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18 Civil Liberties Examples

civil liberties examples and definition, explained below

Civil liberties refer to fundamental freedoms that cannot be curtailed (i.e. prevented or undermined) by governments or others in society.

The concept of civil liberty comes from classical liberal philosophy of the Enlightenment period, and is most famously upheld by the US constitution, which was heavily influenced by Enlightenment liberalism .

A civil liberty is a fundamental freedom, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of religion , and the right to due process. No government law can be passed that will interfere with these fundamental civil rights .

Civil Liberties Examples

1. freedom of speech.

This civil liberty, protected in the United States under the First Amendment to the Constitution, allows anybody in the nation to express their thoughts, opinions, and beliefs freely.

It prevents the government from interfering or retaliating, and can also prevent censorship (Cornell Law School, 2020).

This law isn’t only in the USA – most liberal democracies have free speech enshrined in law to some extent or another, but this is sometimes curtailed (such as is Germany, where certain WWII speech and symbolism is banned).

An example of this civil liberty in action is the Westboro Baptist Chruch, who can protest at soldiers’ funerals, despite this being extremely offensive.

Freedom of Speech Example Whenever you go out to protest, or you say something that might be considered offensive or a minority opinion, your right to say that is underpinned by freedom of speech.

2. Freedom of the Press

Also protected under the First Amendment, this liberty ensures refers to freedom of speech for the media, such as newspapers, YouTubers, TV hosts, and so forth.

It gives them the right to distribute information and opinion without government intervention. This civil liberty is not present in many authoritarian nations, however, which often control the media narrative through state puppet media, and find ways to shut down dissenting voices.

Countries that lack this civil liberty to some extent or another include Singapore, Vietnam, China, and Russia (Cornell Law School, 2020). Even in the USA, the hunting-down of Julian Assange is seen as a possible infringement on press freedom.

Freedom of the Press Example The existence of obviously politically biased media , such as Fox News and MSNBC, is thanks to this principle. Other nations may outright ban media organizations that go against the official government narrative.

3. Right to Privacy

The right to privacy refers to everyone’s right not to be unduly searched or otherwise have our private lives infringed upon by the government or police.

Though not explicitly mentioned in the US Constitution, the US Supreme Court has upheld the right to privacy based on various amendments (Cornell Law School, 2020).

Example The police can’t just walk into your home without invitation. They usually have to ask a judge for a warrant and the judge has to see that they have reasonable cause to invade your privacy, such as some evidence indicating you might be doing something unlawful in your house.

4. Freedom of Religion

Religious freedom is another civil liberty on which the USA was founded. This First Amendment right ensures the freedom to practice any religion or no religion at all, without anyone being able to prevent you from doing so (Cornell Law School, 2020).

This freedom is existent in just about all liberal democracies.

A real-life example is the 2014 Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores. In this court case, the US Supreme court ruled a company is allowed to have company-wide healthcare plans that do not provide contraception coverage because that company has a religious belief against it (Liptak, 2014).

Example The pioneers who first arrived on the American continent were fleeing Europe where their freedom to practice their non-Anglican religions was being oppressed by the British government.

4. Right to a Fair Trial

Without a fair trial, people could be arrested and imprisoned falsely, or because they are a threat to the government of other powerful actors.

The Sixth Amendment of the US constitution guarantees the rights of everyone to have a public trial in front of a jury, without unnecessary delay, in order to plead their innocence.

Furthermore, defendants are allowed the right to a lawyer and an impartial jury, and they must be allowed to know who their accuser is and what the accusations are (Cornell Law School, 2020). Similar rules are in place in most liberal democracies.

Example When people are arrested, they cannot be sent straight to prison. They must be araigned before a judge who will usually release them on bail until their court date, unless they are demonstrably a flight risk or threat to society.

5. Right to Equal Protection

Equal protection under the law means that nobody should be legally or institutionally discriminated against based upon identity factors such as race, class, gender, and sexuality.

This is in the Fourteenth Amendment of the US constitution, as well as in most liberal democracies’ constitutions or legal frameworks.

Example This civil liberty was the one that delivered same-sex marriage, where the supreme court held that same-sex couples should have the same protections as opposite-sex couples.

6. Right Against Self-Incrimination

The term “plead the fifth” is famous from Hollywood movies. It refers to invoking the Fifth Amendment of the United States, which protects people from having to testify against themselves.

In other words, if you have done something wrong, you don’t have to tell the court. You may also know this from the Miranda Rights statement: “you have the right to remain silent” (Cornell Law School, 2020). 

Example The right against self-incrimination was famously invoked by former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, who pleaded the Fifth during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 US election (Harris & Barrett, 2017).

7. Right to Vote

The right to vote is a central pillar of all of the world’s true democracies. It enshrines the important principle that it’s the people of the nation who select who will make their laws for them, underpinning the concept of “government by the people for the people.”

In the USA, this is so important that the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments to the Constitution all protect citizens’ right to vote, regardless of race, sex, or age (over 18).

Furthermore, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed to underpin this right for African American citizens who have historically had their right to vote curtailed by discriminatory laws (Berman, 2015).

Example Come election day, everyone over 18 who is a citizen is allowed to go and cast one ballot, demonstrating their equal vote among all others to choose their next political representatives.

8. Freedom of Assembly

Freedom of assembly refers to the right to protest. This right is a controversial one, because freedom to assemble often comes up against people’s freedom of movement – such as when the Trucker protest in Canada blocked people’s access to parliament house in 2021, or when Just Stop Oil protesters in the UK block public highways.

So, often, laws need to be passed that simultaneously secure freedomof assembly while also ensuring this does not impinge on others’ ability to engage in commerce, get their children to school, and so forth.

Freedom of Assembly Example Generally, governments are not allowed to stop a protest from happening unless it is a threat to society or the functioning of public spaces, etc. A peaceful protest generally has to be allowed to take place.

9. Right to Petition the Government

The First Amendment also grants individuals the right to “petition” the government without fear of punishment or reprisals (Cornell Law School, 2020).

Generally, this is seen as the right to either complain to the government, literally send them a signed petition, or even seek the assistance of public elected officials.

Example A local organization who gets 1,000 people to sign a petition is allowed to send that petition to their representative, and the representative is not allowed to punish them for doing so.

10. Right to Freedom from Involuntary Servitude

This refers to the right to be a free person, not in servitude to anyone, and not to have to work without pay.

This is a natural right, but also a civil liberty afforded to people in the United States under the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished involuntary servitude except as a punishment for a crime meted out by the courts (Cornell Law School, 2020).

11. Right to Due Process

Due process refers to a person’s right to be able to stand before a jury and plead your case. You cannot be imprisoned or punished until after courts find you guilty.

For example, in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, American citizens have the right to “life, liberty, or property” and cannot have these taken without due process of law (Cornell Law School, 2020).

This includes both procedural due process and substantive due process.

12. Right to a Jury Trial

Depending on the country, you may have the right to trial by jury rather than trial by judge.

The judge will still be there, but the jury are the ones who decide if someone is guilty or not. In the USA, this is very common.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a trial by an impartial jury in criminal cases, and the Seventh Amendment preserves this right in most civil cases as well (Cornell Law School, 2020).

Example This right was highlighted in the highly publicized trial of O.J. Simpson in 1995, where a jury acquitted Simpson of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman after a lengthy and closely-watched trial (Toobin, 1996).

13. Right to Counsel

Enshrined in the Sixth Amendment, this right ensures that in criminal prosecutions, the accused has the right to the assistance of counsel for his or her defense (Cornell Law School, 2020).

The landmark case of Miranda v. Arizona (1966) is a key example, as the Supreme Court ruled that detained criminal suspects must be informed of their right to an attorney and against self-incrimination prior to police questioning (Schultz, 2010).

14. Freedom from Double Jeopardy

This Fifth Amendment right protects individuals from being prosecuted twice for the same offense (Cornell Law School, 2020).

An instance of this right being invoked can be seen in the case of United States v. Dixon (1993), where the Supreme Court ruled that successive prosecutions for contempt of court and the underlying offense were not a violation of the double jeopardy clause (Supreme Court of the United States, 1993).

