Abstract – Health and human rights in practice: From the editors

Evan Lyon and Vivek Maru

Health and Human Rights 10/1

Published June 2008


Health and Human Rights is especially concerned, as Paul Farmer states in his introductory essay on “challenging orthodoxies,” with “human rights in the doing.” The “Practice” section of this journal is dedicated to the voices and experience of the doers, that is, to the grit and the grain of practical efforts to advance social and economic rights.

In the United States, at the end of the Civil War in 1865, the government legally granted black people all the freedoms of citizens. But after a hopeful, ephemeral period of reconstruction, African-Americans were denied many of these rights; life after emancipation was defined by racism, violence, poverty, and the apartheid of Jim Crow. Nearly a hundred years later, a movement for genuine freedom gathered and rose into a resounding force. Black people and their allies organized themselves for nonviolent protest, community development, and strategic legal action. In the face of this massive mobilization, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the federal government and the judiciary began to enforce rights that had until then been nominal.