HGov: Chapter 5 Equal Rights – Struggling toward Fairness


The focus of this chapter is on civil rights and equality. All individuals have the right of equal protection of the laws and equal access to society’s opportunities and public facilities. The chapter examines the major laws relating to equality, and the conditions that led to their adoption. It concludes with a brief look at some of the continuing challenges facing America’s historically disadvantaged groups. The chapter emphasizes these points:

  • Americans have attained substantial equality under the law. They have, in legal terms, equal protection under the laws, equal access to accommodations and housing, and an equal right to vote. Discrimination by law against persons because of race, sex, religion, or ethnicity has been virtually eliminated
  • Legal equality for all Americans has not resulted in de facto equality. African Americans, women, Hispanic Americans, and other traditionally disadvantaged groups have a disproportionately small share of America’s opportunities and benefits. Existing inequalities, discrimination, and political pressures still are major barriers to their full equality. Affirmative action is a policy designed to help the disadvantaged achieve a fuller degree of equality.
  • Disadvantaged groups have had to struggle for equal rights. African Americans, women, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and others have all had to fight for their rights in order to come closer to equality with white males.


Having read Chapter 5, you should be able to do each of the following:

  1. Distinguish between civil liberties and civil rights, and determine whether constitutional devices intended to provide equality under the law have been successful.
  2. Describe the impact and evolving interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment on individual equality.
  3. Detail the provisions of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968, and the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and describe the debate over and current state of affirmative action.
  4. Distinguish among reasonable basis, strict scrutiny, and intermediate (or almost suspect) scrutiny, and comment on the implicit assumptions about appropriate means and ends that underlie each.
  5. Trace the development of measures to promote racial equality in America, concentrating on the most significant milestones and analyzing the actions that proved necessary in order to achieve them.
  6. Discuss the similarities and differences among the dilemmas faced, strategies implemented, and rewards gained by the respective struggles for African Americans, women, and other historically disadvantaged groups in the United States.

Chapters 4 & 5 Quiz I on Friday Sept. 18



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