15. Right to Confront Witnesses

The Sixth Amendment ensures that those accused of a crime have the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against them (Cornell Law School, 2020).

This was demonstrated in the trial of Harvey Weinstein in 2020, where Weinstein’s defense team had the opportunity to cross-examine the individuals accusing him of sexual assault (Ransom, 2020).

17. Right to a Speedy Trial

The Sixth Amendment guarantees a speedy trial to prevent the government from imprisoning individuals for extended periods of time before a trial.

This is so governments don’t keep delaying trial to keep political prisoners in prison without actually taking them before a court to prove the crime. It also ensures that people who are innocent are not locked up without due process.

The 1972 Barker v. Wingo case is a significant instance where the Supreme Court established a four-part test to determine what constitutes a speedy trial (Supreme Court of the United States, 1972).

18. Right to Marital Privacy

Although not explicitly stated in the Constitution, the right to marital privacy is inferred from several amendments. In the landmark case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Supreme Court struck down a state law that restricted access to contraceptives. The court argued in their devision that restriction of access to contraceptives violated the right to marital privacy (Greenhouse, 2010).

Civil liberties are essential for a free democratic society. Different nations have different approaches to each of the above civil liberties, but in general, most liberal democratic nations have as a core principle that civil liberties should be established and upheld, regardless of the government of the day.

Alvarez, L., & Buckley, C. (2013). Zimmerman Is Acquitted in Trayvon Martin Killing . The New York Times.

Berman, A. (2015). Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America . Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Chenoweth, E., & Pressman, J. (2017). This is what we learned by counting the women’s marches . The Washington Post.

Cornell Law School. (2020). First Amendment. Legal Information Institute .

Greenwald, G., MacAskill, E., & Poitras, L. (2013). Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations. The Guardian.

Harris, S., & Barrett, D. (2017). Flynn will invoke Fifth Amendment, source says. CNN.

Liptak, A. (2012). Justices Say GPS Tracker Violated Privacy Rights . The New York Times.

Liptak, A. (2014). Supreme Court Rejects Contraceptives Mandate for Some Corporations . The New York Times.

Liptak, A. (2015). Supreme Court Ruling Makes Same-Sex Marriage a Right Nationwide . The New York Times.

Mandery, E. (2013). A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America . W. W. Norton & Company.

Ransom, J. (2020). Weinstein’s Lawyers Have 2 Goals: Undermine Accusers and Prosecutors . The New York Times.

Schultz, D. (2010). Encyclopedia of the United States Constitution . Facts on File.

Supreme Court of the United States. (1993). United States v. Dixon .

Supreme Court of the United States. (2019). Timbs v. Indiana.

Toobin, J. (1996). The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson. Random House.

Wills, G. (1964). Gideon’s Trumpet. Vintage.


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Legal Dictionary

The Law Dictionary for Everyone

Civil Liberties

Civil liberties are freedoms due every individual, just based on the fact that they are human beings. The Declaration of Independence asserts the creed of the American people, as it declares that all men are endowed with certain inalienable rights , such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Civil liberties are not gifted by governmental action, as they are rights of birth. The government cannot take away or change these rights by making or doing away with legislation . Civil liberties are different from civil rights , though the difference is sometimes difficult to grasp. To explore this concept, consider the following civil liberties definition.

Definition of Civil Liberties

  • Personal freedoms that cannot be taken away or reduced by the government without due process .
  • The right to do or say things that are not illegal without being obstructed by the government.

Early 17th Century

What are Civil Liberties

Many people around the globe hold the belief that every person bears certain rights and freedoms, as granted by God, or simply by virtue of being human. Civil liberties means having freedom from arbitrary interference in one’s pursuits, such as freedom of expression, freedom to practice religion, or freedom to earn a living. In the U.S., these personal freedoms cannot be taken away or diminished by the government without due process of law.

On this, the Declaration of Independence states:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Examples of civil liberties include:

  • Freedom of expression
  • Freedom of speech
  • Freedom of assembly
  • Freedom of press
  • Freedom of religion
  • Freedom of conscience
  • Right to liberty and security
  • Freedom from torture
  • Freedom from forced disappearance
  • Right to privacy
  • Right to equal treatment under the law
  • Right to due process
  • Right to a fair trial
  • Right to life
  • Right to marry
  • Right to vote

Certainly this list is not exhaustive, as other liberties present themselves, such as having a right to defend oneself, or to own property.

Civil Liberties in the United States

Civil liberties in the United States are protected by the U.S. Constitution , and by the Bill of Rights , which are stated as amendments to the Constitution. Protected civil liberties include the right to due process, equal protection, and a prohibition against any state law that supersedes federal law. The difference between civil rights and civil liberties becomes important to understand, as navigating the governmental and legal system in regards to these issues can be confusing.

As an example of civil liberties vs. civil rights, in early America, many people were denied the right to vote, even though they were considered to enjoy the fundamental freedoms – the civil liberties – which come from the right to life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness. In this case, those people were denied their civil right to vote, and to take meaningful part in their government. Today, all American citizens, regardless of race, creed, religion, or any other characteristic, have a right to vote in elections.

Governmental leaders today have given great consideration to civil liberties denied to certain groups of people throughout U.S. history. For example, Native American people are governed by tribal governments, which remain sovereign, answering to federal, not state laws. In 1968, Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act , which gave many, though not all, rights afforded by the Bill of Rights, to the Native American people.

President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 , which issued a public Congressional apology to those Japanese Americans whose liberty and property were taken, when they were interred in camps during World War II. The Act went so far as to create a Civil Liberties Public Education fund, requiring a board to track down any individuals affected by the Act, and to pay them each $20,000 from the fund.

American Civil Liberties Union

In early 20th century America, the people became concerned that Communism would take root in the U.S. As concerns grew into fears, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer began a roundup of non-citizens and so-called radicals. During this action, known as the “Palmer Raids,” thousands of people were taken into custody without warrants, and with no consideration for their Constitutional rights against unlawful search and seizure These people were treated cruelly, and held in appalling conditions. Only a handful of citizens took action on their alarm over the dreadful civil liberties and civil rights violations. This was the birth of the American Civil Liberties Union , also known as the “ACLU.”

For nearly a century, the American Civil Liberties Union has worked toward its stated purpose of defending and preserving the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States. Over the years, the ACLU has taken on such issues as African American rights, Native American rights, police brutality , censorship in the arts, free speech, and the right to peaceably assemble. Modern times see the ACLU stepping into issues of racial discrimination, police misconduct , and the rights of certain “victim groups,” including the homeless, the poor, women, and issues of sexual orientation.

Civil Liberties Examples in Modern Cases

Courts across the nation are filled with civil lawsuits and challenges regarding civil liberties and civil rights.

Rights of the Homeless to Life, Liberty, Property, and Due Process

Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles has long been a nucleus for homeless shelters and social services for the extremely poor, the majority of whom are Black. When the LAPD launched a “Safer Cities Initiative” in 2006, in an effort to clean up the downtown area and encourage new growth, thousands of poor and homeless people were harassed, arrested, and displaced.

The ACLU represented six of those homeless people in a lawsuit, charging the City with violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, as well as Article I of the California Constitution, all of which deal with the civil liberties of equal protection under the law, due process, and a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

The ACLU won the case, when the judge ruled that “the LAPD cannot arrest people for sitting, lying, or sleeping on public sidewalks in Skid Row.” The City did enter into a compromise with them, however, in which the homeless people would be allowed to sleep on the sidewalks of the area only between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Unfortunately, the City Council promptly voted against the compromise, sending police out to make wide scale arrests.

Creation, Evolution, and Opinion

In 2004, the school district in Dover, Pennsylvania found itself in the middle of a community debate over creationism, Darwinism, and the separation of church and state. As the science department taught Darwin’s theory of evolution, a student painted a mural showing his view of man’s evolution from ape to human form. A rift suddenly formed in the student body, which included their parents, and soon spread to the community.

