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POLSC231: Introduction to American Politics

Unit 4: Civil Rights & Civil Liberties in America   An important aspect of American government is the significance of civil rights and civil liberties granted to Americans. Freedoms and rights were an inicial factor in shaping the American political system, and they continue to play a major role in our society today. The Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights, defines Americans’ rights and freedoms; however, as society has changed, so too has the perception and realization of civil liberties and civil rights. In this unit, we will explore the freedoms and rights of American citizens. We will begin by looking at the civil liberties guaranteed in the Constitution, especially in the Bill of Rights. This unit will especially focus on the rights defined in the First Amendment; the Second Amendment's right to bear arms; the right to privacy; and how the courts’ interpretation of these rights have been applied, or incorporated, by the states. Next, we will explore the evolution of civil rights in the American political system, with an emphasis on the Civil Rights Movement, and political equality of all Americans. The unit will also pay close attention to how the American political system creates a balance between order and freedom, on one hand, and equality and rights on the other.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 14.25 hours.
 
☐    Subunit 4.1: 8.25 hours
 

☐    Subunit 4.1.1: 0.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 4.1.2: 1.75 hours

 

☐    Subunit 4.1.3: 0.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 4.1.4: 1.5 hours
 

☐    Subunit 4.2: 3.5 hours

 

☐    Unit 4 Current Events Challenge: 1.5 hours
 
☐    Unit 4 Assessment: 1 hour

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - identify and differentiate between civil rights and civil liberties; - define the individual rights and freedoms outlined in the Bill of Rights; - explain the various components of the First Amendment, including the establishment and free exercise clauses; - analyze the key Supreme Court decisions that defined the scope of civil liberties, including freedom of speech and the press, the right to bear arms, and the right to privacy; - discuss how the provisions of the Bill of Rights have been extended to the states over time; - explain the constitutional protections afforded to individuals under the system of due process; - define the key provisions of the Civil War amendments to the Constitution; - discuss how the Supreme Court interpreted civil rights law in the late 19th century; - differentiate between de jure and de facto segregation; - trace the origins of the Civil Rights Movement and its key leaders; - compare the goals and tactics of civil rights organizations that arose in the mid-20th century; - describe the major legislative actions taken by civil rights-era presidential administrations; - outline the history of civil rights for women, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, the disabled, and members of the LGBT community; and - assess the role and impact of affirmative action.

4.1 American Civil Liberties   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties and Equal Rights” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties and Equal Rights” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Civil Liberties I,” “Civil Liberties II,” and “Equal Rights” below.
 
Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties I,” “Civil Liberties II,” and “Equal Rights” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Civil Liberties I” (YouTube), “Civil Liberties II” (YouTube), and “Equal Rights” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 30, 31, and 32)
     
    Instructions: Watch these three lectures to gain a general understanding of important terms and concepts. It is important to make the distinction between civil liberties and civil (equal) rights. The Constitution, especially its Bill of Rights, protects many civil liberties. These amendments limit the powers of the federal government, protecting the rights of all citizens, residents, and visitors on US territory. Among the rights these amendments guarantee are the following: the freedoms of speech, press, and religion; the freedom to assemble and to petition the government; the right to keep and bear arms; and freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, from cruel and unusual punishment, and from self-incrimination. Civil rights, on the other hand, are the protections against unequal treatment that the government guarantees to all groups. The forms of inequality based on our nation’s history came in three forms: inequality of opportunity, inequality of outcome, and segregation. Numerous minority groups spent several decades or even hundreds of years fighting for equality under the law.
     
    Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott, and the original version can be found here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 4: Civil Liberties” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 4: Civil Liberties” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Chapter 4 on pages 119-156. Civil liberties are the rights and freedoms of individuals that the Constitution says government should not infringe upon. What these freedoms entail is much disputed in American politics and affects a wide range of policies.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Reading: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #4: The Judiciary/Civil Rights/Civil Liberties” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #4: The Judiciary/Civil Rights/Civil Liberties” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this brief list of questions, which will be addressed in Unit 4. You should use it as a guide before each subunit to help you determine some of the most important material to be covered. At the end of the unit, use it as a resource for reviewing important terms and concepts.
     
