, In 1865, Congress passed what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1866, guaranteeing citizenship without regard to race, color, or previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude. The Court declared that the Fifteenth Amendment "commands that the right to vote shall not be denied or abridged on account of race or color, and it gives Congress the power to enforce that command. From 1890 to 1910, southern states adopted new state constitutions and enacted laws that raised barriers to voter registration. However, it was not until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed by Congress that the majority of African Americans would be truly free to register and vote in large numbers. If no button appears, you cannot download or save the media.  Three weeks later, Johnson's veto was overridden and the measure became law. A number of blacks were killed at the Colfax massacre of 1873 while attempting to defend their right to vote. Section 2.  Representative John Bingham, the primary author of the Fourteenth Amendment, pushed for a wide-ranging ban on suffrage limitations, but a broader proposal banning voter restriction on the basis of "race, color, nativity, property, education, or religious beliefs" was rejected. Some examples of Jim Crow laws are poll taxes (a fee required to vote—generally not applied to white voters), literacy tests (the Mississippi test asked applicants to copy a portion of the state constitution at the white administrator's discretion), or owning property as a condition of voting. The audio, illustrations, photos, and videos are credited beneath the media asset, except for promotional images, which generally link to another page that contains the media credit. In Nixon v. Herndon (1927), Dr. Lawrence A. Nixon sued for damages under federal civil rights laws after being denied a ballot in a Democratic party primary election on the basis of race.  Although strongly urged by moderates in Congress to sign the bill, President Johnson vetoed it on March 27, 1866.  A proposal to specifically ban literacy tests was also rejected. After the United States Civil War, state governments that had been part of the Confederacy tried to limit the voting rights of black citizens and prevent contact between black and white citizens in public places. A Federal Elections Bill (the Lodge Bill of 1890) was successfully filibustered in the Senate.  Matters came to a head with the proposal of the Fifteenth Amendment, which barred race discrimination but not sex discrimination in voter laws. On February 26, 1869, after rejecting more sweeping versions of a suffrage amendment, Congress proposed a compromise amendment banning franchise restrictions on the basis of race, color, or previous servitude. For a while, President Johnson followed Lincoln’s plan, but then implemented his own in May of 1865. It prevents the States, or the United States, however, from giving preference, in this particular, to one citizen of the United States over another on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. 381–8, Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections, Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, "All Amendments to the United States Constitution", "Fifteenth Amendment: Framing and ratification", "Black Voting Rights: The History of the 15th Amendment", "Congratulating the Republican Party for according voting rights to African-Americans", "Congressional Globe, House of Representatives, 40th Congress, 3rd Session, page 1563-1564 In: A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875", "Congressional Globe, Senate, 40th Congress, 3rd Session, page 1641 In: A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875", "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner, Artist: Thomas Nast", "Uncle Sam's Thanksgiving Dinner: Two Coasts, Two Perspectives", "A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774–1875, Statutes at Large", "Black Americans got the right to vote 150 years ago, but voter suppression still a problem", "Fifteenth Amendment (Judicial Interpretation)", "Race and the right to vote after Rice v. Cayetano", "Between the Lines of the Voting Rights Act Opinion", "John Lewis and others react to the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act ruling", "Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General", Fifteenth Amendment and related resources at the Library of Congress, CRS Annotated Constitution: Fifteenth Amendment, "Campaign to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment", Parental Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, Proposed "Liberty" Amendment to the United States Constitution, Voting Accessibility for the Elderly and Handicapped Act, Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act, Disenfranchisement after the Reconstruction era, National Women's Rights Convention (1850–1869), Women's suffrage organizations and publications, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst Memorial, Centenary of Women's Suffrage Commemorative Fountain, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fifteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution&oldid=989783592, Amendments to the United States Constitution, History of voting rights in the United States, Articles with dead external links from September 2017, Articles with permanently dead external links, Short description is different from Wikidata, Wikipedia articles with WorldCat-VIAF identifiers, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, This page was last edited on 21 November 2020, at 00:31. Despite the amendment, by the late 1870s discriminatory practices were used to prevent blacks from exercising t… Almost immediately after ratification, African Americans began to take part in running for office and voting. , Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment punished, by reduced representation in the House of Representatives, any state that disenfranchised any male citizens over 21 years of age.  Southern states still controlled by Radical reconstruction governments, such as North Carolina, also swiftly ratified. The Enforcement Acts were passed by Congress in 1870–1871 to authorize federal prosecution of the KKK and others who violated the amendment.  Northern states were generally as averse to granting voting rights to blacks as Southern states.  In the last of the Texas primary cases, Terry v. Adams (1953), the Court ruled that black plaintiffs were entitled to damages from a group that organized whites-only pre-primary elections with the assistance of Democratic party officials. African Americans and women of all ethnicities have fought, and continue to fight, especially hard to have their voices heard. Previous to this amendment, there was no constitutional guaranty against this discrimination: now there is. This, under the express provisions of the second section of the amendment, Congress may enforce by "appropriate legislation".  African Americans—many of them newly freed slaves—put their newfound freedom to use, voting in scores of Black candidates. By 1976, sixty-three percent of Southern blacks were registered to vote, a figure only five percent less than that for Southern whites.  