15th Amendment to the Constitution
from the Library of Congress
|“The first vote” A.R.Waud. Wood engraving. 1867. Prints & Photographs Division. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62-19234|
The 15th Amendment to the Constitution granted African American men the right to vote by declaring 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.” Although ratified on February 3, 1870, the promise of the 15th Amendment would not be fully realized for almost a century. Through the use of poll taxes, literacy tests and other means, Southern states were able to effectively disenfranchise African Americans. It would take the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were registered to vote.
American Memory Historical Collections
Search this collection, using the phrase “15th amendment” or “fifteenth amendment” to find additional newspaper articles and pamphlets on this topic.
Edward Morrell, a congressman from Pennsylvania, delivered a speech in 1904 that refutes the argument that African Americans should be deprived of the right to vote. Following his speech are testimonials on both sides of the question,some from men such as Wendell Phillips and James Garfield.
Search in this collection using the words “suffrage”to find additional documents related to African Americans and voting rights.
Contains a broadside printed in Connecticut of President Ulysses S. Grant’s message to Congress announcing the ratification of the 15th Amendment.
The House of Representatives passed the 15th Amendment on February 25, 1869, by a vote of 144 to 44, and the Senate passed the 15th Amendment on February 26, 1869, by a vote of 39 to 13. On March 30, 1870, Secretary of State Hamilton Fish issued a proclamation certifying the ratification of the 15th Amendment by the states.
Search this collection in the 40th Congress using keywords such as “suffrage”, “amendment” and “constitution” to find additional information on the 15th Amendment. After conducting a search look for references to Senate Joint Resolution 8, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which is often referred to as S. R. No. 8 or S. R. 8.
In 1872, the Union Congressional Republican Committee published a pamphlet outlining policy differences between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of suffrage for African Americans and the 15th Amendment.
Search this collection using the word “suffrage” to retrieve over twenty documents on this topic.
The Chronicling America site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1860 to 1922 from the following states: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.
Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the 15th Amendment.
A selection of articles on the 15th Amendment includes:
- “The Fifteenth Amendment,” Daily National Republican. (Washington City [D.C.]), March 31, 1870.
- “The Fifteenth Amendment: Message of the President in Full,” The Charleston Daily News. (Charleston, S.C.), April 2, 1870.
- “The Fifteenth Amendment: Thanksgiving Services,” New-York Tribune. (New York [N.Y.]), April 4, 1870.
This exhibition showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displays more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps,musical scores, plays, films, and recordings. Contains a section on Reconstruction that includes a picture from Harper’s Weekly entitled “The First Vote.”
Contains a lithograph of a parade in Baltimore, Maryland,celebrating the 15th Amendment on May 19, 1870.
External Web Sites
Our Documents, 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration
Darling, Marsha J. Tyson, ed. Race,Voting, Redistricting, and the Constitution: Sources and Explorations on the Fifteenth Amendment. New York: Routledge. [Catalog Record]
Gillette, William. The Right to Vote: Politics and the Passage of the Fifteenth Amendment. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969. [Catalog Record]
Maltz, Earl M. Civil Rights, the Constitution, and Congress, 1863-1869. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas,1990. [Catalog Record]
Mathews, John Mabry. Legislative and Judicial History of the Fifteenth Amendment. Union, N.J.: Lawbook Exchange, 2001. [Catalog Record]
Banfield, Susan. The Fifteenth Amendment: African-American Men’s Right to Vote. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers,1998. [Catalog Record]
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