Georgetown Law
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.

LGBTQ Civil Rights

Discrimination continues to exist against minorities of all kinds, including towards members of the LGBTQ community.  Historically, anyone who strayed from the traditional gender roles assigned at birth were often characterized as mentally defective or psychopaths.  Treatments for individuals exhibiting these traits varied from sterilization and castration to lobotomies and conversion therapy.  In addition to the risk of being subjected to these traumatic therapies, societal expectations led many to adjust their behaviors and appearance in order to pass as straight.  These pressures could lead to suicide, drug abuse, and homelessness.

Significant progress has made in civil rights that have dramatically improved the legal protections available to this community, but challenges remain.  This section of the guide outlines both the historical developments as well as related resources.  

Library Resources:


  • Independent Voices
    • This collection of nearly 500 (and growing) underground newspapers and alternative magazines from the 1960s through the 1980s. The collection includes feminist periodicals, LGBT publications, military/GI newsletters, small-press literary magazines, and alternative campus/community newspapers. The costs of the collection are borne by participating libraries (including Georgetown), with the goal of making the collection entirely open access in 2019.

Relevant subject headings:

  • Homosexuality -- Law and legislation
  • Gays -- Legal status, laws, etc. -- United States
  • Homophobia -- Law and legislation -- United States
  • Sex discrimination in criminal justice administration -- United States
  • Gays -- Violence against -- United States
  • Hate crimes -- United States


Milestones in the American Gay Rights Movement

106th: Sibley Lecture