Both Southern and Northern Republicans also wanted to continue to deny the vote temporarily to Southerners disenfranchised for support of the Confederacy, and they were concerned that a sweeping endorsement of suffrage would enfranchise this group.  However, in United States v. Classic (1941), the Court ruled that primary elections were an essential part of the electoral process, undermining the reasoning in Grovey. , Following Nixon, the Democratic Party's state convention instituted a rule that only whites could vote in its primary elections; the Court unanimously upheld this rule as constitutional in Grovey v. Townsend (1935), distinguishing the discrimination by a private organization from that of the state in the previous primary cases. slavery, bondage, or a condition in which one lacks the ability to make decisions for one’s self or determine one’s own way of life. ", One source of opposition to the proposed amendment was the women's suffrage movement, which before and during the Civil War had made common cause with the abolitionist movement. However, in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), the Supreme Court ruled that Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act, which established the coverage formula that determined which jurisdictions were subject to preclearance, was no longer constitutional and exceeded Congress's enforcement authority under Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment. 1145 17th Street NW  Some Radical Republicans, such as Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, abstained from voting because the amendment did not prohibit literacy tests and poll taxes. , A House and Senate conference committee proposed the amendment's final text, which banned voter restriction only on the basis of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Before the war even ended he had created a plan referred to as Reconstruction.  The struggle for ratification was particularly close in Indiana and Ohio, which voted to ratify in May 1869 and January 1870, respectively. A system of white primaries and violent intimidation by white groups also suppressed black participation. The Fifteenth Amendment (Amendment XV) to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Voting rights were further incorporated into the Constitution in the Nineteenth Amendment (voting rights for women) and the Twenty-fourth Amendment (prohibiting poll taxes in federal elections).  The New England states and most Midwest states also ratified the amendment soon after its proposal. If a media asset is downloadable, a download button appears in the corner of the media viewer.  After Texas amended its statute to allow the political party's state executive committee to set voting qualifications, Nixon sued again; in Nixon v. Condon (1932), the Court again found in his favor on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment. " Congressman John R. Lynch later wrote that ratification of those two amendments made Reconstruction a success.. United States Supreme Court decisions in the late nineteenth century interpreted the amendment narrowly. (1865-1877) period during which the states formerly belonging to the Confederate States of America were transformed and integrated back into the United States following the Civil War.  Some Democrats even advocated a repeal of the amendment, such as William Bourke Cockran of New York. Investigate this complex period of national rebuilding and retrenchment further with these resources. You cannot download interactives. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. Congress responded with the Civil Rights Act of 1866, but that did not prevent states from passing discriminatory legislation. The Black Codes attempted to return ex-slaves to something like their former condition by, among other things, restricting their movement, forcing them to enter into year-long labor contracts, prohibiting them from owning firearms, and by preventing them from suing or testifying in court. In the twentieth century, the Court began to interpret the amendment more broadly, striking down grandfather clauses in Guinn v. United States (1915) and dismantling the white primary system in the "Texas primary cases" (1927–1953). That right is an exemption from discrimination in the exercise of the elective franchise on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. " Many Republicans felt that with the amendment's passage, black Americans no longer needed federal protection; congressman and future president James A. Garfield stated that the amendment's passage "confers upon the African race the care of its own destiny. Gina Borgia, National Geographic Society In United States v. Reese (1876), the first U.S. Supreme Court decision interpreting the Fifteenth Amendment, the Court interpreted the amendment narrowly, upholding ostensibly race-neutral limitations on suffrage including poll taxes, literacy tests, and a grandfather clause that exempted citizens from other voting requirements if their grandfathers had been registered voters. , In the 20th century, the Court began to read the Fifteenth Amendment more broadly.  However, as Reconstruction neared its end and federal troops withdrew, prosecutions under the Enforcement Acts dropped significantly. By failing to adopt a harsher penalty, this signaled to the states that they still possessed the right to deny ballot access based on race. It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.  Despite this victory, even some Republicans who had supported the goals of the Civil Rights Act began to doubt that Congress possessed the constitutional power to turn those goals into laws. 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. , In the final years of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era that followed, Congress repeatedly debated the rights of black former slaves freed by the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation and the 1865 Thirteenth Amendment, the latter of which had formally abolished slavery. The Court ruled in the related case Myers v. Anderson (1915), that the officials who enforced such a clause were liable for civil damages. © 1996 - 2020 National Geographic Society.  Congress had granted suffrage to Blacks in the territories by passing the Territorial Suffrage Act in 1867.  Following congressional approval, the proposed amendment was then sent by Secretary of State William Henry Seward to the states for ratification or rejection. The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted African American men the right to vote by declaring that 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." President Grant said of the amendment that it "completes the greatest civil change and constitutes the most important event that has occurred since the nation came to life. Jeanna Sullivan, National Geographic Society, Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society Terms of Service | , Congress used its authority pursuant to Section 2 of the Fifteenth Amendment to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965, achieving further racial equality in voting. Amendment XV Section 1.  Newly elected President Ulysses S. Grant strongly endorsed the amendment, calling it "a measure of grander importance than any other one act of the kind from the foundation of our free government to the present day."  New York, which had ratified on April 14, 1869, tried to revoke its ratification on January 5, 1870. Disenfranchisement is the word used to describe laws passed to prevent people from voting and obtaining rights other citizens have.The actions to prevent African Americans from exercising their civil rights became known as “Jim Crow” laws. However, with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, which had explicitly protected only male citizens in its second section, activists found the civil rights of women divorced from those of blacks. However, a week after the war ended, Lincoln was assassinated and Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President. , On June 18, 1866, Congress adopted the Fourteenth Amendment, which guaranteed citizenship and equal protection under the laws regardless of race, and sent it to the states for ratification. , Though many of the original proposals for the amendment had been moderated by negotiations in committee, the final draft nonetheless faced significant hurdles in being ratified by three-fourths of the states. Now it is not. , From 1890 to 1910, poll taxes and literacy tests were instituted across the South, effectively disenfranchising the great majority of black men. She or he will best know the preferred format. If you have questions about how to cite anything on our website in your project or classroom presentation, please contact your teacher. However, in February 1870, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas ratified the amendment, bringing the total ratifying states to twenty-nine—one more than the required twenty-eight ratifications from the thirty-seven states, and forestalling any court challenge to New York's resolution to withdraw its consent. In the final years of the American Civil War and the Reconstruction Era that followed, Congress repeatedly debated the rights of the millions of former black slaves. Sections 4 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act required states and local governments with histories of racial discrimination in voting to submit all changes to their voting laws or practices to the federal government for approval before they could take effect, a process called "preclearance". [a], Congress further weakened the acts in 1894 by removing a provision against conspiracy.  As president, he refused to enforce federal civil rights protections, allowing states to begin to implement racially discriminatory Jim Crow laws.  The experience encouraged both radical and moderate Republicans to seek Constitutional guarantees for black rights, rather than relying on temporary political majorities.  The Senate passed the amendment with a vote of 39 Republican votes of "Yea", 8 Democrat and 5 Republican votes of "Nay"; 13 Republican and 1 Democrat not voting. Code of Ethics. Section 2. The bill also guaranteed equal benefits and access to the law, a direct assault on the Black Codes passed by many post-war Southern states. Fifteenth Amendment Annotated 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 … Text on this page is printable and can be used according to our Terms of Service. The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified on February 3, 1870. Following the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment by Congress, however, Republicans grew concerned over the increase it would create in the congressional representation of the Democratic-dominated Southern states. When you reach out to him or her, you will need the page title, URL, and the date you accessed the resource. After an acrimonious debate, the American Equal Rights Association, the nation's leading suffragist group, split into two rival organizations: the National Woman Suffrage Association of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who opposed the amendment, and the American Woman Suffrage Association of Lucy Stone and Henry Browne Blackwell, who supported it.  The final vote in the Senate was 39 to 13, with 14 not voting. He privately asked Nebraska's governor to call a special legislative session to speed the process, securing the state's ratification. , Media related to Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution at Wikimedia Commons, Article of amendment to the U.S. Constitution, enumerating prohibition of federal and state governments denying right to vote on account of race, Congressional Globe, 39th Congress, 2nd Session, pp.  In Guinn v. United States (1915), a unanimous Court struck down an Oklahoma grandfather clause that effectively exempted white voters from a literacy test, finding it to be discriminatory. The Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future. The Court found in his favor on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law, while not discussing his Fifteenth Amendment claim.  The Court later relied on this decision in Rice v. Cayetano (2000), which struck down ancestry-based voting in elections for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs; the ruling held that the elections violated the Fifteenth Amendment by using "ancestry as a racial definition and for a racial purpose". Jim Crow laws were enforced by election boards or by groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, who intimidated African Americans with violence if they voted or wished to do so. The Court also found poll taxes in state election unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections (1966). Based on Classic, the Court in Smith v. Allwright (1944), overruled Grovey, ruling that denying non-white voters a ballot in primary elections was a violation of the Fifteenth Amendment. Historian William Gillette wrote of the process, "it was hard going and the outcome was uncertain until the very end. Section 1. The Rights Holder for media is the person or group credited. , Nevada was the first state to ratify the amendment, on March 1, 1869. However, voting for them was almost nonexistent in some places, especially in the South, because of threats, violence, and unethical practices, like poll taxes. In dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote, "Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.  The Court also stated that the amendment does not confer the right of suffrage, but it invests citizens of the United States with the right of exemption from discrimination in the exercise of the elective franchise on account of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude, and empowers Congress to enforce that right by "appropriate legislation". , After judicial enforcement of the Fifteenth Amendment ended grandfather clauses, white primaries, and other discriminatory tactics, Southern black voter registration gradually increased, rising from five percent in 1940 to twenty-eight percent in 1960.