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3.10 Social Movements and Equal Protection

8 min readfebruary 7, 2023

Annika Tekumulla

Annika Tekumulla

Riya Patel

Riya Patel


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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Introduction

Social movements are collective actions taken by individuals or groups to bring about social, political, economic, or cultural change. These movements can range from grassroots efforts to large-scale protests and can be fueled by a variety of motivations, such as a desire for equal rights, greater representation, or more just policies. The principle of equal protection is a key component of many social movements and refers to the idea that all individuals should be treated equally under the law, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or other personal characteristics. This principle is enshrined in many constitutions and is considered a cornerstone of modern democracies.

Examples of Goals in Social Movements

Some common goals of social movements include:
  1. Advocating for equal rights: This can include efforts to secure equal treatment under the law for marginalized communities, such as people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
  2. Promoting political representation: Social movements often aim to increase political representation for underrepresented groups, such as through increased voter access, redistricting, and representation in government.
  3. Advocating for workers' rights: This can include efforts to secure fair wages, safe working conditions, and improved benefits for workers.
  4. Protecting the environment: Environmental movements seek to protect natural resources, limit pollution, and promote sustainable development practices.
  5. Advocating for public health: This can include efforts to improve access to healthcare, reduce health disparities, and promote healthy lifestyles.
  6. Promoting cultural preservation: Cultural movements work to preserve the cultural heritage of a particular group, such as indigenous communities, and to promote greater cultural understanding and appreciation.
  7. Advocating for peace and non-violence: These movements work to promote non-violent conflict resolution and to reduce violence and war.

Examples of US Social Movements

Here are some examples of significant social movements in the United States:
  1. Civil Rights Movement: This movement aimed to secure equal rights and end racial discrimination against African Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. It was led by figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
  2. Women's Suffrage Movement: This movement, which took place in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, aimed to secure women's right to vote.
  3. LGBTQ+ Rights Movement: This movement, which has been ongoing for several decades, seeks to secure equal rights and protections for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer.
  4. Labor Movement: This movement, which dates back to the late 19th century, aims to improve working conditions and secure fair wages for workers.
  5. Environmental Movement: This movement, which gained traction in the 1960s and 1970s, aims to protect the environment and promote sustainable development practices.
  6. Anti-War Movement: This movement, which has taken place during several different wars, aims to protest and end wars and military interventions.
  7. Disability Rights Movement: This movement, which began in the 1960s and 1970s, aims to secure equal rights and protections for people with disabilities.

Governmental Response to Social Movements

The response of government to social movements can vary depending on the nature of the movement, the goals of its participants, and the political and cultural context in which it takes place. Here are some common responses by governments to social movements:
  1. Reform: In some cases, governments may respond to social movements by implementing reforms aimed at addressing the grievances raised by the movement. This can include changes to laws, policies, or programs to ensure greater equality and justice.
  2. Suppression: In other cases, governments may respond to social movements with repression, such as through the use of force, arrests, or censorship. This response is often seen when movements challenge the status quo or the power of the government.
  3. Co-optation: Governments may also respond to social movements by co-opting the goals and demands of the movement, but without fully implementing them. This can involve creating committees or other bodies to give the appearance of reform, while actually maintaining the status quo.
  4. Neglect: In some cases, governments may choose to ignore social movements and not respond to their demands at all. This can occur when movements are seen as unimportant or lacking in political power.
The response of government to social movements is shaped by a variety of factors, including the political and cultural context, the level of popular support for the movement, and the perceived impact of the movement on the stability and legitimacy of the government. Ultimately, the response of government to social movements can have a significant impact on the success of the movement and the ability of its participants to achieve their goals.

Voting Rights Act 1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a landmark piece of federal legislation aimed at addressing widespread voting discrimination against African Americans and other minority groups in the United States. The act banned voting practices and procedures that were discriminatory, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, and provided for federal oversight of elections in areas with a history of discriminatory practices.
The Voting Rights Act had a profound impact on American society, leading to a dramatic increase in the number of African Americans who were able to vote and participate in the political process. The act remains an important piece of legislation for protecting the voting rights of minority communities and ensuring equal access to the ballot box.
In recent years, the Voting Rights Act has come under attack, with some arguing that it is no longer needed in light of the significant progress that has been made in addressing voting discrimination. However, others argue that the act remains as important as ever, and that efforts to undermine it or roll back its provisions threaten to undermine the progress that has been made in securing equal voting rights for all Americans.

