Human Rights Timeline
Click through 15 important events in Human Rights history

2350 B.C.

The Praise Poem of Urukagina

Urukagina is recognized as one of the first champions of human rights. The Mesopotamian controlled corruption in local government, regulated slavery and set decrees to protect the poor, widows and orphans.


539 B.C.

The Spread of Human Rights Begins

The first king of ancient Persia, Cyrus the Great, conquered the city of Babylon. He established racial equality and declared the freedom to choose one's own religion. These decrees and others were inscribed in the Akkadian language on a baked-clay cylinder. From Babylon, the idea of human rights spread quickly to India, Greece and Rome.


231 B.C.

The Edicts of Ashoka

Ashoka, an Indian King, converted to Buddhism and promoted nonviolence and issued a series of edicts. The edicts protect the rights of the poor and vulnerable. The series was carved into 33 pillars throughout his empire.


622 A.D.

The Charter of Medina

Muhammad protected religious freedom, giving women more independence and stopping ethnic segregation policies.


Magna Carta Human Rights document

Magna Carta, or "Great Charter", was the first document forced onto a King of England by a group of his subjects to limit his powers by law and protect their rights. It was important in the extensive historical process that led to the rule of constitutional law today in the English-speaking world.


June 7, 1628

The Petition of Right

The Petition of Right, initiated by Sir Edward Coke, passed on June 7, 1628. The petition contains restrictions on non-Parliamentary taxation, forced billeting of soldiers, imprisonment without cause and the use of martial law.



The English Bill of Rights

Passed by the parliament of Great Britain, it was the most advanced document of its kind at the time, guaranteeing free speech in parliament, the right to bear arms, the right to petition leaders and certain due process rights.


July 4, 1776

Declaration of Independence

The United States Congress approved the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. Philosophically, the Declaration stressed two themes: individual rights and the right of revolution. These ideas form the basis of the nation's beliefs about the role of our government in America today.



The US Constitution

As the oldest written national constitution in use, it defines the principal core of government, its jurisdictions and the basic rights of citizens. It was written during the summer of 1787 in Philadelphia and is a landmark document of the Western world.


August 26, 1789

The French Declaration of the Rights of Man

It was adopted by the National Constituent Assembly as the first step toward writing a constitution for the Republic of France. The Declaration states that all citizens are to be guaranteed the rights of, "liberty, property, security and resistance to oppression."



The US Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the collective name for the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. The bill is the written precursor to many of today's human rights documents, limiting the powers of the federal government of the United States and protecting the rights of all citizens, residents and visitors in American territory. It protects, among other things, the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the right to assemble and the right to bear arms.



The First Geneva Convention

The swiss Federal Council invited 16 European countries and several American states to a conference. The purpose was to adopt a convention for the treatment of wounded soldiers in combat.


April 1945

The United Nations

Toward the end of World War II, many cities throughout Europe and Asia were in ruins. In April 1945, delegates met in San Francisco to create an international group to promote peace and prevent future wars.
On October 24, 1945, the charter of the new United Nations organization went into effect.


December 10, 1948

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt drafted the document that became the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Adopted by the United Nations on December 10, 1948, it proclaims the inherent rights of all human beings.


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