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Civic engagement can increase the power of ordinary people to influence government actions. Even those without money or connections to important people can influence the policies that affect their lives and change the direction taken by government. U.S. history is filled with examples of people actively challenging the power of elites, gaining rights for themselves, and protecting their interests. For example, slavery was once legal in the United States and large sectors of the U.S. economy were dependent on this forced labor. Slavery was outlawed and blacks were granted citizenship because of the actions of abolitionists. Although some abolitionists were wealthy white men, most were ordinary people, including men and women of both races. White women and blacks were able to actively assist in the campaign to end slavery despite the fact that, with few exceptions, they were unable to vote. Similarly, the right to vote once belonged solely to white men until the Fifteenth Amendment gave the vote to African American men. The Nineteenth Amendment extended the vote to include women, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made exercising the right to vote a reality for African American men and women in the South. None of this would have happened, however, without the efforts of people who marched in protest, participated in boycotts, delivered speeches, wrote letters to politicians, and sometimes risked arrest in order to be heard ( [link] ). The tactics used to influence the government and effect change by abolitionists and members of the women’s rights and African American civil rights movements are still used by many activists today.

A print from 1870 that shows several scenes of African Americans participating in everyday activities. Under the scenes is the text “The Fifteenth Amendment”.
The print above, published in 1870, celebrates the extension of the right to vote to African American men. The various scenes show legal rights black slaves did not have.

The rights gained by these activists and others have dramatically improved the quality of life for many in the United States. Civil rights legislation did not focus solely on the right to vote or to hold public office; it also integrated schools and public accommodations, prohibited discrimination in housing and employment, and increased access to higher education. Activists for women’s rights fought for, and won, greater reproductive freedom for women, better wages, and access to credit. Only a few decades ago, homosexuality was considered a mental disorder, and intercourse between consenting adults of the same sex was illegal in many states. Although legal discrimination against gays and lesbians still remains, consensual intercourse between homosexual adults is no longer illegal anywhere in the United States, and same-sex couples have the right to legally marry.

Activism can improve people’s lives in less dramatic ways as well. Working to make cities clean up vacant lots, destroy or rehabilitate abandoned buildings, build more parks and playgrounds, pass ordinances requiring people to curb their dogs, and ban late-night noise greatly affects people’s quality of life. The actions of individual Americans can make their own lives better and improve their neighbors’ lives as well.

Questions & Answers

the first Republic political parties
Baby Reply
how call government system in Zambia
esenam Reply
was it Britain that colonialised usa
Temiloluwa Reply
what is Electoral malpractice
Bailey Reply
Clifford constitution of 1922
ABAH Reply
to this textbook which countries have the highest rates of execution?
michael Reply
What are the advantages and disadvantages of having so many levels of subnational governments in the United States? Explain
Nicole Reply
to help in protecting the right of the citizens, in safety purpose also if not many tribulation war and conflict in between the Nations and perhaps the citizens that is we really needs them.
Emmanuel
What are the advantages
maureen
what were the initial issues that led to the introduction of legislation
Benedicta Reply
Do the consideration and bill of rights protect the life and liberty of all Americans?
Benedicta
yes
Emmanuel
yeah
Akuchie
how do we answer government questions
Comfort Reply
by following all the due processes
Emmanuel
how many types of pre_ colonial political system do we have in Nigeria
Israel Reply
3
nkama
we 3 which are yoruba,hausa, Igbo
Israel
3
Ibrahim
3
Akuchie
opening day in the house. what is the speaker's first duty
Gabriel Reply
what is bill of right?
Dyutoe Reply
first 10 amendments to the Constitution
Ruthie
a bill of right in the United States,bill of right is the first tan amendment to the Constitution.
Israel
what is Electoral malpractice
Bailey
what prevented the equal rights Amendment from being ratified?
Darhel Reply
why some countries adopts written constitution
Paschal Reply
because it is documented
Comfort
what part of our government is based on parliament
SonIa Reply
what important political idea came from Thomas Hobbes
SonIa
Thomas Hobbes who is he
SonIa
English philosopher, considered to be one of the founders of modern  political philosophy
Akuchie
he was a guy who supported a strong government, because people in their natural state are dangerous and feral, and we need an Uber government to protect us from ourselves
Connor

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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