Parents who didn’t believe in Darwinism took exception to the fact that it was taught to the exclusion of all else, and demanded that the idea of “intelligent design” be taught alongside evolution. Intelligent design is a term given to the idea that the universe, and therefore mankind, were created by a superior being, or God. Pro-evolution parents and community members quickly jumped on the “separation of church and state” bandwagon, filing a lawsuit against the school district, claiming the school was promoting religion in the classroom, in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

In this example of civil liberties dispute, the trial was lengthy. Judge John E. Jones III heard evidence and testimony from both sides of the issue. Finally, the judge ruled in favor of the parents, holding that “intelligent design” is not science , and could not therefore be taught in the classroom. The school was permanently banned from teaching the idea of intelligent design in science classes.

Man’s Right to be Free from Torture

In the years following the 9/11 attacks on American soil, the military took a large number of people into custody based on a suspicion that they were involved in terrorist activities. These people were held in off-shore prison facilities, such as a holding facility in Afghanistan, and in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Classified as “enemy combatants,” these prisoners, referred as “detainees,” were not given the basic civil liberties of due process, legal representation, or even an intent to go to trial. In addition, many of the prisoners complained of being tortured during their detainment.

In 2005, the ACLU agreed to represent three detainees, Gul Rahman, Suleiman Abdullah Salim, and Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, in a lawsuit against two psychologists contracted by the CIA to design and implement psychological torture methods. The defendants, James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen, were accused of supervising an experimental torture program in which detainees were subjected to such horrifying treatment as starvation, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, forced immersion in ice water, short chaining, and water boarding.

The psychologists petitioned the court for a dismissal of the case. The motion was denied, as the court ruled the case could go forward, and gave the parties only 30 days to come up with a plan for discovery. The court’s willingness to hear this civil liberties case involving CIA contractors was unprecedented.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Defendant – A party against whom a lawsuit has been filed in civil court, or who has been accused of, or charged with, a crime or offense.
  • Discovery – The pre-trial efforts of each party to obtain information and evidence.
  • Due Process – The fundamental, constitutional right to fair legal proceedings in which all parties will be given notice of the proceedings, and have an opportunity to be heard.

civil liberties thesis statement examples

Background Essay: The Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights

civil liberties thesis statement examples

Guiding Question: How has the Supreme Court decided cases in controversies related to the Bill of Rights?

  • I can identify the role of the Supreme Court in protecting civil liberties.
  • I can explain how the Supreme Court’s role has changed over time.

Essential Vocabulary

During the last 60 years, the Supreme Court has become perhaps the central defender of civil liberties, or freedoms that government is not allowed to restrict, in the United States. This role has been a relatively recent development that marked a distinct change from the Founding, when the Court mostly addressed government powers. The evolution of this role for the Court has greatly expanded popular expectations of enjoying individual rights. However, it has also been fraught with numerous difficulties, both for the constitutional order and for the Supreme Court itself, as it has become the center of controversy about rights.

Limited Government and the Supreme Court

The original Founding understanding of the Bill of Rights was that it limited the powers of the federal government to violate the rights of the people. When originally ratified, the Bill of Rights only applied to the national government, not to state governments. State governments had their own bills of rights to protect their citizens. This reflected the constitutional principle of federalism, or the separation of powers between state and national governments. The Supreme Court endorsed this Founding view that the Bill of Rights applied only to the national government in the case Barron v. Baltimore (1833).

Moreover, this also represented the principle of limited government, one of the foundations of protecting liberties. The national government had certain enumerated and implied powers that the three branches—legislative, executive, and judicial—exercised in making, executing, and interpreting the law. Enumerated powers are those listed explicitly in the Constitution. Implied powers are those that government has that are not written in the document. The national government could not exceed these powers to violate the liberties of the people. To further this protection, states had their own bills of rights. The Declaration of Independence asserted that the ultimate protection of the people’s liberties is the overthrow of a tyrannical government after a long train of abuses.

The role of the Court was to hear all cases arising under the Constitution. After the case of Marbury v. Madison (1803), the Court’s role expanded to include determining the constitutionality of governmental laws and actions. However, there was debate over whether or not the other branches also had the responsibility of interpreting the Constitution.

It is important to note that although the Court could rule a law or action unconstitutional, it was not necessarily the final word on the Constitution. In a speech critical of the Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) decision, Abraham Lincoln quoted Andrew Jackson, saying, “The Congress, the executive and the court, must each for itself be guided by its own opinion of the Constitution.” Lincoln was arguing that the Court’s authority and just precedents , or earlier laws or rulings, should be respected, but the Supreme Court was not necessarily the final word on the meaning of the Constitution and could make errors, as it did in Dred Scott . All the branches must interpret the document in the exercise of their constitutional powers for the ends of liberty, equality, and justice.

The Supreme Court, Incorporation, and the Bill of Rights from the Twentieth Century to Today

The due process clause of the 14th Amendment led to the incorporation of the Bill of Rights, which meant that the Supreme Court applied the Bill of Rights to the states. During the first half of the twentieth century, the Court incorporated the Bill of Rights selectively in a few cases. For example, it extended the First Amendment right of free speech against state violation in Gitlow v. New York (1925) and freedom of the press in Near v. Minnesota (1931).

The popular understanding of the Court as the protector of individual rights became widely accepted during the Warren Court (1953–1969) and after. Many of the decisions were controversial because Americans viewed the issues involved differently. Some Americans questioned whether the Court was the appropriate branch to define rights or whether it should be left to the other branches of government or the amendment process. The Court also controversially overturned the laws and common values of states and local communities for one uniform, national standard.

The Court expanded the application of the Bill of Rights (incorporated) to the states in several areas and protected civil liberties in new ways. For example, the Court banned school-sponsored prayer and Bible reading in public schools in Engel v. Vitale (1962) and Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), respectively, for violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The Court protected the rights of students in local public schools in other ways. In Tinker v. Des Moines (1969), the Court decided that students had the right of free speech to protest the Vietnam War under the First Amendment. The students had worn black armbands to protest the war despite a warning not to, and the school suspended them.

The Court protected the rights of the accused in major cases during the mid-1960s. The Court stated that criminal defendants are entitled to an attorney in Gideon v. Wainwright (1963). The Court excluded, or left out, illegally seized criminal evidence under the Fourth Amendment in Mapp v. Ohio (1964). In Miranda v. Arizona (1966), the Court decided that police officers must provide a “Miranda warning” informing accused people of their rights before questioning them about a crime.

The Court also made key decisions on moral issues that were fiercely debated in American society. In Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Court asserted that a “right to privacy” exists and is implicit in several amendments of the Bill of Rights. Therefore, the Court declared a state law banning birth control unconstitutional. The decision was a precedent for the use of the right to privacy argument in Roe v. Wade (1973), which established a right to abortion.

In recent decades, the Court helped protect gay rights. In Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the Court invalidated state laws banning homosexual acts. In Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the Court made gay marriage a right when it required states to recognize the same-sex marriages of other states.

The Supreme Court has left a mixed record regarding its decisions related to the Bill of Rights. On one hand, Court rulings have protected what seem like reasonable and fundamental individual liberties. On the other hand, the Court has made rulings on cultural, social, and moral disputes that often did little to resolve the wider debate over the issues and maybe even fueled division among Americans. In recent decades, for better or worse, Americans have increasingly looked to the Supreme Court as the protector of civil liberties and the final word on the Constitution.

Related Content

civil liberties thesis statement examples

Background Essay Questions: The Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights

civil liberties thesis statement examples

Supreme Court Case Scenarios: How Would You Decide?

civil liberties thesis statement examples

The Supreme Court and the Bill of Rights

How has the Supreme Court decided cases in controversies related to the Bill of Rights?

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4.3: Constitutions and Individual Liberties

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Learning Objectives

  • Differentiate between negative rights and positive rights constitutions.
  • Define constitutionalism.
  • Analyze how different constitutional systems treat the individual.
  • Define due process.
  • Explain how the rule of law and its principles are important to individual freedom.

As discussed in Chapter 2: Political Behavior Is Human Behavior most countries have a formal constitution —a framework, blueprint, or foundation for the operation of a government. The constitution need not be in writing, in one document, or even labeled a constitution. Britain, New Zealand, and Israel do not have codified constitutions but instead use uncollected writings that establish the form of government and set out the principles of liberty. 14 In many countries, a series of documents, usually called the basic laws , codifies the government structure and individual rights. 15 If a country lacks a single document labeled a constitution, how does one know that certain writings serve as the country’s constitution? A constitution describes the underlying principles of the people and government, the structure of the branches of government, and their duties. It limits government, listing freedoms or rights reserved for the people, and it must be more difficult to amend or change than ordinary laws. 16

A constitution may be expressed in a way that emphasizes civil liberties as negative or positive rights. When political scientists say a constitution specifies negative rights , this means that it is written to emphasize limitations on government. Consider the wording of the First Amendment :

“ Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” 17 (emphasis added)

The amendment is phrased to focus not on what the government owes the people but on the limitations on the government’s ability to infringe upon the rights of individuals. The US Constitution leans toward being a negative rights constitution because most of the Bill of Rights is written in terms of restrictions on the government.

In a positive rights constitution, rights are written in terms of a government obligation to guarantee the people’s rights. For example, article 5 of the German constitution, the German Basic Law , states:

“Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures. . . . Freedom of the press . . . shall be guaranteed .” 18 (emphasis added)

This positive rights constitution emphasizes the government’s guarantee of freedom to the individual. Though the US Constitution is primarily seen as a negative rights constitution, like most constitutions it also describes positive rights, as in those clauses that guarantee the right to something. 19 Most democratic constitutions written after World War II are positive rights constitutions. After the Nazis used the existing German constitution to restrict people’s freedoms in Germany and in the countries they conquered, people in the affected countries wanted assurances that the government recognized its obligation to the people and not just the people’s obligation to the government. Similar fears caused many countries not occupied by the Nazis to create positive rights constitutions. 20 These constitutions make the government the protector of freedom against all infringements. They do not just limit government action restricting the individual.

Positive vs. Negative Rights

In this short clip, the Center for Civic Education distinguishes between positive and negative rights.

A country’s constitution delineates the degree of freedom of action that the government allows the individual, and that degree varies by political system. An individualist system emphasizes individuals over the community, including the government, while a communitarian system emphasizes community cohesiveness while recognizing the importance of individual freedoms. Countries vary in terms of the nature of their systems and the degree to which they stress individualism or communitarianism.

What Are the Characteristics of Individualist Systems?

In an individualist system, individuals take precedence over the government. Society rests on the principle that individuals inherently possess rights that the government should preserve and promote. Two major styles of individualism are common today: libertarianism (also called classical liberalism) and modern liberalism . Libertarianism emphasizes restraints on government. Liberalism emphasizes the government’s obligation to enforce laws that protect personal autonomy and rights. Let’s review some of the different philosophies discussed in Chapter 3 in terms of how they impact civil liberties.

In libertarianism, individualists believe that governments exist to assist individuals in achieving their private interests. Therefore, libertarians place many restrictions (negative rights) on the government. As John Stuart Mill observed in his essay On Liberty (1859), in a strict individualist society:

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilised community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise.” 21

The focus is on the individual, and the benefits to society that might flow from any restriction on the individual must be clear and convincing. This does not mean that the government can never restrict individual action, nor that the good of society need be wholly ignored. Still, it does mean there must be proof of sufficient harmful effects to justify any restraint. This is where the conflict between the individual and society occurs. It is here that the US style of “no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech” comes into play. For example, a person in the United States can say anything against any political candidate; they can even lie about the candidate. 22 With the restriction on government action abridging free speech, no laws restrict that person’s conduct. However, they cannot say they will kill a candidate at three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon. This is a threat to an individual’s safety and to society’s law and order, so the government has laws to punish the person for making the threat. Further, some US statutes make a person liable for damages if they engage in defamation—that is, if they lie about and cause harm to a private person—although these statutes do not apply to lies about political candidates. Thus, even with the United States’ negative rights libertarian-style constitution, the government is not prohibited from imposing restrictions “abridging the freedom of speech” in every situation at all times.

In an individualist society formed in a liberal style, the government actively protects individual rights. For example, under the German Basic Law and its guarantees of free speech, the government can prosecute a person for making false statements or heckling a candidate while they are making a speech. This is a violation of the Basic Law because the rights of free speech “shall find their limits in the provisions of general laws, in provisions for the protection of young persons and in the right to personal honour.” 23 Liberal governments are more proactive than libertarian ones in protecting the individual’s rights. Because they do so to protect the rights of all individuals for the good of society, they place more restrictions on the individual. Still, governments in liberal societies cannot wholly deny a person’s individual liberties.

What Are the Characteristics of Communitarian Systems?

A communitarian system emphasizes the role the government plays in the lives of citizens. Communitarian systems are grounded in the belief that people need the community and its values to create a cohesive society. Government exists not only to protect rights but also to form a political community to solve public problems. There is a public good, and it is the government’s job to protect it, even if that means restricting individual behaviors. Communitarians oppose excessive individualism, arguing that it leads people to be selfish or egocentric, which is harmful to a community. Individuals do not stand apart from society in discrete autonomy; they are part of society and have a role to play in protecting society.

How countries put communitarianism into practice varies widely. Some countries, such as China, Singapore, and Malaysia, have authoritarian governments. This style of government enforces obedience to government authority by strongly limiting personal freedoms. These governments emphasize and enshrine in their constitutions social obligations and the common good. The Chinese constitution states, “Disruption of the socialist system by any organization or individual is prohibited.” 24 In article 35, the Chinese constitution provides that “citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy the freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, the procession and demonstration.” 25 However, comparing these two clauses with actual practices in the People's Republic of China shows that the government’s emphasis is not on protecting individual freedom and autonomy but on protecting the government’s view of a cohesive society. 26

A person dressed in an olive green poncho and an olive green military hat stands in front of a row of 5 large military vehicles.

Responsive communitarianism contrasts with the authoritarian style of communitarianism and the perceived selfishness of libertarianism. It seeks to blend the common good and individual autonomy while not allowing either to take precedence over the other. The individual is within society, the community, so the community constructs part of the individual identity. In responsive communitarianism , individual rights are balanced with societal norms of the good, and society or the government restrains the individual when individual action challenges an accepted norm. For example, the majority of people living in the United States today oppose slavery and racial injustice. However, had those people been born in the 18th century, many would have supported such concepts. Every community has standards that it declares essential to the common good—the common ground on which the community is formed. In circumstances where the common good takes precedence over the individual, conflict can ensue, and the society, including the government, must decide how to resolve the dispute.

The COVID-19 pandemic mentioned at the beginning of this chapter resulted in severe illness and mass deaths around the world. Many viewed government actions restricting individuals during the pandemic as justified because the challenge the disease posed to society was severe enough to warrant temporarily suspending certain freedoms. People accepted or rejected these government restrictions depending on the degree to which they accepted scientific explanations and on their views of individualism and communitarianism. Scientists explained how the disease spread, and government leaders urged compliance. In many areas of the world, the government instituted restrictions on movement, required that people wear face masks, and punished persons who violated these edicts. Some individuals claimed that their rights were being violated. Some argued that masks do not make a significant difference in transmission of the virus and are unnecessary in most situations. Significant scientific evidence refutes this claim, but such individuals refused to accept it. They also argued that it is their inalienable right to decide whether or not to risk becoming sick or dying, prioritizing that right over the risk they might pose to others. 27 When initial illness rates started to decline and vaccinations became available, the argument shifted to when and how to open up the social sphere and whether to require that people be vaccinated to enter certain places or to participate in certain activities. 28 These responses to the pandemic are a perfect example of the conflicts inherent in everyday situations that require a balance between individuals’ civil liberties and the government’s obligation to act for the common good.

Whether and to what degree a system is individualistic or communitarian does not determine if the system is a constitutional government. Simply having a document labeled a constitution does not give a country a constitutional government; to be considered a constitutional government, a country must practice constitutionalism.

What Is Constitutionalism?

