After the Preamble, The Bill of Rights is probably the most famous section of the Constitution, but is often imperfectly understood. For instance, the Bill of Rights initially served only to limit the actions of the federal government, and did not protect citizens from the actions of state governments (as affirmed in the 1833 Supreme Court case of Barron v. Baltimore). Moreover, many rights that Americans take for granted—such as voting—do not appear in the Bill of Rights, and many other rights were not fully articulated or protected until the mid-twentieth century.
Review the Constitution generally, and the Bill of Rights specifically, and explain how and why understandings of citizens’ rights changed in the mid-twentieth century.
What rights did the Constitution, as originally written (i.e., before the addition of the Bill of Rights), protect? What rights did the Bill of Rights add? How did the Fourteenth Amendment and the process of incorporation change the nature of the Bill of Rights? What new rights would be added from the 1950s through the 1970s?
What respective roles did the legislature, executive, judiciary, state governments, and ordinary citizens play in expanding rights, or resisting the expansion of rights?
When responding to these questions, draw from material from