The podcasts below will provide you an effective overview for each of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. These amendments were added (1791) to the document four years after it was written (1787) and two years following ratification. Together they served as a promise fulfilled by the Federalists who sought a strong central government, to the Anti-Federalists who were skeptical. In order to garner enough support for ratification, the Anti-Federalists insisted on an insurance policy. This is it; modeled after the Virginal Bill of Rights.
In 1868, following the American Civil War, the 14th amendment is adopted. This amendment serves to incorporate the protections of the Bill of Rights into every state. The Civil Rights movement (1954 to 1968) used the first amendment, bolstered by the promises of 14 to gain real freedom for African Americans through out the South.
There are many times in our nations history where the rights of 14 and the first ten are limited by the governments at the State and Federal level. However, because these amendments are enshrined in the Constitution, and due to continual judicial oversight, the rights of the people under these protections eventually carry the day.