Today most people can’t even define what Human Rights are they just know they are entitled to them. These are rights that we take for granted in America for we feel as though we should have them no matter what. This is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was supposed to do, outline a set of rights that every human should have regardless of their race, religion, or level of income. Still, today thousands of people that should be entitled to food die of starvation, and people who should have freedom of speech go to jail for speaking their minds. So how did we get to this point where we have the rights to say what we want, to have an education, or to simply live?
Human Rights are basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled. The idea of Human Rights has been evolving throughout history each time being catered to the needs of the people of the time. One of the first examples of laws that relate to the idea of human rights is the tablet of Hammurabi which was created by the Sumerian king Hammurabi 4000 years ago. The Code of Hammurabi. The over 200 laws would be considered barbaric by today’s standards but the system created a model for a legal system. The document protected the people from uninformed persecution and punishment but it didn't protect them from individual freedoms like race ofreligion.
It wasn't until ancient Greece that the concept of human rights began to mean more than the prevention of persecution. The Greeks came up with the idea of natural law, the law that reflects the natural order of the universe or the will of the gods who control nature. The idea was that while laws vary from place to place things by nature should be the same everywhere.
The Magna Carta was one of the most significant documents pertaining to human rights. It is an English legal document written in 1215 that had a huge influence on the English legal system. It came to be because the king was living above the law and the Barons, with the support of the church, pressured him to list their rights and guarantee that the rights would actually be enforced, the Magna Carta was sealed in 1215. King John abandoned the Magna Carta triggering a war until his death in 1216. His son issued the Magna Carta again, a different version, and later on several more drafts were produced. The document seemed to disappear for almost 200 years until the Elizabethan era when new interest sparked over the document. Its heritage is seen most clearly in our own Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta stating that “No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned…or in any other way destroyed… except by the lawful judgment of his peers.” It also held several clauses that were influential in the development of other bills of rights like the first ten Amendments to the Constitution.
Human rights were a huge deal in Europe like the English Revolution in 1640 that lead to the execution on their King. Also, the Glorious revolution lead to the English Bill of Rights that declares the rights and liberties of the subject and settling the succession of the crown. It combined past grievances and more general statements about basic liberties like prohibiting the monarch from suspending laws without Parliament’s consent. This had a significant impact on the U.S. law, many of its requirements becoming part of the U.S. constitution.
The Declaration of independence was adopted on July 4, 1776 and declared the thirteen colonies were now independent, no longer part of the British Empire. The Declaration is used to promote the rights of groups and is used to represent the United State’s moral standard for which we should live. Abraham Lincoln considered it to be his political philosophy and promoted the idea the document is a statement on which the Constitution should be interpreted. It may have declared the U.S. a free country but it didn’t give rights to slaves or women.
We had trouble over peace and rights during both of the World Wars but people gave a lot of thought to human rights during World War 2 when Hitler was busy killing the Jewish population. After World War 2 ended the United Nations was formed. The UN was formed in 1945 and is an international organization that aims to achieve world piece and enforce security. The UN brings the nations together to work for peace based on justice, human dignity, and the well-being of all people. Also, it allows countries their interdependence while allowing interest when addressing international problems. The fifty nations involved signed the United Nations Charter outlining the goals of the UN and one year later they established the Commission on Human Rights. This document was signed in 1948 and is known today as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Assembly told all member countries to publicize the document and display it in schools without distinctions based on the political status of countries or territories. It states that us as humans have certain rights that we are entitled to, the document lays them out. The topics include discrimination, food, shelter, and education along with many more. Even though the document applies to everyone it is not a law, therefore countries don’t have to approve it. Many countries, including the U.S. has chosen not to ratify some of the covenants even though the U.S. approves more than most. We approve the Civil and Political rights but we include many restrictions of them.
Even after the Declaration of Human rights the U.S. went through the civil rights movement, as did the rest of the world, which started in the 1950’s and ended in the 80’s. The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law. But weren’t these rights laid out in the Declaration of Human Rights? Yes but because they were only suggestions many countries did not adopt this set of rules leaving turmoil as before. The United States version of the Civil rights movement was due to the racial discrimination towards African Americans, mainly in the South. The most remembered part of the movement is Martin Luther King Jr’s I have a dream speech which opened people’s eyes to a new future of America.
We are all born free and equal: Stories on Human rights trailer: