Why Civil Rights Matter

Hillsdale College was founded in 1844 to provide—to all who wish to learn—the education necessary to perpetuate the blessings of civil and religious liberty. In 2011, the College began producing free online courses in order to extend that mission. They aim to provide students with an education that pursues knowledge of the highest things, provides insight into the nature of God and man, forms character, and defends constitutional government.

In Lecture 1 of the free online course, Why Civil Right Matter, the President of Hillsdale College, Larry P. Arnn, provides an introduction that captures the spirit of America’s founding. For our MindWolves work, we’ll train using this lecture, however if you’re interested, you can take the entire 9 lecture course here: Hillsdale College Online Courses.

America was founded with the understanding that the purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Civil rights, in turn, are derived from and serve to protect the natural rights of all American citizens.

Frederick Douglass, ca. 1879 (National Archives Gift Collection)

Men have their choice in this world. They can be angels, or they can be demons. In the apocalyptic vision, John describes a war in heaven (Revelation 12:7). You have only to strip that vision of its gorgeous Oriental drapery, divest it of its shining and celestial ornaments, clothe it in the simple and familiar language of common sense, and you will have before you the eternal conflict between right and wrong, good and evil, liberty and slavery, truth and falsehood, the glorious light of love, and the appalling darkness of human selfishness and sin. The human heart is a seat of constant war. … Just what takes place in individual hearts, often takes place between nations, and between individuals of the same nation. Such is the struggle going on in the United States. The slaveholders had rather reign in hell than serve in heaven.

Frederick Douglass delivered that message in a speech at Zion Church in Rochester, New York on June 16, 1861. He also published it in Douglass’ Monthly in July 1861. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, be they white, black, female, Native American, or immigrants. He also believed the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, American’s founding documents, provided the proper framework for the establishment of the liberty and justice of the slaves in the country at the time.

Let’s watch Lecture 1. Runtime is 21 min. Feel free to also download easy to read copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which you’ll find under the video.

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