Billy Book:Civil Rights

Essay by Snowmike182High School, 11th gradeA+, May 2004

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Billy: The Reality of Civil Rights in America

"Civil rights are the rights that a nation's inhabitants enjoy by law. They have a legal and philosophical basis and in the United States, are usually thought of in terms of the specific rights guaranteed in the Constitution: freedom of religion, of speech, of the press, and to due process of law and equal protection under the law." In today's society, the question of civil rights can bring many issues to mind: the rights of gays to marry, profiling of certain ethnic groups, women's equality in the workplace, etc. However, throughout the history of the United States, much of the focus of civil rights has been on the rights of African Americans. As far back as 1865, amendments and acts have been passed that intended to bring equality to blacks. Many novels, however, have been written that demonstrate how blacks in America were actually treated regardless of these laws.

One of these novels, Billy, by Albert French gives a powerful depiction of the racism and the lack of civil rights that existed in America in 1937.

The Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 abolished slavery, but did not recognize blacks as equals. The Fourteenth Amendment in 1868 stated that "All persons born or naturalized in the US…are citizens…nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person…the equal protection of the laws." After the Civil War, there were several acts that were passed that tried to bring equality to blacks and "enforce the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments." The Civil Rights Acts of 1866, 1867, 1870, 1871, and 1875 gave blacks equal legal rights, "allowed former slaves to participate fully in the political arena," vote in elections, gave protection against intimidation...