The three main elements of constitutionalism are adherence to the rule of law, limited government, and guarantees of individual rights. The rule of law has four principles:

  • Accountability : Government and private actors are accountable under the law, and no one is above the law.
  • Just laws : The laws are clear, publicized, stable, and applied evenly. They protect fundamental rights, including protecting persons and property and certain core human rights.
  • Open government : The processes by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced are accessible, fair, and efficient.
  • Accessible and impartial dispute resolution : Justice is delivered in a timely manner by competent, ethical, and independent representatives, and neutral decision makers are accessible, have adequate resources, and reflect the communities they serve.

Constitutionalism balances limited government with the fundamental worth of each individual. The government is limited because people have some right to make their own life decisions. The fundamental worth of each individual means that people have some right to self-determination, as shown in a bill of rights in a constitution. Maintaining a balance between government authority and individual freedom is a challenge.

A flowchart illustrates that the “Rule of Law” has to maintain a balance between Limited Government authority and Individual Rights.

Utilizing due process is part of the rule of law and constitutionalism, so it is more robustly defended in countries that practice constitutionalism than it is in those with constitutions that do not adhere to all the elements of constitutionalism.

Due process is a legal requirement that the government respect the rights of the people, and it is a demonstration of the rule of law and the balancing of government power with individual rights. In the US Constitution, the due process clause provides that no one shall “be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” 29 This clause applies to all persons, not just citizens of the United States. There are two aspects of due process: procedural due process and substantive due process. Procedural due process concerns the written guidelines for how the government interacts with individuals, while substantive due process concerns the individual’s right to be treated fairly when interacting with the government. A violation of due process offends the rule of law because it puts individuals or groups above the law or treats individuals or groups without equality.

Due Process of Law

In this video clip, Randy E. Barnett, professor of constitutional law at the Georgetown University Law Center, looks at the overarching concept of due process through the lens of US government and its British origins.

When one thinks of the due process of law as government fairness to all persons, civil rights and civil liberties become intertwined. In the landmark same-sex marriage case Obergefell v. Hodges , the United States Supreme Court held that the due process clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees that the government will defend as a fundamental liberty the right to choose whom one will marry. The court also held that to deny that liberty would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because doing so would amount to unequal treatment of same-sex and opposite-sex couples, thus denying a same-sex couple equal protection of the law and amounting to a violation of the couple’s civil rights. 30

Thus, same-sex marriage is both a civil liberty and a civil rights issue. The right to marry is a civil liberty because it is a freedom from government interference in one’s choice of a life partner. Same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue because to deny same-sex couples the right to marry is to subject them to unequal treatment. The case of same-sex marriage shows how both civil rights (equality) and civil liberties (freedom from government interference) are a part of the fair government treatment of individuals.

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Lesson Plan: AP Government: Argumentative Essay Practice

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The Federalist Papers

Boston College professor Mary Sarah Bilder gives a brief overview backgrounding the Federalist Papers


This is intended as an end-of-course review activity for practice with the argumentative essay format included on the AP United States Government and Politics exam since the 2018 redesign. Eleven practice prompts are provided, reflecting content from Units 1-3.


  • Review the provided Argumentative Essay Prompts in either an individual or jigsaw format.
  • Write a thesis statement for your selected prompt(s) and identify the selection you would make from the provided list and the second piece of evidence you would choose.
  • If there are prompts for which you struggle to develop a thesis, or items on the bulleted lists with which you are not conversant, use the hyperlinked C-SPAN Classroom resources to extend your understanding of the required founding documents and SCOTUS cases that you found challenging.


  • Chose one or more of the provided Argumentative Essay Prompts , as assigned, and use the planning and exploration you did above to write a full essay in response to your designated prompt(s) in 25 or fewer minutes , since that's the time limit you'll face on the AP Exam!
  • Exchange essays with a classmate and evaluate each others' work.
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  • House Of Representatives
  • Separation Of Powers
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Unit 3: Civil liberties and civil rights

About this unit.

How does the Constitution protect civil liberties and rights? How have different Supreme Court interpretations of different amendments impacted and defined civil rights in the U.S.?

The Bill of Rights

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The First Amendment: freedom of religion

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The First Amendment: freedom of speech

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The First Amendment: freedom of the press

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The Second Amendment

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Balancing individual freedom with public order and safety

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Selective incorporation

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Due process and the rights of the accused

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Due process and the right to privacy

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Social movements and equal protection

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Government responses to social movements

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Balancing minority and majority rights

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  • How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .

Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.

You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:

  • Start with a question
  • Write your initial answer
  • Develop your answer
  • Refine your thesis statement

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Table of contents

What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.

A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.

The best thesis statements are:

  • Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
  • Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
  • Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.

You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.

You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?

For example, you might ask:

After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .

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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.

In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.

The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.

In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.

The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.

A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:

  • Why you hold this position
  • What they’ll learn from your essay
  • The key points of your argument or narrative

The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.

These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.

Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:

  • In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
  • In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

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Home > ETDS > Dissertations and Theses > 5816

Dissertations and Theses

Freedom vs. security: analyzing the connection between states' prioritization of security over civil liberties and citizen support for democratic norms.

Carlyn Trumbull Madden , Portland State University Follow

Hatfield School of Government. Department of Political Science

First Advisor

Melody Valdini

Term of Graduation

Summer 2021

Date of Publication

Document type, degree name.

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science

Political Science

Civil rights -- New Zealand -- Public opinion, Civil rights -- Turkey -- Public opinion, Civil rights -- United States -- Public opinion, National security, Democracy


Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 136 pages)

Is global democracy declining? This is a question many have argued over, leading to multiple, oftentimes contradictory, answers regarding causes and potential solutions. This thesis seeks to explore the question of democratic decline by analyzing changes over time in public opinion survey data in three states- New Zealand, Turkey, and the United States- looking specifically at how the government has balanced the tradeoff between security and civil liberties in the post-9/11 world. I argue that long-term government prioritization of security over freedoms has eroded support for fundamental democratic norms, as citizens willingly accept restrictions to their rights in exchange for a sense of security, causing gradual democratic decline. The evidence from an analysis of survey data over the past ten years supports this theory, with New Zealand emerging as a best-case scenario that always prioritized freedom, and remains a strong democracy, Turkey as a worst-case scenario that strongly supported security over all else and quickly transitioned away from the fledgling democracy they were into full autocracy, and the US gradually, and worryingly, slipping deeper into hybridity with enduring restrictions on civil rights. Further, the gap between citizen perceptions of the abstract and reality of democracy appears to be growing, resulting in a general inability (or unwillingness) among citizens to see an increase in security policy as counter to democracy, in either an abstract or practical sense, despite evidence that expanding security is balanced out by a decrease in freedoms. While not the only factor leading to democratic decline, government prioritization of security policy over civil liberties has long term consequences for democratic survival and serious implications for the future.

© 2021 Carlyn Trumbull Madden

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Madden, Carlyn Trumbull, "Freedom vs. Security: Analyzing the Connection between States' Prioritization of Security over Civil Liberties and Citizen Support for Democratic Norms" (2021). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 5816.

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Chapter outline.

The U.S Constitution and its founding principles of liberty, equality, and justice are admired and emulated the world over. However, not everyone living in the U.S. has enjoyed the same treatment and freedoms the law promises. When we consider the experiences of women, immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities, and other groups, a majority of Americans have been deprived of basic rights and opportunities, and sometimes of citizenship itself. This idea of America is, indeed, a work in progress.

The struggle for civil rights is a story of courageous individuals and social movements awakening fellow Americans, compelling lawmakers, and inspiring the courts to make good on these founding promises. While many changes must still be made, the past one hundred years have seen remarkable progress. Yet, as the rash of thinly-veiled voter suppression bills making their way through state legislatures demonstrate, ( Figure 5.1 ), members of these groups still encounter prejudice, discrimination, and even exclusion from civic life.

What is the difference between civil liberties and civil rights? How did the African American struggle for civil rights evolve? What challenges did women overcome in securing the right to vote, and what obstacles do they and other U.S. groups still face? This chapter addresses these and other questions in exploring the essential concepts of civil rights.

