Civil Rights Definition: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Did you know that your civil rights are some of the most important things you have ever received? Come and learn about what civil rights are, why they are important and about some of the civil rights struggles from the past.

Understanding Civil Rights

Did you know that the second you were born, you were granted rights? That's right - as soon as you arrived in the world, there were rules that stated how you should be treated and what you are allowed to do. Some rights are known as natural rights (such as life and liberty), and these are rights that do not change over time or from place to place. Civil rights, however, do change over time and are different in different places all over the world.

Civil rights guarantee that every citizen has equal protection under the law, often found in a country's constitution. You acquire your civil rights by being a citizen of a country. In the United States, it is the one of the main responsibilities of the Supreme Court to make sure that people's civil rights are being protected, as well as make changes to civil rights laws as needed.

Types of Civil Rights

Some of your civil rights include your right to education and your right to vote. You also have the right to say what is on your mind (freedom of speech), as protected by the First Amendment. You have the right to work and live wherever you'd like, as well. Of course, if the house you want to buy is too expensive or if you are not qualified for the job you'd like, well, then that's a different story. However, civil rights make those dreams possible - and legal!

In the United States, the federal government guarantees your civil rights. Other civil rights, however, are granted to you by the state. For example, prior to a Supreme Court ruling in 1967, some states didn't allow black and white people to marry each other. Marriages between people of the same sex became legal at the federal level in 2015; prior to that Supreme Court ruling, it was only legal in certain states.

Because of civil rights, you can marry whomever you want!
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Civil Rights and Discrimination

Being discriminated against is a pretty rotten feeling. Discrimination occurs when you are treated differently based on what you look like or where you come from. Throughout American and world history, people have been discriminated against because of their gender, religion, race and many other reasons. Civil rights protect you from being discriminated against by the government.

Civil rights also work to provide equality for all people. This means that all citizens have equal opportunities for things like work, education and marriage no matter what.

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