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A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States: The Obama Administration

This guide focuses on the civil rights that various groups have fought for within the United States.

The Obama Administration 

On November 4, 2008, Barack Hussein Obama II became the 44th President of the United States of America. He also became the first black president. He went on to serve two terms. Under his watch, the country began to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression, two women were appointed to the Supreme Court, gay marriage was declared by that same Court to be a fundamental right, Osama bin Laden was killed in a surgical raid conducted by U.S. Navy SEALs, the Affordable Care Act was passed, a nuclear deal was struck with Iran, and relations with Cuba moved forward.

During his tenure, racial tensions within the U.S. continued to mount as more and more blacks, particularly black men or youth, were shot and killed by law enforcement. Much like those a generation before who were shocked by the images they saw of marchers in Selma being hosed by police, cell phone videos capturing some of the violence against blacks and social media being used to broadcast protestors' side of the story, have shocked many into action. Movements like Black Lives Matter (BLM) have emerged to protect the civil rights of blacks, and their efforts are challenged by activists who argue that BLM is a terrorist movement or that police are the ones threatened.

The fact that the economy remains stagnant in certain areas of the country does not help ease the tensions between races or between citizens and immigrants, legal or otherwise. In states like Ohio and Michigan, where manufacturing was once robust but has now withered, people are angry and want change that can't be easily provided by any politician or businessman. 


Notable Supreme Court Cases:


Selected Library Resources: 

  • Timothy Davis et al., eds., A Reader on Race, Civil Rights, and American Law: A Multiracial Approach, KF4755 .R43 2001
  • F. Michael Higginbotham, Race Law: Cases, Commentary, and Questions, KF4755.A7 H54 2001
  • George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, E839 .P28 2013
  • Ian Haney-López, Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class, E185.615 .H278 2014
  • Kenneth Osgood and Derrick E. White, eds., Winning While Losing: Civil Rights, the Conservative Movement, and the Presidency from Nixon to Obama, E185.615 .W547 2014
  • Black Studies Center - this database combines videos, transcripts, a periodical index, historical black newspapers, and a black literature index into one location for research and teaching.
  • Oxford African American Studies Center - this is a comprehensive collection of scholarly articles, primary sources, maps, charts, tables, biographies, and encyclopedias on the African and African American experiences.
  • Westlaw - Civil Rights Texts & Treatises 
  • LexisNexis - Civil Rights Law


Additional Resources: