The 13th Amendment to the U.S. constitution abolished slavery and the 14th made African-Americans U.S. citizens. With the 15th Amendment, voting rights could not be denied "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." In theory, all African-American men now had the right to vote. In reality, the fight for voting rights for African-Americans had really just begun.
The 15th Amendment
The 15th Amendment, passed in 1869, stated that all native-born American men, including African-Americans, had the right to vote. By 1896, 44 percent of African- American men were registered voters, and many even held office throughout the South.
As more and more African-Americans made their voices heard, some Southern states acted to block them from voting. They started requiring poll taxes and literacy tests in order to vote. Grandfather clauses allowed poor whites to bypass these requirements. By 1940, African-American voter registration had dropped to just 3 percent in the South.
Expanding and Ensuring Voting Rights
The 19th Amendment gave voting rights to women, including African-American women, in 1920. In 1964, the 24th Amendment outlawed poll taxes, removing another major barrier to African-American voting. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. This put a stop to any election practices that denied the right to vote based on race or ethnicity.
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