<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

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

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
what prevented the equal rights Amendment from being ratified?
Darhel Reply
why some countries adopts written constitution
Paschal Reply
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
what is democracy
Haliru Reply
what is Constitution
Joy Reply
What's separation of power in government?
Fortune Reply
What's political parties?
Fortune
What's Political apathy
Fortune
political parties can be defined as a group of people who share a common interest
Waris
political apathy it can be defined by act of not having Interest in any politics
Waris
political parties are organised group of citizens,acting as a political unit and through the use of their voting power trys to control the government.
Jasper
what are the broad purposes of government
Slande Reply
what is constition
Diana Reply
What is government
Kweku Reply
Government is the body with power to make and enforce laws to control a country, land,area people or organization.
Fortune
Why government, why no other forms of get together as a community
Sunday Reply
consider the constitucional powers of cpngress. which are most important? why?
Mary Reply
what is the meaning of democrats in government
peju Reply
what is the meaning of distributive policy
peju
Democrat in government is a supporter of democracy; an advocate of democratic politics(originally as opposed to the aristocrats in Revolutionary france). It also mean, someone who rules a representative democracy.
Fortune
presidential campaigns
Diana Reply
which includes the president and vice President
peju

Get the best American government course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'American government' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask