The Info List - Reconstruction Amendments

The Reconstruction Amendments
Reconstruction Amendments
are the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments to the United States Constitution,[1] adopted between 1865 and 1870, the five years immediately following the Civil War. The last time the Constitution had been amended was with the Twelfth Amendment more than 60 years earlier in 1804. The Reconstruction amendments were important in implementing the Reconstruction of the American South after the war. Their proponents saw them as transforming the United States from a country that was (in Abraham Lincoln's words) "half slave and half free" to one in which the constitutionally guaranteed "blessings of liberty" would be extended to the entire populace, including the former slaves and their descendants. The Thirteenth Amendment (proposed in 1864 and ratified in 1865) abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except for those duly convicted of a crime.[2] The Fourteenth Amendment (proposed in 1866 and ratified in 1868) addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws for all persons.[3] The Fifteenth Amendment (proposed in 1869 and ratified in 1870) prohibits discrimination in voting rights of citizens on the basis of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."[4] This amendment did not include a specific prohibition on discrimination on the basis of sex; it took another amendment—the Nineteenth, ratified in 1920—to prohibit such discrimination explicitly.[5] Men and women of all races, regardless of prior slavery, could vote in some states of the early United States, such as New Jersey, provided that they could meet other requirements, such as property ownership. These amendments were intended to guarantee freedom to former slaves and to establish and prevent discrimination in civil rights to former slaves and all citizens of the United States. The promise of these amendments was eroded by state laws and federal court decisions over the course of the 19th century. Women were prohibited by some state constitutions and laws from voting, leading to Susan B. Anthony attempting to vote in New York in the 1872 Presidential election as an act of civil disobedience. In 1876 and later, some states passed Jim Crow laws that limited the rights of African-Americans. Important Supreme Court decisions that undermined these amendments were the Slaughter-House Cases
Slaughter-House Cases
in 1873, which prevented rights guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment's privileges or immunities clause from being extended to rights under state law; and Plessy v. Ferguson
Plessy v. Ferguson
in 1896 which originated the phrase "separate but equal" and gave federal approval to Jim Crow
Jim Crow
laws. The full benefits of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments were not realized until the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education
Brown v. Board of Education
in 1954 and laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Civil Rights Act of 1964
and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


1 Thirteenth Amendment 2 Fourteenth Amendment 3 Fifteenth Amendment 4 Selected Supreme Court cases

4.1 Citizenship 4.2 Privileges or immunities 4.3 Incorporation 4.4 Substantive due process 4.5 Equal protection 4.6 Apportionment of Representatives 4.7 Power of enforcement

5 See also 6 References

Thirteenth Amendment[edit] Main article: Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Text of the 13th Amendment

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the U.S. Senate on April 8, 1864, and, after one unsuccessful vote and extensive legislative maneuvering by the Lincoln administration, the House followed suit on January 31, 1865. The measure was swiftly ratified by all but three Union states (the exceptions were Delaware, New Jersey, and Kentucky), and by a sufficient number of border and "reconstructed" Southern states, to be ratified by December 6, 1865. On December 18, 1865, Secretary of State William H. Seward
William H. Seward
proclaimed it to have been incorporated into the federal Constitution. It became part of the Constitution 61 years after the Twelfth Amendment. This is the longest interval between constitutional amendments to date.[6] Slavery had been tacitly enshrined in the original Constitution through provisions such as Article I, Section 2, Clause 3, commonly known as the Three-Fifths Compromise, which detailed how each state's total slave population would be factored into its total population count for the purposes of apportioning seats in the United States House of Representatives and direct taxes among the states. Although many slaves had been declared free by Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, their legal status after the Civil War was uncertain.

Fourteenth Amendment[edit] Main article: Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

