called for equal rights for all.
thirteenth amendment
Banned all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude. Southern states had to ratify this in order to reenter the Union.
fourteenth amendment
Guaranteed citizenship for freed slaves. Two clauses: equal protection and due process. Made freed slaves citizens and states could not abridge their rights. Due process barred states from depriving anyone of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.
fifteenth amendment
Passed in 1869. Guaranteed the rights of citizens to vote regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Black Codes
Laws used to restrict opportunities for freed slaves. The South used them to keep blacks from voting, serving on a jury, or being out in public. Empowered police to arrest people.
Jim Crow Laws
Grew out of Black Codes. Required segregation in public places. Went against Civil Rights Act of 1875.
Civil Rights Cases (1833)
Convicted individuals who did not allow blacks in their places. (5 cases) Supreme Court said Congress could not prohibit individual discrimination in public places. These upheld the Jim Crow laws and the South took this as an invitation to gut civil rights laws.
poll tax
A way to prevent blacks from voting put into place in the South. Usually blacks did not have the ability to pay these.
literacy or "understanding" test
A way to prevent blacks from voting put into place in the South. Many blacks were not able to read or write and therefore failed these.
grandfather clause
a way to prevent blacks from voting put in place in the South. If you failed the other tests to vote, you could get voting rights if your grandpa voted before Reconstruction.
Plessy vs. Ferguson
Homer Plessy tested the constitutionality of a Louisiana law that segregated public trains. Supreme Court upheld the law. This case established separate but equal.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
People in different movements came together and discussed the problems of the Negro. W.E.B. DuBois and Oswald Garrison Villard were main leaders.
National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA)
Merger between National Women's Suffrage Association and American Women's Suffrage Association. Headed by Susan B. Anthony. Women fought for temperance, minimum wage, improved working conditions, education, and suffrage.
National Consumers' League (NCL)
Successfully lobbied Oregon to limit women to 8 hours of work a day. Lewis Brandeis backed up the case with medical, sociological, and psychological evidence.
suffrage movement
Focused on getting women the right to vote. The argument took on a racist tone. If uneducated black men can vote, why can't women?
nineteenth amendment
1920. Guaranteed women the right to vote. Happened 50 years after blacks.
Brown vs. Board of Education
Four bundled cases. Thurgood Marshall wanted to prove separate but equal is not equal. Blacks begin to believe they're inferior according to a black psychologist. Under Chief Justice Earl Warren, the court unanimously voted against school segregation. Brown overturned Plessy. Separate but equal facilities are inherently unequal.
Legal Defense Fund (LDF)
Part of NAACP. Fought cases to challenge Plessy. Headed by Thurgood Marshall.
Thurgood Marshall
Headed the LDF. Helped fight many cases, and later became the first black Supreme Court justice.
Equal Protection Clause
Segregation violated this clause in the 14th amendment.
Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC)
Martin Luther King, Jr. launched this Southern-based group rooted in black church culture. This group had more power because it was in the South. The group believed in non-violent protest and civil disobedience.
Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
A little more radical that the SCLC. Grassroots organization started by students. They held sit-ins and freedom rides.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
The most comprehensive piece of civil rights legislation. It prohibited the discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. It outlawed voter discrimination and banned discrimination in any public accommodations involved in interstate commerce. It authorized the justice department to use lawsuits to force desegregation and created the EEOC.
de jure segregation
Segregation due to laws. (i.e., the Jim Crow laws)
de facto segregation
Unintentional discrimination. (i.e., because of housing patterns)
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
A government department created in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Watched the workplace to ensure equality.
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
Would ban discrimination based on sex. Has been introduced every year since 1972. At one point both houses ratified it, but not enough states ratified it.
suspect classification
Category or class, such as race, that triggers the highest standard of scrutiny from the Supreme Court
strict scrutiny
A heightened standard of review used by the supreme court to determine the constitutional validity of a challenged practice. Used for the ERA.
Title IX
Bans public education institutions from getting funds if they discriminate against female students. Male to female athletes ratio must equal male to female student ratio. Advanced degrees must also be proportional.
Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF)
Brings cases before the Supreme Court for Hispanics. They litigate for education, health rights, etc.
Americans with Disabilities Act
Gave disabled Americans civil rights. (1990) Sparked by returning Vietnam veterans. Defined as "physical or mental inabilities that severely limits one or more daily activity. Public buildings must be accessible to those disabled. Unfunded mandate.
affirmative action
Public employees (people that buy or sell with the government or public education institutions) must look at everyone when hiring. This attempted to make up for past discrimination.
Regents of the University of CA vs. Bakke
Established reverse discrimination. Alan Bakke was denied, even though his test scores were higher than accepted minorities. Bakke determined race could be a factor, just not the only one.