Title IX

Title IX is a federal law in the United States that prohibits sex discrimination in educational programs and activities that receive federal funding. The law applies to all educational institutions, from kindergarten through graduate schools, and covers a wide range of activities, including admission, financial aid, athletics, and employment.
Title IX was enacted in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The purpose of the law was to address persistent gender inequality in education and to ensure that girls and women have equal opportunities to participate in educational programs and activities.
One of the most notable impacts of Title IX has been the expansion of athletic opportunities for girls and women. Prior to the passage of the law, many schools did not provide equal resources or opportunities for female athletes. Today, Title IX helps to ensure that girls and women have equal opportunities to participate in sports and to receive funding and resources that are comparable to those provided to male athletes.
In addition to its impact on athletics, Title IX has also had a significant impact in other areas, including addressing sexual harassment and assault in educational institutions and ensuring that women have equal opportunities in academic programs and employment. Despite these gains, however, many challenges remain, and ongoing efforts are needed to ensure that Title IX is fully enforced and that all girls and women have equal opportunities in education.

Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court Case

Brown v. Board of Education was a landmark Supreme Court case decided in 1954 that declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional. The case involved a group of African American parents who challenged the "separate but equal" doctrine, which had been used to justify segregation in public schools, as well as other aspects of public life.
The case was brought on behalf of Linda Brown, a young African American girl who was denied admission to a nearby white school in Topeka, Kansas. Her father, Oliver Brown, was one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, which was ultimately combined with several other similar cases from other states to form Brown v. Board of Education.
In its landmark ruling, the Supreme Court declared that segregation in public schools was inherently unequal and therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The court held that segregation had a detrimental effect on African American children, and that the "separate but equal" doctrine was untenable.
The decision in Brown v. Board of Education was a significant turning point in the civil rights movement and had far-reaching effects on American society. It helped to galvanize support for the civil rights movement and set the stage for further legal challenges to segregation and discrimination in other areas of public life. The case remains one of the most important in American history and is widely regarded as a cornerstone of the modern civil rights movement.

Civil Rights Movement (1960s)

The Civil Rights Movement was a social and political movement in the United States in the 1950s and 1960s that sought to end racial discrimination and segregation and to secure equal rights for African Americans. The movement was characterized by acts of civil disobedience, such as sit-ins, protests, and marches, as well as legal challenges to discriminatory laws and practices.
The Civil Rights Movement was inspired by a long history of African American activism, including the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad, and the fight for voting rights. However, it was the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision in 1954 that provided the legal framework for the modern civil rights movement.
The movement was led by a number of prominent African American leaders, including the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who became the face of the movement and a symbol of the struggle for civil rights. King and other civil rights leaders used nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience to bring attention to the issue of segregation and to challenge discriminatory laws and practices.
The Civil Rights Movement achieved a number of important victories, including the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned segregation and discrimination in public accommodations and voting, respectively. The movement also helped to change attitudes and to bring about greater awareness of the ongoing struggle for racial equality in the United States.
Despite these important gains, however, the Civil Rights Movement did not solve all of the problems of racial discrimination and inequality. Ongoing efforts are needed to ensure that the ideals of the movement are realized and that all Americans have equal opportunities and are treated with dignity and respect.

Equal Protection Clause

The Equal Protection Clause is a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution that provides that no state shall "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws." This clause is a cornerstone of constitutional law in the United States and has been the basis for a number of important Supreme Court decisions that have helped to protect the rights of minority groups and to ensure that all Americans are treated equally under the law.
The Equal Protection Clause was added to the Constitution in the aftermath of the Civil War as part of the Reconstruction Amendments. The purpose of the clause was to ensure that the newly-freed slaves would be protected from discriminatory laws and practices, particularly in the Southern states.
The clause has since been interpreted and applied more broadly, and has been used to strike down discriminatory laws and practices in a number of areas, including voting rights, education, housing, and employment. The Supreme Court has used the Equal Protection Clause to invalidate laws that treat people differently based on race, gender, or other characteristics, unless there is a compelling government interest to do so.
The Equal Protection Clause remains an important part of the United States Constitution, and continues to be a source of ongoing debate and litigation in the courts. The clause remains a cornerstone of the American legal system and a symbol of the country's commitment to equal treatment and justice for all.

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