The two pages of the Fourteenth Amendment in the National Archives

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
was proposed by Congress on June 13, 1866. By July 9, 1868, it had received ratifications by the legislatures of the required number of states in order to officially become the Fourteenth Amendment. On July 20, 1868, Secretary of State William Seward certified that it had been ratified and added to the federal Constitution. The amendment addresses citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws, and was proposed in response to issues related to treatment of freedmen following the war. The amendment was bitterly contested, particularly by Southern states, which were forced to ratify it in order to return their delegations to Congress. The Fourteenth Amendment, particularly its first section, is one of the most litigated parts of the Constitution, forming the basis for landmark decisions such as Roe v. Wade (1973), regarding abortion, and Bush v. Gore
Bush v. Gore
(2000), regarding the 2000 presidential election. The second, third, and fourth sections of the amendment are seldom, if ever, litigated. The fifth section gives Congress enforcement power. The amendment's first section includes several clauses: the Citizenship Clause, Privileges or Immunities Clause, Due Process Clause, and Equal Protection Clause. The Citizenship Clause
Citizenship Clause
provides a broad definition of citizenship, overruling the Supreme Court's decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford
Dred Scott v. Sandford
(1857), which had held that Americans descended from Africans could not be citizens of the United States. The Privileges or Immunities Clause
Privileges or Immunities Clause
has been interpreted in such a way that it does very little. While "Section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment reduces congressional representation for states that deny suffrage on racial grounds," it was not enforced after southern states disfranchised blacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (see below, at Fifteenth Amendment).[7] While Northern Congressmen in 1900 raised objections to the inequities of southern states being apportioned seats based on total populations when they excluded blacks, Southern Democratic Party representatives formed such a powerful block that opponents could not gain approval for change of apportionment.[8] The Due Process Clause
Due Process Clause
prohibits state and local government officials from depriving persons of life, liberty, or property without legislative authorization. This clause has also been used by the federal judiciary to make most of the Bill of Rights applicable to the states, as well as to recognize substantive and procedural requirements that state laws must satisfy. The Equal Protection Clause
Equal Protection Clause
requires each state to provide equal protection under the law to all people within its jurisdiction. This clause was the basis for the US Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, and its prohibition of laws against interracial marriage, in its ruling in Loving v. Virginia
Loving v. Virginia
(1967). This amendment was the foundation of elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965
Voting Rights Act of 1965
(this also relied on the 15th Amendment), legislation to end legal segregation in the states and to provide for oversight and enforcement by the federal government of citizens' rights to vote without discrimination. It has also been referred to for many other court decisions rejecting unnecessary discrimination against people belonging to various groups. Fifteenth Amendment[edit] Main article: Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Text of the 15th Amendment

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments. By 1869, amendments had been passed to abolish slavery and provide citizenship and equal protection under the laws, but the narrow election of Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
to the presidency in 1868 convinced a majority of Republicans that protecting the franchise of black voters was important for the party's future. 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 on February 26, 1869. The amendment survived a difficult ratification fight and was adopted on March 30, 1870. After blacks gained the vote, the Ku Klux Klan
Ku Klux Klan
directed some of their attacks to disrupt their political meetings and intimidate them at the polls, to suppress black participation. In the mid-1870s, there was a rise in new insurgent groups, such as the Red Shirts and White League, who acted on behalf of the Democratic Party to violently suppress black voting. While white Democrats regained power in southern state legislatures, through the 1880s and early 1890s, numerous blacks continued to be elected to local offices in many states, as well as to Congress as late as 1894. From 1890 to 1910, all the states of the former Confederacy passed new constitutions and other laws that incorporated methods to disfranchise blacks, such as poll taxes, residency rules, and literacy tests administered by white staff, sometimes with exemptions for whites via grandfather clauses. When challenges reached the Supreme Court, it interpreted the amendment narrowly, ruling based on the stated intent of the laws rather than their practical effect. The results in voter suppression were dramatic, as voter rolls fells: nearly all blacks, as well as tens of thousands of poor whites in Alabama and other states,[9] were forced off the voter registration rolls and out of the political system, effectively excluding millions of people from representation. Democratic state legislatures passed racial segregation laws for public facilities and other types of Jim Crow restrictions. During this period of political struggle, the rate of lynchings in the South reached an all-time high. In the twentieth century, the Court interpreted the amendment more broadly, striking down grandfather clauses in Guinn v. United States (1915). It took a quarter century to finally dismantle the white primary system in the "Texas primary cases" (1927–1953). With the South having become a one-party region after the disfranchisement of blacks, Democratic Party primaries were the only competitive contests in the states. But Southern states reacted rapidly to Supreme Court decisions, often devising new ways to continue to exclude blacks from voter rolls and voting; most blacks in the South did not gain the ability to vote until after passage of the mid-1960s federal civil rights legislation and beginning of federal oversight of voter registration and district boundaries. The Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964) forbade the requirement for poll taxes in federal elections; by this time five of the eleven southern states continued to require such taxes. Together with the US Supreme Court ruling in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections (1966), which forbade requiring poll taxes in state elections, blacks regained the opportunity to participate in the American political system. Selected Supreme Court cases[edit] Citizenship[edit]

