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This book revolves around a deceptively simple question: What do we mean when we say that something is an issue of civil rights? Americans use the term all the time. We have government agencies dedicated to protecting civil rights. We know the heroic struggle for racial equality of the 1960s as the civil rights movement. We’re now supposedly in a post-civil rights era – even as we’re constantly on the watch for new civil rights movements. We identify certain people as civil rights icons. We declare public officials good or bad on civil rights. All of this assumes “civil rights” includes certain things and not others. But look up the term in a dictionary or legal reference work and you’ll find a mix of abstractions and stilted legalisms, none of which captures the depth and complexity of meaning that is conveyed with its invocation and none of which hints at historic and ongoing struggles over its contents.