Freedom Shrine Essay – Rights In American History

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In the words of Susan B. Anthony, “It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed this Union,” (Anthony 1874 Trial). Our country was founded on the principle that all men, in reference to all people, are created equal. Even so, the fight for equal rights has been a continuous battle in American history.

It wasn’t until the 19th Amendment of the United States Constitution, ratified August 26, 1920, that women were given the right to vote. The amendment states “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” (19th Amendment Article Line 1). This first line of the two-sentence article was a huge leap for suffragettes, or women fighting for equal rights, as it gave them the main right they were fighting for. It can be learned from this amendment that the freedoms that come with living in the United States of America should not be taken for granted. This is because the efforts that went into getting this article passed were tremendous. An example of these efforts would be the criminal trial of Susan B. Anthony for her violation of the law that only men could vote.

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In her trial on April 23, 1874, Susan B. Anthony argued that the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution gave her the right to vote. The second paragraph of the account of the trial states “That the right to vote inheres in the citizen, and fortifies his positions by the definitions of the lexicographers and the dicta, if not the decisions, of the courts. If this be so, we cannot see how the conclusion is to be resisted that the fourteenth amendment includes in its sweeping effect the prohibition of the states from making laws which shall abridge the suffrage of any of their citizens,” (Anthony 1874 Trial). In this quote, Anthony is referring to when the amendment declares that a state cannot take away the right to vote from an American citizen. She believes that this means they cannot take the right to vote away from a woman. Throughout her trial Susan B. Anthony showed incredible amounts of courage. From this, it can be learned that through perseverance the American freedoms can be protected and improved to make the United States an even more exceptional country.

Another battle for rights that has been influential in United States history is the fight to end slavery and bring equality to those of all races. Slavery in America was not abolished until February 1, 1865, by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, over two years after most slaves were freed in the Emancipation Proclamation. Article XIII of the amendment reads “ Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States,” (19th Amendment Article XIII Line 1). This line means that any form of working another human against their will without a just reason is outlawed in the United States. The amendment was the final law to ban slavery. The long train of events that lead to this amendment being passed shows that it can take many years of small accomplishments and changes for the American freedom to be gained.

Even though all of these rights have been gained many civil rights battles still face the United States today. One of these struggles is disability discrimination in the workplace. Laws such as the ADA Act and ADA Amendments Act have been passed to try and stop this discrimination but they have failed. The lessons from the 19th Amendment, Susan B. Anthony Trial, and 13th Amendment can all be applied to this civil rights battle. From the 13th Amendment, it can be seen that these laws are small steps to the much larger fix that will hopefully be coming to end discrimination in the workplace. From the Susan B. Anthony trial it can be learned that it will take many courageous people with lots of perseverance to stop disability discrimination in the workplace. Finally, from the 19th Amendment, it can be observed that those without disabilities cannot take the lack of discrimination against them for granted. These lessons can extend to other civil rights battles in today’s government as well.

Many important United States documents, such as the 13th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, and the account of the Susan B. Anthony Trial, have focused on rights and American freedoms. Despite this, the fight for rights still remains a crucial battle. The lessons from these documents can lay guidelines for how to fight for rights in the future. In the words of Barack Obama “The arc of the universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own,” (Civil Rights March Anniversary Speech”.

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