I am reading a book now by an anti-affirmative action guy (Clint Bolick) that charts the history of "civil rights" -- He actually gives a nice history of civil rights from the founding fathers through Reconstruction. I will type up my notes from this soon and add it as an attachment.
another interesting angle would be to explore this statement from Legal Lad:
...Beyond these examples, and a handful of others, courts are generally hesitant to apply the Declaration as substantive law. This is true of both those justices considered conservative and liberal, such as current Justices Scalia and Breyer. However, the general principles have been utilized by several political movements to support their positions... [so here is the "throughout U.S. history" angle]
The courts v. the people on the usefulness of the Dec of Ind!!!
One way to begin exploration of that would be examine Bruce Hartford's (civil right vet) interesting essay. Nonviolent Resistance and People Power he begins the section on People Power with:
Our culture glorifies and exalts both violence-power and money-power while ignoring or discrediting people-power. Most people do not believe that ultimately government rests on consent of the governed and therefore they remain unaware of the potential power they hold. This idea was first articulated in the Declaration of Independence: