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Georgetown Law Library

A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States

This guide offers a history of various movements by citizens in the United States to gain political and social freedom and equality. It highlights resources available through the library and also offers a list of current civil rights organizations.


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Organizations You can Support

One way to resist oppression is to strengthen the organizations that fight against oppressors. You can make a change, even if it's just an hour a week or a dollar a week. If we all give just a little, it adds up and it keeps our civil rights, our environment - our nation - from being destroyed. You can give your support to the following organizations via a donation of your time and efforts or a monetary contribution.

General Civil Rights Organizations:

  • The American Civil Liberties Union - the ACLU defends individual liberties and rights protected by the Constitution. You can give money here. Alternatively, you can contact your local ACLU office and offer your services in assisting with legal research.
  • The Anti-Defamation League - started in the early 1900s, this organization seeks to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and secure fair treatment for all people. It is one of the largest civil rights groups in the country and fights against anti-semitism and bigotry. Local offices for volunteering can be found here and donations can be made here.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center - this group uses education, litigation, and advocacy, among other tactics, to fight hate groups and bigotry. You can donate here. The SPLC also accepts other methods of giving here.
  • The Boys and Girls Clubs of America - this organization offers enrichment programs for children when they aren't in school. You can make donations and learn about volunteer opportunities here.
  • The Leadership Conference - this group engages in legislative advocacy. You can donate here. Information on internships is available here. Information on taking action and grassroots advocacy can be found here.
  • Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law - this groups aims to secure equal rights for everyone through rule of law. You can donate here. You can join the Young Lawyers' Committee here, as well as get information on internships.

Minorities' Rights Organizations:

Women's Organizations:

  • NARAL Pro-Choice America - this is a political advocacy group that fights for women's reproductive rights and especially a woman's right to choose to have an abortion. You can donate here. Opportunities to volunteer can be found here.
  • The Center for Reproductive Rights - one of the top legal advocates for providing women access to reproductive health care. You can donate here.
  • Planned Parenthood - this is the nation's leading reproductive health care provider. You can donate here. There are also opportunities to volunteer here and with your local chapters so be sure to check chapter websites as well.
  • The Reproductive Health Access Project - is a non-profit group that trains clinicians to make reproductive health care more accessible. You can donate here.
  • The National Organization for Women - this is an activist organization advocating for equal rights for women. You can donate here and look for volunteering chances on local chapter pages.
  • The National Women's Law Center - for 40 years, this group has worked to enact laws and policies to benefit women and families. You can donate here. You can find out about and apply for volunteer opportunities here.
  • EMILY's List - this is a political action committee looking to elect pro-choice Democrat women candidates into public office. You can donate here and find out how to run for office here.
  • Running Start - is an organization dedicated to educating young women and girls about the importance of politics, through the Young Women’s Political Leadership Program and various other fellowships and internships. You can donate here. You can become a member and take part in internships and other activities here.
  • She Should Run - this is a non-profit organization that seeks to get more women into elected leadership roles. You can donate here or anonymously ask a woman you know to run for office. You can also volunteer here.
  • The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence - The NCADV advocates for victims and seeks to change the policies around domestic violence. You can donate here. Learn about volunteer opportunities here.
  • The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault - this organization lists a number of ongoing volunteer opportunities in childcare, community training, rape crisis counseling, and legal advocacy here.
  • Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network - this is the country’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. It operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800-656-HOPE;; and offers programs to help victims of sexual violence. You can donate here and get information on volunteering for the hotline or in your community here.

LGBTQ Organizations:

  • Lambda Legal - this is a legal organization dedicated to fighting for civil rights of the LGBT population and people with HIV through litigation, education, and policy work. You can donate here and  get information on volunteering here.
  • The Mazzoni Center - this center offers healthcare services to LGBTQ population in Philadelphia, including walk-in HIV and STI testing, primary care, addiction, and recovery services, as well as trans clinical care services. You can donate here and find out how to volunteer here.
  • The Sylvia Rivera Law Project - named for a veteran of the Stonewall riots and a tireless civil rights pioneer for those on the fringes of the gay rights movement, the Sylvia Rivera Project provides legal services specifically to low-income people and people of color who are transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming. You can donate here or find out about volunteer opportunities here.

Disabled Rights Organizations:

Immigrant and Refugee Rights Organizations:

  • Border Angels - this San Diego non-profit, volunteer organization offers educational and awareness programs to the immigrant population, with a focus on the U.S./Mexico border. You can donate your money and/or your time and efforts here.
  • The National Immigration Law Center - this group is dedicated to fighting for the rights of low-income immigrants through litigation, policy analysis, and advocacy. You can donate here. Opportunities for trainings are available here and information on fellowships and internships is available as well.
  • National Immigration Forum - this is an advocacy organization that offers various programs to integrate immigrants into the workforce and obtain citizenship. You can donate here. Internship information can be found here.
  • The Young Center for Immigrant Children's Rights - this group works to protect the best interests of children who come to the U.S. on their own. You can donate here. You can also learn about volunteering as a child advocate in Chicago, New York, Houston, and Washington D.C. here.
  • United We Dream - this D.C.-based organization is the largest youth-led immigration group in the nation. They organize and advocate for fair treatment of immigrant youth and families, regardless of immigration status. You can donate here and find out how to take action here.
  • The ABA launched a website to help lawyers volunteer to support immigrants.  The portal includes links to relevant law, resources, guides, and forms in order to help "harness the energy of the legal profession and coordinate the efforts of volunteer lawyers helping immigrants."

And while they are not civil rights organizations, per se, it does not hurt to mention groups like The Sierra Club, The Union of Concerned Scientists, and others who are also worthy of your support.

If there is an organization that you would like to see added to this list, please contact us at Special thanks to for the genesis of this list of organizations.