DC -- Library of Congress -- Exhibit (Agile): 15th Amendment:
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LC15TH_200205_07.JPG: African Americans and the Vote
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Northern Republicans in Congress proposed the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution that granted the newly freed slaves freedom, citizenship, and the right to vote, respectively. Several civil rights acts were also passed in an attempt to protect the freedom of the freed population. During the Reconstruction era, African American men participated in electoral politics as voters and as public officials. States in the South gradually adopted a variety of methods to disenfranchise black voters and instituted "Jim Crow" (segregation) laws mandating the separation of the races in practically every aspect of life.
LC15TH_200205_14.JPG: A Petition for Voting Rights
Massachusetts-born Paul Cuffee (1759-1817) was the son of an African father and a Native American mother. In 1780 Cuffee, who was a successful ship owner, along with his brother and several others, petitioned Massachusetts for the right to vote, citing the principle of taxation without representation. They did not win immediately, but voting rights were granted to African Americans in that state three years later.
LC15TH_200205_19.JPG: Civil Rights Cases of 1883
The Civil Rights Act of 1875, much like Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, forbade both public and private acts of discrimination in public accommodations. The Supreme Court's opinion in the group of five cases, known as the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, severely limited the reach of the Fourteenth Amendment. It held that the Fourteenth Amendment, Section V, allowed Congress to prohibit certain discriminatory action by state and local governments but could not prohibit acts of discrimination by private individuals and organizations.
LC15TH_200205_25.JPG: The Fourteenth Amendment
By 1902, African Americans had become increasingly frustrated with the federal government's unwillingness to enforce the second section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which called for reducing a state's apportionment in Congress when the state prevented any male from voting. Cartoonist Edward Windsor Kemble blames the Republican Party, as represented by its signature elephant, for counseling African Americans, represented by a small child, not to wake up Congress in their agitation to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment.
LC15TH_200205_36.JPG: The 150th Anniversary of the 15th Amendment
THe Fifteenth Amendment prohibited states from using race or previous condition of servitude as a basis for disenfranchisement. It gave the Supreme Court a basis in which to hold state-sanctioned electoral devices that indirectly impeded the right of blacks to vote in violation of the U.S. Constitution. One such device was the "grandfather clause," a state law that declared a voter did not have to meet qualifications to vote, such as a literacy test, provided he was descended from a voter who could vote on January 1, 1867, a limitation that systematically excluded blacks.
LC15TH_200205_38.JPG: A Celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment
This lithograph features Hiram Revels (R-MS), who during Reconstruction was the first American of African descent to serve as a senator in the US Congress in 1870 and 1871. Revels was born to free parents in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on September 27, 1827, and remained free during his lifetime.
LC15TH_200205_54.JPG: End of the Poll Tax
On January 23, 1964, the Twenty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution ended the Poll Tax. The amendment prohibits the states or federal government from requiring voters to pay a poll tax before they are able to vote in a national election. The use of the poll tax was revived following the end of Reconstruction as a mechanism to restrict access to voting for underprivileged people in general and African Americans in particular.
LC15TH_200205_64.JPG: The Voting Rights Act of 1965
On March 15, 1965, President Lyndon Johnson addressed a point session of Congress to urge the passage of a voting rights bill in response to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s campaign in Selma, Alabama. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 provided direct federal enforcement to remove literacy tests and other devices that had been used to disenfranchise African Americans. It authorized the appointment of federal registrars to register voters and observe elections. It also prevented states from changing voting requirements and gerrymandering districts for a period of five years without federal review. The poll tax, a point of dispute, was fully banned in 1966.
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2020 photos: The year is too new to have anything to report. The Covid-19 disaster cut off most events here in DC after March 11 and even cut off going outside after awhile. Here's hoping honesty and integrity wins for a change this November.