Human Rights or Freedom: Short Stories About Justice, Fairness and Injustice

These stories have characters who are seeking justice or are being treated unjustly.

Some present a broader look at whether justice is being done or not.

The stories in the first section are more focused on the larger issues of human rights or freedom.

See also:

“Busy Lines” by Patricia Grace

An old woman waking early can still see a star through the gap in her curtains. Her husband died fifteen years ago, and she’s lost everyone else too. Her appliances are also giving out. She takes care of her needs.

This story can be read in the preview of Freedom: Short Stories Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“The Effects of Good Government on the City” by A. L. Kennedy

You don’t want to break up with someone in Blackpool. You’re at your childhood home, at the beach. You don’t sleep anymore. It’s gradually revealed where you’ve come from.

This story can also be read in the preview of the above anthology.

“The Ones Who Stay and Fight” by N. K. Jemisin

It’s the Day of Good Birds in the city of Um-Helat, where everyone is happy. Decorations of feathers and wings are seen all over. The beliefs of the citizens vary, and all are honored. They speak many languages and have various backgrounds. They all care for each other. They know what needs to be done to make the world a better place, and they’re practical enough to do it.

This is the first story in the preview of How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? (25% into preview)

“The Finkelstein 5” by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Emmanuel wakes up after dreaming of the recent murder of five black children. He gets a phone call about a job opportunity. He adjusts the Blackness in his voice down to a 1.5. When he can be seen, the lowest he can get to is a 4.0. He prepares for the interview and also thinks about the Finkelstein verdict. George Wilson Dunn was acquitted of the murders on the grounds that the children were loitering and he felt threatened.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of Friday Black(20% into preview)

“Children of the Sea” by Edwidge Danticat

A young Haitian man is on a boat headed for Florida. He was part of a group that protested the dictator. His lover has remained in Haiti with her family. They are surrounded by violence and terrible conditions.

Read “Children of the Sea”



“Dry September” by William Faulkner

Miss Minnie Cooper has accused a black man, Will Mayes, of attacking her. Some of the town’s men discuss the accusation at a barbershop. They are easily riled against Mayes and make plans to mete out justice themselves.

Read “Dry September”

“Daniel the Just” by Heinrich Böll

Daniel is a forty-one-year-old man who is tired from the effort of wearing his “put-on” face all day. His wife is worried about a young boy, Uli, who is taking his entrance exams soon. She wants her husband to do something for the boy. Daniel remembers his uncle who used to always say, “If only there were justice in this world.”

“Four O’Clock” by Price Day

Mr. Crangle is at home at 3:47 in the afternoon. Three weeks ago he realized he had the power to mark all evil people in some way. He would be the judge, and he has no moral qualms about using his ability. He sets 4:00 in the afternoon as the time when he will execute his judgment.

Read “Four O’Clock”

“Bontsha the Silent” by I. L. Peretz

Bontsha’s death makes no impression on anyone. He was not cared for, suffered many injustices, and lived in loneliness. He never protested his lot in life. While his death goes unnoticed on earth, it has the opposite effect on heaven.

Read “Bontsha the Silent”

“The Balek Scales” by Heinrich Böll

The narrator tells the story of his grandfather who lived in a village that was controlled by the Balek family. The people would bring their flax, mushrooms and herbs to Frau Balek, who would weigh everything on the only scale in the village, and then pay them.

Read “The Balek Scales”

“The Stub-Book” by Pedro A. Alarcon

“Uncle” Buscabeatas has cultivated a crop of huge pumpkins. He knows each of his forty pumpkins by look and name. He is sad when the day comes to cut them and bring them to market. When he wakes up that morning he is furious with what he sees.

“Sorrow-Acre” by Isak Dinesen

Adam returns to his family home in Denmark as he is now the heir. A barn belonging to his uncle was burned down, and the main suspect is a young man, Goske. His uncle offers the man’s mother a deal: if she can complete a near-impossible job he will free her son.

“An Official Position” by Somerset Maugham

Louise Remire is serving 12 years in a penal colony for the murder of his wife. He is the colony’s executioner, and this position of power and his attitude make him unpopular with the other inmates.

“The Augsburg Chalk Circle” by Bertolt Brecht

During the Thirty Years’ War, a woman flees while packing her things, leaving her baby behind. A servant girl, Anna, claims the child and escapes. She makes a new life for herself with the child, but eventually the biological mother returns.

Read “The Augsburg Chalk Circle”

“America and I” by Anzia Yezierska

Yezierska comes to the United States from Russia. She looks forward to experiencing freedom not possible before. Despite wanting to live a life of creativity and self-expression, she encounters many disappointments, hardships and injustice in America.

“Conscience of the Court” by Zora Neale Hurston

A maid, Laura Kimble, is on trial for beating a white man, Clement Beasley. He went to the house of her employer, Mrs. Clairborne, to collect on a loan. Beasley says that when he found her absent and saw the maid packing up the silver he thought Mrs. Clairborne had left town and was sending for her things—things she had put up as collateral for the loan. When he tried to take the furniture, Laura intervened.

Read here