The Declaration of Independence stated that all men are created equal, yet the long and continuing struggle for civil rights in the United States seems to indicate otherwise. This reference guide details the most critical civil rights laws in U.S. history, moving from the period of slavery, to the Civil War, to the Reconstruction, to the civil rights era of the mid- to late-20th century. An overview essay introduces each period, and 36 individual laws are examined in essays placing the bills in their historical contexts. Each law is then presented in an edited and, when appropriate, annotated form, so students can read and understand the actual words of the law.
Many of the notable and notorious laws in U.S. legislative history have come in the area of civil rights. Among these are the Fugitive Slave Act, the Missouri Compromise, the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Acts of 1965. This uncommonly helpful guide to U.S. civil rights legislation also includes timelines, a bibliography, and an index.