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Clarifying the Concepts: Civil Rights Vs. Civil Liberties

This essay about the difference between civil rights and civil liberties elucidates their distinct roles within democratic societies. Civil liberties are defined as fundamental freedoms shielded from government interference, such as freedom of speech and religion. They represent the individual’s right to act without undue governmental intrusion. Civil rights, however, are focused on ensuring equal treatment and protection against discrimination based on protected characteristics like race, gender, or disability, often enforced through legislation. The essay highlights how these concepts, while sometimes overlapping, originate from different premises and serve unique purposes. Civil liberties limit government power to ensure individual freedom, whereas civil rights promote equality and protection against discrimination, together forming the foundational pillars of justice, freedom, and equality in democratic societies.

How it works

Embedded within the intricate fabric of legal and societal constructs that delineate a democracy, the concepts of “civil rights” and “civil liberties” invariably emerge as pivotal focal points. While both are indispensable in safeguarding the freedoms and entitlements of individuals, they assume disparate roles within the legal and societal paradigms of a nation. Profound comprehension of the dichotomy between civil rights and civil liberties is imperative for a comprehensive understanding of the broader landscape of human rights discourse and the mechanisms employed to safeguard these rights.

Civil liberties represent fundamental freedoms enshrined in constitutional provisions or construed over time by adjudicators and legislators. These liberties encapsulate the elemental rights and freedoms shielded from encroachment by the state. Essentially, civil liberties pertain to the autonomy to act devoid of governmental interference, save for instances necessitating such intervention. They encompass the freedom of expression, the right to privacy, the privilege to withhold statements during police interrogations, and the liberty of religious practice. Civil liberties serve as the cornerstone of a democratic ethos, guaranteeing individuals the latitude to articulate their views, adhere to their beliefs, and lead their lives sans unwarranted intrusion from governmental entities.

Conversely, civil rights revolve around the entitlement to be shielded from unequal treatment predicated on specific protected attributes (such as race, gender, disability, etc.) in various domains such as employment, education, and habitation. Civil rights are predicated on fostering an equitable playing field for all segments of society and are frequently enforced through legislative measures. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 in the United States, for instance, constituted a seminal legislative milestone that proscribed discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In contrast to civil liberties, which emanate from safeguards against governmental actions, civil rights primarily center on equitable treatment and protection against discrimination perpetrated either by governmental entities or individuals.

The demarcation between the two realms may occasionally become blurred, particularly in instances where legislative endeavors aimed at safeguarding civil rights necessitate governmental actions seemingly encroaching upon individual civil liberties. For instance, legislation mandating businesses to provide uniform service to clientele irrespective of race may be construed by certain quarters as impinging upon the proprietor’s autonomy to cater to clientele as they deem fit. Nonetheless, such enactments are deemed imperative to uphold the civil rights of individuals and safeguard them against discrimination.

Comprehending the intricate interplay between civil liberties and civil rights assumes paramount importance in navigating the labyrinthine contours of legal and ethical quandaries confronting contemporary societies. Civil liberties underscore the imperativeness of circumscribing governmental authority to carve out a realm for individual autonomy, while civil rights accentuate the imperative of ensuring that this autonomy is enjoyed equitably by all, devoid of discrimination. Both are indispensable in the pursuit of a fair and just society.

In summation, while civil liberties and civil rights may intersect and exert mutual influence, they originate from distinct premises and serve discrete objectives. Civil liberties shield individuals from governmental excesses, ensuring the liberty to express, believe, and act. Conversely, civil rights shield individuals from discrimination and champion equality within society. Together, they constitute the bedrock upon which democratic societies are erected, underpinning the principles of liberty, equality, and justice. Grasping their intricacies not only enriches our comprehension of legal precepts but also enhances our appreciation of the perennial endeavor to reconcile individual freedoms with the collective welfare.


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"Clarifying the Concepts: Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties.", Apr 01, 2024. Accessed April 12, 2024.

"Clarifying the Concepts: Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties," , 01-Apr-2024. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 12-Apr-2024] (2024). Clarifying the Concepts: Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties . [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 12-Apr-2024]

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116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples

Trying to write a successful civil rights movement essay? Questions about the subject may flood your brain, but we can help!

📃 8 Tips for Writing a Civil Rights Movement Essay

🏆 best civil rights movement topic ideas & essay examples, 🎓 most interesting civil rights movement topics to write about, 📌 good civil rights research topics, 👍 interesting civil rights essay topics, ❓ civil rights movement essay questions.

As a student, you can explore anything from civil disobedience to the work of Martin Luther King Jr in your paper. And we are here to help! Our experts have gathered civil rights movement essay topics for different assignments. In the article below, see research and paper ideas along with tips on writing. Besides, check civil rights essay examples via the links.

A civil rights movement essay is an essential assignment because it helps students to reflect on historical events that molded the contemporary American society. Read this post to find some useful tips that will help you score an A on your paper on the civil rights movement.

Tip 1: Read the instructions carefully. Check all of the documents provided by your tutor, including the grading rubric, example papers, and civil rights movement essay questions. When you know what is expected of you, it will be much easier to proceed with the assignment and achieve a high mark on it.

Tip 2: Browse sample papers on the topic. If you are not sure of what to write about in particular, you can see what other students included in their essays. While reading civil rights movement essay examples, take notes about the content, sources used, and other relevant points. This might give you some ideas on what to include in your paper and how to enhance it to meet the requirements.

Tip 3: Collect high-quality material to support your essay. The best sources are scholarly articles and books. However, there are also some credible websites and news articles that offer unbiased information on the civil rights movements. If the instructions don’t prevent you from using these, you could include a wide array of resources, thus making your essay more detailed.

Tip 4: Offer some context on the civil rights movement. The 20th century was instrumental to the history of America because there were many political and social events, including World War II and the subsequent Cold War. While some events may not relate to the history of the civil rights movement, they are important for the readers to understand the context in which the movement took place.

Tip 5: Consider the broader history of discrimination in the American society. Discrimination is the key focus of most civil rights movement essay topics. For the black population, the movement was instrumental in reducing prejudice and improving social position. However, there were many other populations that faced discrimination throughout the American history, such as women, Native Americans, and people from the LGBT community. Can you see any similarities in how these groups fought for equal rights?

Tip 6: Reflect on the sources of the civil rights movement. The story of racial discrimination and oppression in America spanned for over 400 years, so there is a lot of history behind the civil rights movement. Here, you could talk about slavery and segregation policies, as well as how the black communities responded to the struggle. For instance, you could consider the Harlem Renaissance and its influence on the Black identity or about other examples or cultural movements that originated in the black community.

Tip 7: If relevant, include a personal reflection. You can write about what the civil rights movement means for you and how it impacted the life of your family. You can also explore racial discrimination in contemporary society to show that some issues still remain unsolved.

Tip 8: Maintain a good essay structure. Ensure that every paragraph serves its purpose. A civil rights movement essay introduction should define the movement and state your main argument clearly. Follow it with several main body paragraphs, each one exploring a certain idea that relates to the key argument. In conclusion, address all the points you’ve made and demonstrate how they relate to your thesis.

With these few tips, you will be able to write an excellent paper on the civil rights movement. Check the rest of our website for essay titles, topics, and more writing advice!

