The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1789) guarantees that an American citizen cannot be discriminated against in exercising the right to vote. The amendment was proposed in Congress on February 26, 1869, and ratified by the required number of states on February 3, 1870. The 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 any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." Though the language applied to people of all races, it was sometimes called the Black Suffrage (right to vote) Amendment because, during the period in which it was passed, legislators intended to prevent southern states from denying African American citizens the right to vote.
After ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment (1865), which outlawed slavery throughout the Union, the U.S. Congress made approval of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments a prerequisite for reentry to the Union. Before a southern state could be readmitted, its legislature had to approve both amendments. Congress thus assured that former slaves would be made citizens of both the United States and the state where they lived, that equal rights would be granted to all citizens, and that suffrage (the right to vote) was extended to African American men. Under these conditions all southern states were readmitted to the Union by July 15, 1870.
By the end of the 1800s, however, state legislatures in the South had devised ways to prevent their African American citizens from voting. Methods included instituting a poll tax (requiring a voter to pay a fee in order to cast his vote) and literacy tests, which had to be passed as a prerequisite for voting. Most states also adopted legislation by which voting rights were extended only to those citizens who had been able to vote in 1867—a date when few if any African Americans would have had the right. Because these laws also established high voting requirements for the descendants of men who could not vote in that year, they were called "grandfather clauses."
Attempts to deny citizens the right to vote were made unlawful in 1964 by the Twenty-Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (One of the features of that Amendment outlawed the poll tax in federal elections and primaries.) Moreover, in 1966, poll taxes at state and local levels were also declared illegal. Literacy tests and grandfather clauses were also struck down as unconstitutional.
See also: Poll Tax, Thirteenth Amendment
"Fifteenth Amendment." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fifteenth-amendment-0
"Fifteenth Amendment." Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. Economic History. . Retrieved April 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fifteenth-amendment-0
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The Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
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.
The Fifteenth Amendment was ratified by the states in 1870 and also gave Congress the power to enforce such rights against governments that sought to undermine this guarantee through the enactment of appropriate legislation. Enforcement was, however, difficult as states employed grandfather clauses and other eligibility requirements to maintain racial discrimination in the electoral process.
"Fifteenth Amendment." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 18, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fifteenth-amendment
"Fifteenth Amendment." West's Encyclopedia of American Law. . Retrieved April 18, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/law/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/fifteenth-amendment