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The 14th and 15th Amendments

Following the Civil War and abolition of slavery, Republicans in Congress passed reconstruction laws meant to guarantee full citizenship and suffrage to African Americans. The 14th amendment required states to guarantee the rights of all citizens, including the right to vote for male inhabitants over the age of 21. The 14th amendment also contained provisions meant to prevent Confederate leaders from regaining political power or receiving economic benefits from the emancipation of slaves. The 15th amendment was passed to further protect African American enfranchisement. Despite the intent of northern lawmakers, the amendments––and the strong opposition to them by white southerners-- signified the beginning of a long struggle for black equality.

14th Amendment 

Passed by Congress 13 June 1866; Ratified 9 July 1868 

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the [rights] of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law… 

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to…the whole number of persons in each State…But when the right to vote…is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced… 

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who…shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same… But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability. 

Section 4. ...[n]either the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void. 

15th Amendment 

Passed by Congress 26 February 1869; Ratified 3 February 1870 

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude—

Source | National Archives
Creator | U.S. Congress
Item Type | Government Document
Cite This document | U.S. Congress, “The 14th and 15th Amendments,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed May 26, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1699.

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