  • Impact of Civil Rights Movement The freedom to vote for all Americans became central in the civil rights movements, and one of its successes was the legislation that culminated in the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • Civil Rights-Black Power Movement Barack Obama was aware of the violence and oppression of black people in the United States. It shows self determination of the black people in struggles for civil rights- black power.
  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett: Leader of the Civil Rights Movement The psychology of a leader is the psychology of a winner. One such example is one of the early leaders of the civil rights movement, American investigative journalist Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, who, thanks to her […]
  • Plan: Civil Rights Movement in United States The following assessment plan has details on the objectives of the assessment plan, the types of assessment plans, and the adaptation of the lesson plan to fit special groups of students.
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the United States In the United States, the 1960s was characterized by the rise of Civil Rights Movements, the aim of which was to suppress and end discrimination and racial segregation against African Americans.
  • Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War The Vietnam War caused unintended consequences for the civil rights movements of the 1960s as it awakened the African-Americans’ consciousness on the racism and despotism that they experienced in the United States.
  • Music of the Civil Wars, Civil Rights & Freedom Movements of Europe, Africa, North & South America During the 20th Century The aim of Giovinezza was to reinforce the position of Mussolini as the leader of the Fascist Movement and of Italy.
  • Civil Rights Movement The Civil Rights Movement is an era that was dedicated for equal treatments and rights to the activism of the African American in the US.
  • Invisible Southern Black Women Leaders in the Civil Rights Movement Based on 36 personal interviews and multiple published and archived sources, the author demonstrates that black women in the South have played a prominent role in the struggle for their rights.
  • African-American Women and the Civil Rights Movement The key factors that left the Black women unrecognized or led to recognition of just a few of them as leaders are class, race and gender biases.
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Historical Interpretation Rosa Parks was one of the pivotal figures in the Montgomery Bus Boycott and a critical event in the Civil Rights Movement.
  • The Civil Rights Movement’s Goals and Achievements Despite the considerable oppression of non-white groups of the population and the fear accompanying it, the Movement continued to fight and achieved success in its goals, affecting the country even in the modern period.
  • The Civil Rights Movement: I Have a Dream The civil rights movement has changed many aspects of the nation, such as housing, the economy, and jobs. The movement changed the outlook, the power structure, and the very core of the nation.
  • Music and the Civil Rights Movement It was famous in the 1960s and 1970s and continues to live now.”We Shall Overcome”, like many other freedom songs, reflects the goals and methods of the early protestors.
  • “The Souls of Black Folk” and the Civil Rights Movement At the beginning of the 20th century, multiple decades had passed since the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery.
  • Law History From Jim Crow to Civil Rights Movement It was not until the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.that the problems of law enforcement in the South was truly recognized and reforms started designed to reduce the influence of political agendas on the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement: Fights for Freedom The Civil Rights Movement introduced the concept of black and white unification in the face of inequality. Music-related to justice and equality became the soundtrack of the social and cultural revolution taking place during the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement and Political Parties One of the examples of the effects of social unrest on political institutions in American history is the Civil Rights Movement, and it defined the general courses of the main parties as well as the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement Distorted Image The study of the role and image of historical characters in CRM is incorrect and distorted. Rosa Parks is considered the person who informally initiated the movement due to the refusal to give up a […]
  • Protest Music and the US Anti-Lynching and Civil Rights Movement In the 1950s and 1960s, the civil rights movement continually challenged the government to fulfill the promise of equality and justice.
  • Civil Rights Movement in the USA Brief History From the Time Before the Civil War This was part of a planned act of civil disobedience in which Plessy was to be arrested, charged and tried, and the court case would then be used to challenge the law.
  • Newspaper Coverage of Japan-America Internment in WW2 and the Civil Rights Movement The media covered this because this movement persuaded whites to join them in their mass protests and they were killed in the event.
  • “Black Power” in the Civil Rights Movement They wanted to reform the system to ensure a more democratic and actively participating society in the decision-making process of governance for the country.
  • Civil Rights Movement in “Freedom Riders” Documentary As a commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of freedom movements, Nelson’s movie is a story of segregation and racism, abhorrence, courage, and the general brutality of the depicted events.
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Martin King and Malcolm X’s Views King also stressed that the major concepts he adopted were taken from the “Sermon on the Mount and the Gandhian method of nonviolent resistance”.
  • President Johnson in the Civil Rights Movement The problem of gay and lesbian rights appeared to be rather challenging and disruptive to the society. They include hippies and other social layers that were not eager to change things while others were trying […]
  • Medgar Wiley Evers in the Civil Rights Movement Following the rejection of his application to study at the University of Mississippi, NAACP hired him as a field secretary to Jackson that was to the Deep South in recognition of his effort and contribution […]
  • Civil Rights Movement by E. Durkheim and K. Marx The theories will also be used to predict the future of racism in the United States. The level of segregation experienced in the country led to new interferences and constraints.
  • Civil Rights Movement: Purposes and Effects The civil rights movement was a popular lobby group created to advocate for equality in the United States for both blacks and whites. To a large extent, the civil rights movement completely transformed the lives […]
  • Coalition Politics After the Civil Rights Movement Such coalitions also forced the American government to address the challenges affecting different cities. New policies and laws emerged in order to promote the rights of many American citizens.
  • Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance in the Civil Rights Movement by Lance Hill The book describes the tension and struggles that existed between the African Americans and the members of the white citizens’ council, Ku Klux Klan.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Civil Rights Movement Martin Luther King noticed the negative trend and he took his stand to make people see the devastating effects of the war.
  • Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson: the Civil Rights Movement The social historians have managed to cogently present the politics that surrounded the civil rights movement. The movement also managed to gain the support of the aims of government, the executive, legislature, and even the […]
  • The Civil Rights Movement in the USA The movement’s main aim was to end the racial segregation and fight for the voting power of the black people in America.
  • The Civil Rights Movement Although the positive role of the Civil Rights Movement for changing the role of the African Americans in the American society is visible, this topic is also essential to be discussed because the movement for […]
  • The Contributions of Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks to the Civil Rights Movement Among these were Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks who used literary works to voice out their displeasure on the discrimination against blacks as well as portray a humanitarian point of view on the plight of […]
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Oppressing the Black Population In response, the black citizen resorted to fighting for his rights; thus, the rise of the civil rights movement. In conclusion, these key events helped to reinforce the African American struggle for equal right rights, […]
  • Silent Voices of the Modern Civil Rights Movement This is the why she gets my nomination for recognition in the “Museum of Silent Voices of the Modern Civil Rights Movement”.
  • Dr. King’s Role in United States Civil Rights Movement His popularity started after he led other activists in boycotting the services of the Montgomery Bus Service in the year 1955 after an incident of open discrimination of a black woman in the bus. Martin […]
  • The Civil Rights Act as a Milestone Element of American Legislation Although the Civil Rights Act has undergone several amendments, the Civil Right Act amendment of 1964 was the main amendment that addressed the above types of discrimination.
  • Harold Washington With Civil Rights Movement Hence, this study examines the main achievements of Harold Washington in the fields of employment, racism, equality in provision of social amenities, gender equality, freedom of expression, and the creation of the ethics commission in […]
  • American Africans Action in the Struggle for Equality Community leaders in various segmentations of the society had showed resistance to the white supremacy and domination against the African Americans which had been abounded in some states.’Everyday’s Use’ written at the peak of the […]
  • The Civil Rights Movement: Ending Racial Discrimination and Segregation in America Finally, the paper will look at both the positive and negative achievements of the civil rights movements including an assessment of how the rights movement continues to influence the socio-economic and political aspects of the […]
  • Civil Rights Movement Major Events in 1954-1968 This research paper seeks to highlight the historical events that took place in 1954-1968 in the United States which were instigated by the Civil Rights Movement in the hope of securing the civil and basic […]
  • The African American Civil Rights Movement During the 1960s notable achievements were made including the passage of a Civil rights Act in 1964 that outlawed any form of discrimination towards people of a different “race, color or national origin in employment […]
  • Theatre in the Era of the Civil Rights Movement
  • To What Extent Can the 1950’s Be Viewed as a Great Success for the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Stages of the Progressive Reform in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Contradicting Outcome of the Civil Rights Movement in America
  • The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Fight for Aid from the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Long Term Effects of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Violent and Non-violent Methods of Protests Embraced by African American in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Role of The Supreme Court in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Success of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950’s
  • Women in the Civil Rights Movement
  • U.S. Democracy and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The History of the Civil Rights Movement in the United Stats and Its Impact on African Americans
  • The Relationship of Southern Jews to Blacks and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Importance of Students During the Civil Rights Movement
  • A Look at Civil Rights Movement in the United States and the Role of Martin Luther
  • White Resistance to the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Impact of Rock ‘n’ Roll on the Civil Rights Movement
  • African Americans and Religion During the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Historical Accuracy of the Portrayal of the Civil Rights Movement in Selma, a Drama Film by Ava DuVernay
  • The War on Drugs and the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Civil Rights Movement and the Black Middle Class
  • The Role of Police During the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Achievements of Peaceful Protest During the Civil Rights Movement
  • Analyzing the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War
  • The True Face of The Civil Rights Movement
  • The History of the Civil Rights Movement, National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • Successes and Failures of Civil Rights Movement
  • The Historiography of Womens Role and Visibility in The Civil Rights Movement
  • The Relationship Between Activism and Federal Government During the Civil Rights Movement
  • To What Extent Was Grass Roots Activism a Significant Reason to Why the Civil Rights Movement Grew in the 1950s and 1960s
  • The Value of Studying the Civil Rights Movement
  • A History of the Civil Rights Movement and Feminist Movement in the United States
  • The Foundation of the Niagara Movement and Its Influence on the Civil Rights Movement in America
  • The Role of Black Women in the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Role and Importance of the Grassroot Organizers on the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Effect of Society on the World of Doubt and the Effects of the Civil Rights Movement
  • The Importance and Impact of the Civil Rights Movement to the Public Policy
  • The New York Times and The Civil Rights Movement
  • Understanding the Civil Rights Movement: America Vs. Australia
  • The Laws in the Reconstruction Era and the Civil Rights Movement
  • How Effective Was the Early Civil Rights Movement in Advancing Black Civil Rights in 1880-1990?
  • What Role Did Jews Play in the American Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s?
  • Did Minority Rights Campaigners Copy the Tactics of the Black American Civil Rights Movement?
  • What is the NAACP’s Impact on the Civil Rights Movement in the US?
  • How Did Gandhi Influence the Civil Rights Movement?
  • To What Extent Can the 1950’s Be Viewed as a Great Success for the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Far Was the Effectiveness of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s Limited by Internal Divisions?
  • How the Cold War Promoted the Civil Rights Movement in America, and How It Promoted Change?
  • How Far Was Martin Luther King Responsible for the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Was Civil Disobedience Used in the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did the Civil Rights Movement Change America?
  • How Successful Had the Civil Rights Movement Been by the Late 1960s?
  • Did Black Power Groups Cause Harm to the Civil Rights Movement in America?
  • To What Extent Was Grass Roots Activism a Significant Reason to Why the Civil Rights Movement Grew in the 1950s and 1960s?
  • How Did Kennedy and His Administration Effect the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Did the Black Power Movement Help or Hinder the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How the Civil Rights Movement Influenced the Women?
  • What Are the Results of the Effort of the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did Martin Luther King Affect the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Are the Problems Faced by the Feminist and Sexual Emancipation Movements Similar to Those Faced by Civil Rights Movement, or Are There Major Differences?
  • Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful?
  • Has America Really Changed Since the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Why Was the Civil Rights Movement Successful by 1965?
  • How Did Religion Influence Martin Luther King, Jr as He Led the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Significant Was Martin Luther King Jr. to the Black Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Did Martin Luther Kings Jr Death Affect the Civil Rights Movement?
  • How Important Was Martin Luther King to the Civil Rights Movement?
  • Does the Civil Rights Movement Have an Effect on the Way Minorities Are Treated by Authorities?
  • Was the Civil Rights Movement a Success or Failure?
  • Chicago (A-D)
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IvyPanda. (2024, February 23). 116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples.

