Public policies and legal protections concerning equal status and treatment in American society to advance the goals of equal opportunity, fair and open political participation, and equal treatment under the law without regard to race, gender, disability status, and other demographic characteristics.
Fundamental value underlying the governing system of the United States that emphasizes all citizens’ opportunities to vote, run for office, own property, and enjoy civil liberties protections under the Constitution.
Equality of condition
A conception of equality that exists in some countries that value equal economic status as well as equal access to housing, health care, education, and government services.
equality of opportunity
A conception of equality that seeks to provide all citizens with opportunities for participation in the economic system and public life but accepts unequal results in income, political power, and property ownership.
Jim Crow Laws
Laws enacted by southern state legislatures after the Civil War that mandated rigid racial segregation. For example, such laws not only required separate bank teller windows and elevators but also separate Bibles for swearing in African-American witnesses in court.
Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)
A U.S. Supreme Court decision that endorsed the legality of racial segregation laws by permitting “separate but equal” services and facilities for African Americans, even though the services and facilities were actually inferior, such as markedly inferior schools for African-American children.
de jure segregation
Racial segregation mandated by laws and policies created by government officials.
de facto segregation
Racial segregation in housing and schools that was presumed to occur through people’s voluntary choices about where they wanted to live but was actually facilitated by the discriminatory actions of landlords, real estate agents, and banks.
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Civil rights advocacy group founded by African Americans and their white supporters in 1909 that used the court pathway to fight racial discrimination in the 1930s through the 1950s and later emphasized elections and lobbying pathways.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
A U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and declared that government-mandated racial segregation in schools and other facilities and programs violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1953–1969) who led the Court to its unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) and also took a leading role in many decisions expanding civil liberties and promoting civil rights.
Measures taken in hiring, recruitment, employment, and education to remedy past and present discrimination against members of specific groups.
Martin Luther King Jr.
A civil rights leader who emerged from the Montgomery bus boycott to become a national leader of the civil rights movement and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
A federal statute that prohibited racial discrimination in public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, theaters), employment, and programs receiving federal funding.
Voting Rights Act of 1965
A federal statute that effectively attacked literacy tests and other techniques used to prevent African Americans from voting.
The right to vote for all adult citizens.
Latino civil rights leader who founded the United Farm Workers and used nonviolent, grassroots mobilization to seek civil rights for Latinos and improved working conditions for agricultural workers.
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