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The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were added to the constitution after the civil war but weren’t easily ratified. Though the union had won the war, the confederates were not easily backing down. For both the 13th and 14th amendments the federal government required ratification from the southern states to be allowed back into the union. The 13th amendment abolishes slavery. It has a second clause that gives the federal government the right to enforce this abolition. Though President Johnson didn’t truly support equal rights, he makes it a condition of re-entry to the union that states ratify this amendment, due to the tension between him and congress.
The 14th amendment gave civil rights to slaves. It gave them citizenship and made sure those rights also applied on state levels. It also has a clause that says the state can’t deny equal protection, which is the first mention in the Constitution of equality. This amendment came with a lot of pushback. Every southern state representative thought it was outrageous and denied the movement. Congress eventually took the same route as the 13th amendment and required ratification in order for states to join the union again.
The 15th amendment gave African-American men the right to vote. Fundamentally, it states that no one can be denied voting due to their race. It left very open-ended ways to deny people the right to vote like literacy tests and property qualification.
Though these amendments sound good on paper, in reality, they were almost nowhere to be found in states years later. Slavery was abolished but segregation quickly took its place. People were denied voter registration due to the color of their skin. Many got harassed, beaten, or worse. Literacy tests were put in place and people were told they couldn’t read or write well enough.
Some steps were made in the right direction as black men were able to vote and hold office for a short period of time. These steps forward just angered the confederates, though. Then began the rise of the Klu Klux Klan and other terrorist organizations. They used violence and fear to prevent the reconstruction from furthering. It isn’t until centuries later when the civil rights movement begins, that equal rights really begin to change.
The civil rights act of 1964 banned all discrimination and segregation not only for race, but also for sex, religion, or national origin. The civil rights movement also resulted in the Voting Rights Act, which banned things such as literacy tests. The 24th amendment was also passed, banning poll taxes. These were enormous victories for racial equality, but to this day there are still many things that need to change.
The whole country witnessed and took place in the protests of how black lives are treated by police. Though George Floyd’s death spurred the movement, his is one of many cases where this happens to African-Americans, and people finally had enough. The country became more unified than I had ever seen or heard of before, yet not many government changes were made to try and solve the problem. We are still working towards a victory when it comes to racial justice and the coming generations have already shown they’re ready to fight for it.
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