15th Amendment
15th Amendment


Would you like not having the ability to vote for what you want just because of the color of your skin? This was the case for black men in the late 1800’s. Equal rights between whites and black’s during the late 1800’s was a major problem. Although, Reconstruction worked to establish one law and one government for men of all races, the problems of separate rights still existed. It took many years and amendments before the problems of separate rights would begin to change for the blacks.

Reconstruction in the south during the late 1800’s faced many obstacles. For a short time during Reconstruction, many African Americans were allowed to vote, and some were even elected into public office. However, it didn’t take long before blacks would start to face problems of separate rights. In the late 1870’s enthusiasm for ensuring black equality came to an abrupt stop when federal troops were withdrawn from the South. This left African Americans to the power of whites who were committed to redeeming the South. As if taking all political power away from the blacks wasn’t enough the next step was to take away their voting rights.

Many steps were taken to keep blacks from voting. To suppress the black vote, Southern states employed certain criteria that needed to be met. The poll tax was one way from keeping blacks from voting. This was created knowing that poor black’s and whites were hard-pressed to pay the tax. Another way of keeping blacks from voting was the literacy test, which uneducated blacks were certain not to pass. Confusing election procedures, that weren’t explained to the blacks, was another way of keeping the blacks from voting. The Grandfather Clause permitted anyone to vote if their father or grandfather had been registered to vote before the 15th amendment. This allowed almost any white man to continue voting even if he could not pay the poll tax or pass the literacy test. When all else failed Southerners were forced to establish whites-only voting in party primaries. The most effective way of keeping the blacks from voting was intimidation and violence. This included cross burning, forced unemployment, house and church burnings, rape, beatings, and murder. While the right to vote was taken away, the passing of the 15th amendment was the beginning of equality for blacks.

With the introduction of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments equality for blacks would begin to change for the better. To former abolitionist and to the Radical Republicans in Congress who fashioned Reconstruction after the Civil War, the 15th amendment, enacted in 1870, appeared to imply the fulfillment of all promises to African Americans. While blacks were set free by the 13th amendment, with citizenship guaranteed by the 14th amendment, black males were given the right to vote by the 15th amendment. The 15th amendment states that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United states or by the State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude (US News).” The text also gives the Congress the power to enforce the amendment.

After many years and many different amendments the problems of separate rights were just starting to change for the blacks. With the passing of the 15th amendment blacks were given all the rights back that had been taken from them. For once they had similar, if not the same rights as a white man. In reality, the 15th amendment was only the beginning of a struggle for equality that would continue for more than a century.