Some examples of civil rights in the United States include freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, voting rights and equal protection under the law, according to Cornell University Law School and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Civil rights are personal rights.
Civil rights are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and protected by laws passed in the U.S. Congress, states Cornell University Law School. The Thirteenth and Fourteenth constitutional amendments, adopted following the Civil War, significantly increased the civil rights of American citizens and other persons in U.S. territories.
The Thirteenth amendment abolished slavery in the United States and freed all current slaves, explains Cornell, and the Fourteenth amendment was added in 1868 after some states enacted "black codes" that attempted to curtail the rights of newly freed black people. The Fourteenth amendment set in stone many rules that Americans now take for granted, such as due process of law, and gave Congress the power to enact legislation enforcing the amendment. Congress used its enforcement powers to enact a variety of protective legislation into the 20th century, including the seminal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The judiciary is often called upon to interpret civil rights in court, states Cornell University Law School. Many significant cases end at the Supreme Court, and its decisions can entirely change the interpretation of a right.