    Reading this study guide should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

4.1.1 The Bill of Rights   - Reading: US Department of State: “Amendments to the US Constitution, Annotated” Link: US Department of State: “Amendments to the US Constitution, Annotated” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read the first ten Amendments to the Constitution, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, and the annotations to learn about what rights are granted to Americans therein. The individual rights and freedoms that government may not infringe upon are primarily listed in the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791 by the founders to address fears about the new federal government’s potential to abuse power. Initially limited to the federal government, they now apply, though unevenly, to the states, as well. What these liberties are and how far they extend continues to be the focus of political conflict.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

4.1.2 First Amendment Rights: Freedom of Religion, Press, and Expression   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 33 – The Establishment Clause,” “Lesson 34 – The Free Exercise Clause,” “Lesson 35 – Freedom of Speech,” and “Lesson 36 – Freedom of the Press” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 33 – The Establishment Clause” (YouTube), “Lesson 34 – The Free Exercise Clause” (YouTube), “Lesson 35 – Freedom of Speech” (YouTube), and “Lesson 36 – Freedom of the Press” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch these four presentations to learn about some components of the First Amendment. The First Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, originally restricted only what the federal government may do and did not bind the states. Most state constitutions had their own bills of rights, and those generally included provisions similar to those found in the First Amendment. But the state provisions could be enforced only by state courts. In 1868, however, the Fourteenth Amendment was added to the US Constitution, and it prohibited states from denying people “liberty” without “due process.” Since then, the US Supreme Court has gradually interpreted this to apply most of the Bill of Rights to state governments.
 
Watching these videos and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.3 Rights Under Debate: The Right to Bear Arms and the Right to Privacy   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 37 – The Fourth Amendment” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 37 – The Fourth Amendment” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about privacy rights established under the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment prevents the government from conducting “unreasonable searches and seizures.” A reasonable search is conducted with a warrant issued by a judge and based on probable cause. What is “unreasonable” varies with how much privacy people can expect when they are being searched.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.1.4 Extending the Bill of Rights to the States   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 32 – Incorporation” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 32 – Incorporation” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation to learn more about how many of the rights protected by the Constitution have been extended and are now protected by the states. The incorporation of the Bill of Rights (or incorporation, for short) is the process by which American courts have applied portions of the US Bill of Rights to the states. Prior to the 1890s, the Bill of Rights was held only to apply to the federal government. Under the incorporation doctrine, most provisions of the Bill of Rights now also apply to the state and local governments, by virtue of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 38 – Due Process and Criminal Rights” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 38 – Due Process and Criminal Rights” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this four-part presentation to learn more about the due process of the law and how these rights have extended to the states. One of the most fundamental tasks for a democratic society is to balance the needs of law enforcement versus the fundamental rights of its citizens. Many of the rights enumerated in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed to ensure that people accused of crimes would have a fair opportunity to respond, and that the government had to bear the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The founders of our democracy understood that they were conferring upon the newly formed government tremendous powers to deprive people of their happiness, their liberty, and even their lives. But as has often been said, our rights were not always self-executing – they required advocates to come forward and press for their enforcement.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1.4 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.1.4 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

4.2 Equality and Civil Rights   - Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 5: Civil Rights” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 5: Civil Rights” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Chapter 5 on pages 156-195. Civil rights protect people against discrimination. They focus on equal access to social and political activities such as voting. Civil rights are pursued by disadvantaged groups that, because of a single characteristic, have historically been discriminated against, particularly in the case of African Americans and women.
 
Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

4.2.1 Roots of Inequality: The Civil War Amendments and Racial Segregation   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – Civil War Amendments” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – Civil War Amendments” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the first part, Topic 1, of this two-part presentation on the Civil War Amendments. The Reconstruction Amendments are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, passed between 1865 and 1870, the five years immediately following the Civil War. This group of Amendments is sometimes referred to as the Civil War Amendments.
 
These Amendments were intended to restructure the United States from a country that was, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “half slave and half free” to one in which the constitutionally guaranteed “blessings of liberty” would be extended to the entire populace, including the former slaves and their descendants. The Thirteenth Amendment, which was proposed and ratified in 1865, abolished slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment, which was proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868, provides a broad definition of national citizenship, overturning the Dred Scott case, which excluded African Americans from becoming citizens. It required the states to provide equal protection under the law to all persons – not just citizens – within their jurisdictions. The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified in 1870, grants voting rights regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” As history has shown, it took more than a century for these amendments to be enforced, especially in the South, where many whites intimidated African Americans to keep them from fulfilling their full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.2.2 Political Pressure for Desegregation and the Civil Rights Movement   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – The Civil Rights Movement” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 39 – The Civil Rights Movement” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the second part, Topic 2, of this two-part presentation on key figures in the Civil Rights Movement. The civil rights movement was and is a worldwide political movement for equality before the law. In many situations it took the form of civil resistance campaigns aimed at achieving change by nonviolent forms of resistance. The process was long and tenuous in the United States; however, the efforts of these movements did lead to improvements in the legal rights of previously oppressed groups of people, especially African Americans. There were a multitude of civil rights leaders who had different goals in order to achieve equality – everything from all-out rebellion to non-violent resistance and working within the existing political system. Compare and contrast the tactics each of them used to gain attention for the movement.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch the first three parts, Topics 1-3, of this four-part presentation on the movement for civil rights. During the presidential administrations of the mid-20th century, presidents had varying attitudes towards the civil rights movements. Some saw it as a hindrance – and a distraction – to their greater political agendas, while others felt that civil rights was a matter in which they needed to take leadership. Read about how these presidents grappled with the issue of civil rights. Who do you think took the bravest position on it?
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Mobile App: DocuApps’ *The Civil Rights Act of 1964* Link: DocuApps’ The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (iOS app)
     
    Instructions: Open this optional app to read the full text of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most sweeping civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era.
     
    Reading through this optional app should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.2.2 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 4.2.2 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

4.2.3 Civil Rights for Other Minorities   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Civil Rights for Women and Minorities” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Civil Rights for Women and Minorities” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this article, which provides an overview of the civil rights movements and obstacles to equality for African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, women, the disabled, and members of the LGBT community as situated within in the history of the United States.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

4.2.4 Affirmative Action and Its Impact on Equality   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 40 – Post WWII Civil Rights Legislation” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the final part, Topic 4, of this four-part presentation on affirmative action. By the late 1970s, federal affirmative action programs had been under attack in higher education. After a decade in practice, the policies have doubled the number of black students attending colleges and universities, yet some white applicants who were denied admission blamed affirmative action. In 1978, the Supreme Court heard a case filed by Allan Bakke, a man who had twice been denied admission to medical school at the University of California at Davis. He claimed that affirmative action policies had kept him out, thus violating his rights. The court’s decision was not clear-cut. It ruled that Bakke should be admitted to UC Davis, and it stated that affirmative action is permissible but not mandatory. For some Americans, the case is proof that the cost of remedying years of discrimination and inequities through affirmative action is too high. But for others, there is no doubt that the policies make a positive impact not only on the student, but also on the black community as a whole.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

Unit 4 Current Events Challenge   - Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Current Events Challenge” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Current Events Challenge” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Follow the instructions to connect concepts learned in Unit 4 to current political events in American government.
 
Completing this activity should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Unit 4 Assessment   - Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 4 Assessment” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Complete this assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
 
Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour.