To mark the 50th anniversary of the the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the National 2014 Black History Month theme is "Civil Rights in America."
The Association for the Study of African American Life and History's executive summary of this year's theme explains:
"The Revolutionary American Thomas Paine held that 'civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society.' From the beginning of our Republic, free people of African descent have seen themselves as citizens, members of society, and therefore due equal rights. From the nation's origins, Americans believed that religion should not be a basis for abridging a citizen's rights, but very few believed color should be treated similarly. And gender and sexual orientation were not even open for discussion. The resulting struggles over civil rights have remade our nation for more than two centuries.
The history of civil rights in the United States is largely the story of free people of color and then African Americans to define and enumerate what rights pertain to citizens in civil society. It has been the history of enlisting political parties to recognize the need for our governments, state and federal, to codify and protect those rights."
Throughout the month of February on the Now @ MPL blog, look for frequent posts exploring the people, the organizations, and the pivotal moments in the history of civil rights in America.