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The 14th Amendment is Ratified



The Fourteenth Amendment was originally ratified to protect the freedman from the abrogation of his rights by the Southern states. Looking to protect the African American, the amendment made him a citizen and forced the federal government to be responsible for him. The Fourteenth Amendment prohibited the States from denying or abridging the fundamental rights of every citizen and required them to grant all persons equal protection and due process .

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It was obvious that the "political rights" part of the proposed change was intended to open the way for Black voting on a national scale . The wording of the amendment looked something, though obviously not completely, like this: "Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this Union, according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of citizens of the United States; provided that whenever in any State civil or political rights or privilege shall be denied or abridged on account of race or color, all persons of such race or color shall be excluded from the basis of representation or taxation."

Ratification of the document took a horribly long time due to the fact that it occurred toward the end of the Civil War. Ironically, the amendment was ratified on July 28, 1868. Southern states were required to ratify it in order to be readmitted into the Union . However, the Supreme Court's ruling in the 1873 Slaughterhouse cases diluted the amendment so much that all federal control over state police powers was virtually eliminated .

The Fourteenth Amendment was also very important much later on, in the 1950s and 1960s. While originally constructed to deal with the rights of freedmen, cases such as Brown vs. Board of Education, turned to a quite similar issue. Its interpretation came to be the legal heart of the civil rights movement of the `60s. The fourteenth amendment was arguably the most important of all. It radically changed the definition of the United States Citizen.

Edited, Researched and Written by: Timothy R. Dykes
November 11, 1997

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