Imagine living in a world where citizens preached that their country is the new free world and were granted rights and opportunities like no other country has done in the world. This may be true but as the matter of the fact, minorities and people of color could not get jobs, vote, or have rights like everyone else but instead live their lives as slaves and never treated like a human being. That is what the United States of America felt like and faced this reality from the day pilgrims settled on American soil all the way until 1965. During this period of American history. White Americans were extremely inhumane, racist and belittling towards slaves and minorities that were placed in the U.S. resulting in only benefiting the upper-class and their needs. It came to the point where this behavior towards African-Americans needed to come to an end. There would be no change unless laws were put down to end the struggle for minorities.
Thus the creation of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments was born. This was also referenced as the “Reconstruction Amendments” and it took The United States nearly 50 years to establish these three significant amendments that would benefit people of color to live the life they deserve in the U.S. The Thirteenth Amendment was placed so slavery would be abolished for good. On the other hand, the Fourteenth Amendment consisted of granting citizenship to anyone who was a slave at that point while in todays time, it is continued to be used to allow people across the world to have the opportunity to live in the United States. There also was the creation of The Fifteenth Amendment, this was the first step to have African-Americans receive access to contribute to the decision of selecting new Politicians or Presidents by giving them the right to vote. Without these three amendments in the U.S., there would not have been more chain reactions for more rights and laws created for minorities and people of color living in the United States.
The Thirteenth Amendment:
As stated in the Constitution, in section one of the Thirteenth Amendment the document explains that, neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. The Thirteenth Amendment is setting fourth that slavery cannot be practiced in any shape or form in the United States. Without the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by no other than President Abraham Lincoln, either slavery would have gone on for longer than it should have or slavery could of possibly been an ongoing topic to this day as a worse case scenario. The situation from the beginning was when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued on January 1st, 1863, the only slaves that were freed were the ones that rebelled in territory that was against the Union in the Civil War. Meanwhile around 800,000 people were still exposed to slavery. In consideration of this not fulfilling what President Lincoln intended to do, he decided to instruct antislavery Radical Republicans in Congress. The Republican Party believed that slavery was a corrupt and economically backward institution, which survived only because of its expansion into new territories… (Barnett, 12-01-2015, pg.59). In April of 1864, the Senate decided to add the Amendment to the upcoming 1864 elections, which the House proceeded with to pass after Lincoln’s re-election. Next came the ratification from states that the amendment was sent to. It started in the eleven states of Confederacy. Four of them ratified the amendment towards the end of the Civil War which got put into place by Lincoln’s reconstruction policy. Virginia also decided to ratify the amendment through a minority legislature that was formulated after its secession. Final ratification for the Thirteenth Amendment was completed on December 6th 1865, Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the amendment. The Thirteenth Amendment is symbolic to African-American rights due to the fact it became the first stepping stone in order for everyone of color to have the same rights as any American should.
The Fourteenth Amendment:
The Fourteenth Amendment confirms in section one that, All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. The Fourteenth Amendment confirms that every citizen in the United States has the same privileges and that no states are given permission to enforce their own laws that break the boundaries of the amendment. The amendment was ratified on July 28th, 1868 and it helped the 800,000 that were not able to escape slavery do just that. At first, the amendment was rejected by most Southern states. The Southern states had been placed under military rule, and were forced to ratify the Amendment—which they despised—as a condition of ending military occupation and rejoining the Union (Colby 07-01-2013, pg.1627). Since of majority vote, the South could do nothing about the new law change.
Plessy V. Ferguson Trial:
After the Fourteenth Amendment became ratified, women and African-Americans attempted to take advantage of the new amendment and tried to vote. With that said, The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson which created the term “separate but equal”. Facilities were considered sufficient to satisfy the 14th Amendment. Plessy v. Ferguson is one of the most well-known cases to hit the Supreme Court arguably in all of American history. It started on May 18th, 1896 and it was a major inquiry into the Fourteenth Amendment’s meaning. The story of the case goes that a man named Homer Plessy, he was 7/8th white and 1/8th African-American and he purchased a train ticket for travel in Louisiana and decided to seat himself in a car reserved for white passengers only. The reason this was not acceptable was because the Fourteenth Amendment was not able to be placed for interstate travel. Plessy refused to leave the car and was arrested and charged with violating the Separate Car Act. When brought to the U.S District Court, Judge H. Ferguson decided that the act was unconstitutional. Afterwards, when brought to the Supreme Court, Justice Brown conceded that, the Fourteenth Amendment intended to establish absolute equality for the races before the law, and in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political equality, or a commingling of the two races unsatisfactory to either. As stated, even with amendments like the Thirteenth and Fourteenth people of color were still struggling to live a normal life in the United States, everything they tried the court system would still find loop holes to prove them wrong.
The Fifteenth Amendment:
In spite of amendments being passed but people of color still getting mistreated in society, there still had to be change in the law. That is when the Fifteenth Amendment steps in. 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—. The Fifteenth Amendment allowed anyone of color to vote for the first time in American history. The biggest reason for the Fifteenth Amendment to come to surface is due to the fact that the Republicans desired to entrench its power in the North and South. Shortly after, the measure was passed by Congress on February 26th, 1869 and was quickly ratified by 3/4th’s of the states on February 3rd, 1870. Same situation with the Fourteenth Amendment, because of majority vote, the South yet again lost power on deciding wether people of color were able to vote or not. Was the Fifteenth Amendment successful? Yes and no. It did provide the vote to blacks living in northern states, and it did encourage voting by blacks in the South for a period of time.
The Voting Rights Act:
Even after the Fifteenth Amendment being passed, for the first twenty to thirty years African-American men were allowed to vote. Nearly 2,000 African-Americans were elected to public offices during this period. Around the 1890’s the Southern states began to comply an arrangement of laws that made it utterly challenging for African-Americans to vote. By the beginning of the 20th century, nearly all African Americans in the states of the former Confederacy were again disenfranchised (Parrott-Sheffer 2017). This went all the way up to 1965. These array of laws consisted the requirement of demonstrating literacy, start paying voting taxes, show or prove good character and a variety of hurdles just to be permitted to vote. Legislation and has also been described as “the most powerful weapon in the civil rights arsenal” (Gerken 2006, pg.709). Considering all of the required laws in the South for African-Americans to vote, levels of voting from people of color was at an all time low for the next 50 years, despite the Fifteenth Amendment. Finally, when the situation of African-Americans wether being allowed to vote or not came to light in 1965. After reviewing the Fifteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, Congress established the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Voting Rights Act provided a diversity of means for the federal government and courts to best believe that the right to vote must never be denied on the basis from that point on.
With an obvious trend happened between these three amendments, nothing was fully resolved even after the amendment started taking full effect in U.S. law making. Despite all of that, the above mentioned amendments are significant all in their own way. Even with each amendment not completely solving African-Americans rights, there were stepping stones to the America we live in today. Although, with the immense process the United States has gone through, the U.S. is still not perfect in todays time and age. Police brutality in African-American communities is still a concerning topic in politics today and the fight for wether innocent people of color that get assaulted by police do deserve what they get or if police today are getting away with racism and murder in some cases. Not only are African-Americans still struggling to get the rights their ancestors fought for, people of the Islamic religion and immigrants from around the world, especially Mexico fight everyday for their rights to live in the United States. The Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments have in fact made significant progress to an equal America but, we still have a long progress to go.