15th Amendment

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.

Section 2.
The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Proposed by Congress, February 26th, 1869 and ratification achieved by February 3rd, 1870. Twenty-nine states initially ratified and seven symbolically ratified after 1870 they were
New Jersey (February 15, 1871), Delaware (February 12, 1901), Oregon (February 24, 1959), California (April 3, 1962), Maryland (May 7, 1973), Kentucky (March 18, 1976) and Tennessee (April 8, 1997).

One of the best ways to describe the need for the 15th is to consider the “dark times” of the Reconstruction Era. The so-called radical Republicans in Congress had setup some four military districts whose goals were to not only oversee the progress of reconstruction but it was the desire of Congress to ensure that the ‘Negro’ was integrated into all aspects of American society. To this end it was felt by those “radicals” in Congress that the ‘Negro’ [black male] be given the right to vote and be placed into political office, local and state government and eventually be voted into Congress.

It became clear that despite those efforts many states in the North were not interested in the ‘Negro’ voting in the North.

It would be wrong to not state that Republicans viewed this effort as building their own voting base. The ‘Negro’ would, it was believed, become the new Republicans. They in fact were already the new Republican in the South.

The Constitutional Rights Foundation on their website, titled, Africans and the 15th Amendment, wrote, “In 1867, Congress passed a law requiring the former Confederate states to include black male suffrage in their new state constitutions [There were four acts altogether to provide for the more efficient government of the “Rebel States” and it was passed on March 2, 1867. Fulfillment of the requirements of the Acts were necessary for the former Confederate States to be readmitted to the Union]. Ironically, even though African American men began voting in the South after 1867, the majority of Northern states continued to deny them this basic right.

In the North, the Republican’s once huge voter majority over the Democratic Party was declining. Radical Republican leaders feared that they might lose control of Congress to the Democrats.

One solution to this problem called for including the black man’s vote in all Northern states. Republicans assumed the new black voters would vote Republican just as their brothers were doing in the South. By increasing its voters in the North and South, the Republican Party could then maintain its stronghold in Congress.

The Republicans, however, faced an incredible dilemma. The idea of blacks voting was not popular in the North. In fact, several Northern states had recently voted against black male suffrage.”

The Constitutional Rights Foundation went on to state “In May 1868, the Republicans held their presidential nominating convention in Chicago and chose Ulysses S. Grant as their candidate. The Republicans agreed that African-American male suffrage continued to be a requirement for the Southern states, but decided that the Northern states should settle this issue for themselves.

Grant was victorious in the election of 1868, but this popular General won by a surprisingly slim margin. It was clear to Republican leaders that if they were to remain in power, their party needed the votes of black men in the North.”

It is said that we are ignorant; admit it. But if we know enough to be hung, we know enough to vote. If the Negro knows enough to pay taxes to support government, he knows enough to vote; taxation and representation should go together. If he knows enough to shoulder a musket and fight for the flag for the government, he knows enough to vote ….What I ask for the Negro is not benevolence, not pity, not sympathy, but simply justice. ┈ Fredrick Douglas, 1865

As with all best efforts whether it be Acts or Reconstruction Era Amendments obstacles, it could not be denied. were creatively placed in the way for complete enfranchisement.

The Reconstruction Era Amendments and Acts, while certainly needed, the fallout had many consequence that we are still living with today.

The 15th extended rights of the black male to vote. The amendment fell short of recognising women of any race as citizens deserving of full political participation in the Republic.

ARC says “America was founded, not as a “democracy,” but as a constitutional republic–a political structure under which the government is bound by a written constitution to the task of protecting individual rights.” ARC goes on to state, “The right to vote derives from the recognition of man as an autonomous, rational being, who is responsible for his own life and who should therefore freely choose the people he authorizes to represent him in the government of his country. That autonomy is contradicted if a majority of voters is allowed to do whatever it wishes to the individual citizen. The right to vote is not a sanction for a gang to deprive other individuals of their freedom. Rather, because a free society requires a certain type of government, it is a means of installing the officials who will safeguard the individual rights of each citizen.”

Constitution Law points out the Stipulations of the 15th Amendment “The 15th Amendment overturned the preexisting statute prohibiting African-American citizens of the United States from suffrage; furthermore, any previous station of servitude or slavery undertaken by any individual was immaterial with regard to the right to vote.”

It is interesting that while the 15th prohibited denying African-American citizens of the United States from suffrage” it did nothing to recognize either black, white or other races of women the right to suffrage. Were not women citizens? Were not black women held in servitude?

Many abolitionist were as well suffragist. Women were dismayed that the 15th amendment did not include gender along with “account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”.

It would take women another fifty years to secure the right to vote. Women’s suffrage movement officially can be marked as 1848 with the convention at Seneca Falls, N.Y. All told the active movement by women to secure the right to vote encompassed some seventy years. The 19th Amendment ratified in 1920 would enfranchise women.

Many black women not only being abolition’s were suffragist. Perhaps the most infamous was Sojourner Truth, a former slave, became famous as both an abolitionist and an advocate of women’s suffrage. In 1851, she made her famous speech, “Ain’t I A Woman.” The following represents only a small message of her speech.

“Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”

“Freedom, righteousness and justice” are won in struggle. It is through continued struggle that we assure we keep our liberty.