March 29, 2021

What Is the 15th Amendment?

What Is the 15th Amendment?

The 15th Amendment: “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.”

The 15th amendment followed in the path of the passage of the 13th and 14th amendments, the 13th amendment abolished slavery and the 14th guaranteed African American's citizenship. The passage of the 15th Amendment and its ratification enfranchised African American men while continuing to denying the right to vote to women of all races. Women would not receive that right until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. By the late 1870s discriminatory practices were used to prevent African American men from voting, especially in the South. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that legal barriers were outlawed at the state and local levels if they denied African-Americans their right to vote under the 15th Amendment.

After the Civil War, during the period known as Reconstruction starting in 1865 till 1877, the Republican-dominated United States Congress passed the First Reconstruction Act over the veto of President Andrew Johnson. The act divided the South into five military districts and outlined how the new government based on universal suffrage of men would be established. the passage of the 15th amendment it encouraging African Americans to vote and many African Americans were even elected to public office. By 1870, all the former Confederate states had been readmitted to the Union, and most were controlled by the Republican Party thanks to the support of black voters.

The Southern Republican Party would vanish during the 1870s and Reconstruction would effectively end with the Compromise of 1877. Southern state governments begin attempting to nullified both the 14th Amendment and the 15th amendment, stripping African American men in the South of the right to vote. By the 1890s, efforts by several states to enact Jim Crow laws such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses along with widespread threats and violence completely reversed any progress made during Reconstruction. By the start of the 20th century, nearly all African Americans men in the states of the former Confederacy were again disenfranchised.

It wouldn't be until the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson on August 6, 1965. It aimed to overcome all legal barriers at the state and local levels that denied African Americans their legal right to vote under the 15th Amendment. The act banned the use of literacy tests, provided for federal oversight of voter registration in areas where less than 50 percent of the non-white population had not registered to vote and authorized the U.S. attorney general to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections.