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Since the signing of the Declaration of Independence, our rights as citizens of the United States have been debated, contested, amended, and documented. The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, established our basic civil rights. Later amendments and court decisions have continued the process of defining our human and civil rights. Documents in the National Archives give voice to our national struggle for personal rights and freedoms. From the Emancipation Proclamation to the five cases that comprised Brown v. Board of Education , this exhibit features a sampling of documents from all regions of the National Archives.

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The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Because the delegations from only two states were at first present, the members adjourned from day to day until a quorum of seven states was obtained on May 25. Through discussion and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the Convention would draft an entirely new frame of government. All through the summer, in closed sessions, the delegates debated, and redrafted the articles of the new Constitution.

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