We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. These stirring words are from the Declaration of Independence, one of the founding documents of the United States and a powerful example of the importance of human rights in Western civilization.
But the freedoms we enjoy today—
- to vote regardless of gender
- to live free of racial segregation
- to not be enslaved
- to be free of persecution on religious or ethnic grounds
—did not come about overnight. Rather, they were the result of long and fierce struggles that took place in courtrooms and meeting rooms, in churches and on battlefields, in classrooms and on streets, at home and abroad.
Understanding the evolution of human rights—its sacrifices, hopes, visions, leaders, and movements—is important to recognizing how valuable and universal they truly are. The story of the rights of man also reflects the triumphant power of the human spirit to change history, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Follow this inspirational and profound story in The Rights of Man: Great Thinkers and Great Movements. These 24 lectures tell you the fascinating story of the rights of man, from the visions of history's greatest philosophers, religious leaders, and political thinkers to the awe-inspiring movements that shattered centuries of inequality.
Award-winning Professor Paul Gordon Lauren, one of the world's leading authorities on the history of human rights, guides you in a story that will strengthen your appreciation of your rights—and of the long struggles to obtain them.
Explore the Roots of Your Rights ...
Human rights issues play a vital role in the political, moral, and legal landscape.
Throughout The Rights of Man, you encounter the powerful historical movements that established human rights and promoted equality by
- establishing a nation's right to self-determination;
- abolishing the international slave trade;
- ending slavery and racial segregation;
- holding leaders accountable for crimes against humanity;
- granting voting rights to women and minorities; and
- providing protection for workers, children, and wounded soldiers.
Professor Lauren roots this comprehensive look at human rights in the religious, philosophical, and political origins of these movements. You trace the ideas of human rights to the teachings of Jesus and Muhammad; learn how philosophers from Mencius to John Locke contributed influential viewpoints; and witness the power of the American and French revolutions to fight for equal rights for all.
As you investigate the origins of the great human rights movements, you follow several key themes:
- The importance of vision: The rights of man were established by people who worked to achieve a just society.
- The power of human action: The story of the rights of man is filled with courageous individuals and groups who set out to change the world against seemingly unbeatable odds.
- The (sometimes surprising) sources of change: Gradual change through reform, violent social and political upheavals, and even extreme atrocities like the Holocaust provoked dramatic advancements in the rights of man.
... and the Individuals Who Fought for Them
You learn of the great movements for human rights. Each lecture gives you an overview of historical movements like the struggle for women's suffrage, the emancipation of serfs and slaves, the development of the United Nations's Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the collapse of colonial empires.
You encounter the great philosophers, religious leaders, politicians, activists, journalists—and the everyday men and women—who fought to make their visions of equality a reality:
- Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Quaker women who organized the Seneca Falls Woman's Rights Convention in 1848 to argue for human rights for women. Their work culminated in 1920 with the 19th Amendment, which established the right to vote regardless of gender.
- Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, who fought successfully for their dreams of racial equality. Martin Luther King Jr. moved hundreds of thousands to embrace his goal of ending segregation in the United States. South African activist Nelson Mandela spoke out against his country's policy of apartheid and was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994.
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, the Second World War leaders who signed the Atlantic Charter in 1941, which expressed the rights of man as the right to live without fear in a world with economic and social justice and to choose the form of government under which they live
The Rights of Man brings these and other individuals to life through excerpts from their passionate speeches and their powerful proclamations, declarations, and international treaties. Professor Lauren's spirited readings from works such as the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech add depth and insight to your understanding of the power of these great historical movements.
A Uniquely Qualified Professor
Professor Lauren has an undeniable passion for the gravity and courage of this remarkable story. He lived and worked in Harlem in the 1960s during the civil rights movement, when he met Martin Luther King Jr. He traveled behind the iron curtain during the cold war, interviewed intellectuals whose political freedoms were suppressed, and sat only feet away from Slobodan Milosevic during the Yugoslavian leader's trial before The Hague's International Criminal Tribunal.
Professor Lauren has spent his career enlightening audiences worldwide, including the general public, professional diplomats, military and intelligence officers, policymakers, and audiences at the United Nations and the Nobel Institute, about the story of the rights of man.
"A great distance in the rights of man has been traveled, and we need to appreciate just how great it has been," notes Professor Lauren.
With this course, you look at the origins and evolution of our human rights, strengthen your understanding of what it means to be a human being with unalienable rights, and become inspired by a profoundly moving story whose latest chapter you're living now.