"116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples." IvyPanda , 23 Feb. 2024,

IvyPanda . (2024) '116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples'. 23 February.

IvyPanda . 2024. "116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples." February 23, 2024.

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IvyPanda . "116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples." February 23, 2024.

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Home — Essay Samples — Government & Politics — Totalitarianism — Animal Farm Thesis Statement


Animal Farm Thesis Statement

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Introduction, the corruption of power, totalitarianism and oppression.

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While studying in college, you will certainly need to write a lot of Theses on Civil Rights. Lucky you if linking words together and turning them into meaningful text comes easy to you; if it's not the case, you can save the day by finding an already written Civil Rights Thesis example and using it as a model to follow.

This is when you will certainly find WowEssays' free samples database extremely helpful as it embodies numerous expertly written works on most various Civil Rights Theses topics. Ideally, you should be able to find a piece that meets your criteria and use it as a template to develop your own Thesis. Alternatively, our expert essay writers can deliver you a unique Civil Rights Thesis model crafted from scratch according to your personal instructions.

There Are Some General Issues To Be Addressed Thesis Samples

Can you please ensure that the referencing conforms with the OSCOLA standard (available at

· Can you please ensure that all web links in the footnotes work, and lead the reader to the correct cite

· Can you please use English Ireland or English UK as the default language (as distinct from English US) What I need that those points has to be solved within 18 hours. Please as my submission day is Thursday. also I do not want you to change anything in the piece of the paper just make sure from what I ask for, also I would like you to add Hyperlinks in the footnotes and the reference


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Philosophy of consciousness, undoubtedly, takes a leading position in Anglo-American philosophical thought of 20th and the beginning of 21st century. Numerous publications, devoted to the problems of consciousness are an indicator of that. Philosophy of mind is a branch of analytical philosophy, which studies philosophical aspects of consciousness problem. The central theme of philosophy of consciousness is relationship between consciousness and brain. In this context brain poses a problem of mind-body, while consciousness is understood as either the aggregate mental states, accessible only to the living being experiencing them, or as a state of monitoring internal processes by this subject.

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  14. Intro to Political Thought: thesis statements

    Sample Thesis Statements: Note: you may use any of these statements as is, revise any according to your liking, or compose a thesis statement on your own. 1. The Foundations of Western Political Thought ... W.E.B. Du Bois set out to expose the fissures that opened in American society after the Civil War.

  15. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 2: Write your initial answer. After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process. The internet has had more of a positive than a negative effect on education.

  16. Freedom vs. Security: Analyzing the Connection between States

    This thesis seeks to explore the question of democratic decline by analyzing changes over time in public opinion survey data in three states- New Zealand, Turkey, and the United States- looking specifically at how the government has balanced the tradeoff between security and civil liberties in the post-9/11 world.

  17. Ch. 5 Introduction

    Introduction; 5.1 What Are Civil Rights and How Do We Identify Them?; 5.2 The African American Struggle for Equality; 5.3 The Fight for Women's Rights; 5.4 Civil Rights for Indigenous Groups: Native Americans, Alaskans, and Hawaiians; 5.5 Equal Protection for Other Groups; Key Terms; Summary; Review Questions; Critical Thinking Questions; Suggestions for Further Study

  18. Civil Rights Movement Essay Examples [PDF] Summary

    2 pages / 795 words. The Civil Rights Movement was a variety of activism that wanted to secure all political and social rights for African Americans in 1946-1968. It had many different approaches from lawsuits, lobbying the federal government, massdirect action, and black power. The high point of the Civil...

  19. Clarifying the Concepts: Civil Rights Vs. Civil Liberties

    This essay about the difference between civil rights and civil liberties elucidates their distinct roles within democratic societies. Civil liberties are defined as fundamental freedoms shielded from government interference, such as freedom of speech and religion. They represent the individual's right to act without undue governmental intrusion.

  20. Civil Liberties Essays: Examples, Topics, & Outlines

    Civil Liberties. PAGES 2 WORDS 716. Civil Liberties: Jones case is one of the major recent cases regarding civil liberties that basically examined whether the government requires a search warrant before placing a GPS device on a vehicle and tracking the movements of that vehicle. The ruling by the Supreme Court in this case upholds the ...

  21. 116 Civil Rights Movement Essay Topics & Examples

    A civil rights movement essay is an essential assignment because it helps students to reflect on historical events that molded the contemporary American society. Read this post to find some useful tips that will help you score an A on your paper on the civil rights movement. Tip 1: Read the instructions carefully.

  22. Animal Farm Thesis Statement: [Essay Example], 659 words

    The gradual erosion of the animals' rights and freedoms mirrors the erosion of civil liberties in real-life totalitarian states. The introduction of a commandment that prohibits animals from sleeping in beds, for example, serves as a metaphor for the arbitrary laws and restrictions imposed by oppressive regimes.

  23. Civil Rights Thesis Examples That Really Inspire

    Free Thesis On Learning To Read By Malcom X. The Civil Rights Movement in the American South gave rise to a number of amazingly intelligent African-American activists and speakers. One of those speakers was Malcolm X. Malcolm X was born into a family that was touched by racial violence, and as a result, he became one of the leaders at the ...