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ISU Speaker Looks Back At History Of Human Rights

Alvaro Barrientos
Spanish women marked International Women's Day in March with the first-ever full day strike and dozens of protests across the country against wage gap and gender violence.

From recent airstrikes on Syria to President Trump’s immigration policies, human rights issues are a constant in today's headlines.

But when and where did the discussion of human rights begin?

“I emphasize the 18th century as a time when the political revolution got people to thinking about the foundations of government, and so they tied the notion of rights to the legitimacy of government,” said professor, author and human rights specialist Lynn Hunt.

Lynn Hunt was president of the American Historical Association in 2002 and awarded the Nancy Lyman Roelker Award for graduate mentorship by the American Historical Association in 2010.

Hunt will discuss “Why the History of Human Rights Matters” at Illinois State University at 7 p.m. Thursday. The Speaker Series talk is at the Bone Student Center.

Today, the idea of human rights stems from the notion of “coming together” and viewing issues as related, Hunt said.

“(Coming together) helps shape a universal notion of human rights that can be used by people no matter what their country now, no matter what their religious tradition now, no matter what their legal tradition now—it’s a way of saying all these things are related to each other because they have to do with the dignity, value and rights of the individual person and that applies to everybody,” said Hunt.

Hunt explained that paying attention to the origins of human rights and how that reflects on societies today is important today because the present movement follows similar patterns to thinking critically about the rights of humans in a universal sense.

This leads to discussion and debates on the need for intervention in other countries or involvement on who should protect who. Discussion brings about change driven by political factors, allowing citizens to employ pressure and empathy, she said.

The next fight for rights is unknown. Hunt said it is unpredictable, but she believes it is leaning towards animal, or even plant, rights.

You can also listen to an extended interview with Hunt:

GLT's full interview with Hunt.

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Becky Fletcher is a GLT social media and online writing intern, as well as a student at Illinois State University's School of Communication.
WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.