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Constitution Monday: The Vote for All Citizens

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was the last of three amendments passed in the wake of the Civil War. Here is the text:


Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.

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 the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The 15th Amendment was aimed at preserving the right of freed slaves and their descendants to vote. This is a good example of how a Constitutional right doesn’t mean much if its not enforced. After Reconstruction, African Americans were effectively denied the vote in many parts of our country until Congress stepped in the 1960s with the Voting Rights Act and its subsequent amendments. Congress was able to do so because of Section 2 of this Amendment.

Did you notice that the other two (13th and 14th) post Civil War Amendments also had a section that said “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article?” Why do you think that is?

If you don’t want to guess, I provide a general answer in my posting on the 10th Amendment.

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