1884: Elk v. Wilkins 1898: United States v. Wong Kim Ark 1967: Afroyim v. Rusk

1980: Vance v. Terrazas 1982: Plyler v. Doe

Privileges or immunities[edit]

1868: Crandall v. Nevada 1873: Slaughter-House Cases 1908: Twining v. New Jersey

1920: United States v. Wheeler 1948: Oyama v. California 1999: Saenz v. Roe


1833: Barron v. Baltimore 1873: Slaughter-House Cases 1883: Civil Rights Cases 1884: Hurtado v. California 1897: Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad v. Chicago 1900: Maxwell v. Dow 1908: Twining v. New Jersey 1925: Gitlow v. New York 1932: Powell v. Alabama

1937: Palko v. Connecticut 1947: Adamson v. California 1952: Rochin v. California 1961: Mapp v. Ohio 1962: Robinson v. California 1963: Gideon v. Wainwright 1964: Malloy v. Hogan 1967: Reitman v. Mulkey 1968: Duncan v. Louisiana

1969: Benton v. Maryland 1970: Goldberg v. Kelly 1972: Furman v. Georgia 1974: Goss v. Lopez 1975: O'Connor v. Donaldson 1976: Gregg v. Georgia 2010: McDonald v. Chicago

Substantive due process[edit]

1876: Munn v. Illinois 1887: Mugler v. Kansas 1897: Allgeyer v. Louisiana 1905: Lochner v. New York 1908: Muller v. Oregon 1923: Adkins v. Children's Hospital 1923: Meyer v. Nebraska 1925: Pierce v. Society of Sisters

1934: Nebbia v. New York 1937: West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish 1965: Griswold v. Connecticut 1973: Roe v. Wade 1992: Planned Parenthood v. Casey 1996: BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore 2003: State Farm v. Campbell 2003: Lawrence v. Texas

Equal protection[edit]

1880: Strauder v. West Virginia 1886: Yick Wo v. Hopkins 1886: Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad 1896: Plessy v. Ferguson 1908: Berea College v. Kentucky 1917: Buchanan v. Warley 1942: Skinner v. Oklahoma 1944: Korematsu v. United States 1948: Shelley v. Kraemer 1954: Hernandez v. Texas 1954: Brown v. Board of Education 1962: Baker v. Carr

1967: Loving v. Virginia 1971: Reed v. Reed 1973: San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez 1976: Examining Board v. Flores de Otero 1978: Regents of the University of California v. Bakke 1982: Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan 1986: Posadas de Puerto Rico Associates v. Tourism Company of Puerto Rico 1996: United States v. Virginia 1996: Romer v. Evans 2000: Bush v. Gore 2015: Obergefell v. Hodges

Apportionment of Representatives[edit]

1974: Richardson v. Ramirez

Power of enforcement[edit]

1883: Civil Rights Cases 1966: Katzenbach v. Morgan 1997: City of Boerne v. Flores 1999: Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Education Expense Board v. College Savings Bank 2000: United States v. Morrison

2000: Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents 2001: Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama v. Garrett 2003: Nevada Department of Human Resources v. Hibbs 2004: Tennessee v. Lane

See also[edit]

Crittenden Compromise Corwin Amendment National Freedom Day Reconstruction Acts 40 acres and a mule Ballot access Black suffrage Voting rights in the United States Slavery Abolition Act 1833
Slavery Abolition Act 1833
(United Kingdom)


^ Foner, Eric. "The Reconstruction Amendments: Official Documents as Social History." Gilderlehrman.org. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2012(subscription required) ^ "America's Historical Documents". 25 January 2016.  ^ Kelly, Martin. "14th Amendment Summary - What Is the Fourteenth Amendment." About.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Dec. 2012. ^ "Primary Documents in American History." 15th Amendment to the Constitution: Primary Documents of American History (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress). N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2012. ^ "Featured Documents". 6 October 2015.  ^ "The Constitution of the United States: Amendments 11-27". United States National Archives. United States National Archives. Retrieved 24 February 2014.  ^ COMMITTEE AT ODDS ON REAPPORTIONMENT, The New York Times, 20 Dec 1900, accessed 10 Mar 2008 ^ Richard M. Valelly, The Two Reconstructions: The Struggle for Black Enfranchisement University of Chicago Press, 2009, pp. 146-147 ^ Glenn Feldman, The Disenfranchisement Myth: Poor Whites and Suffrage Restriction in Alabama, Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2004, pp. 135–136

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