Draft Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by Eleanor Roosevelt, 1947

A watershed document in the pursuit of universally acknowledged human rights

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First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt hand-notated this typewritten draft of what became the first global document dedicated to the preservation of human rights. Adopted on December 10, 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a direct result of World War II.

With the end of the war and the creation of the United Nations (UN), the international community vowed to prevent atrocities like those of the Nazi regime from occuring again. Under the chairmanship of Eleanor Roosevelt, a human rights advocate and the United States delegate to the UN, the Commission set out to draft the document. Roosevelt, credited with its inspiration and presenting the final version to the committee for vote, announced, "we stand here today at the threshold of a great event both in the life of the United Nations and in the life of mankind." With 48 countries voting in favor, eight abstentions, and two countries absent, the declaration passed. Printed in 475 languages, it was subsequently published in newspapers across the world and printed on posters for distribution to schools.

After its adoption, committee member Hernan Santa Cruz of Chile wrote, "In the Great Hall...there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting." The Universal Declaration of Human Rights remains in effect today.

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Draft Preamble, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by Eleanor Roosevelt, 1947 Artifact from Austin
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