The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”
Voter fraud is a fraud
This month America celebrates the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment. But all is not well. Continued attempts at voter suppression — from stricter photo ID requirements to registration restrictions to poll closures — disproportionately impacts minorities. Lawmakers continue to falsely claim that these laws are to prevent voter fraud. Anyone who thinks that four documented instances of fraud out of 137,000,000 votes cast in 2016 are an issue has issues.
Flawed from the start
The Amendment did not guarantee citizens the right to vote – it only said states couldn’t bar voting on the basis of race or color. It didn’t take long for some to find ways to restrict the black vote, from poll taxes to literacy tests. Intimidation became even more rampant with the birth of the Ku Klux Klan.
Passage doesn’t mean implementation
The 15th Amendment was the last of three Constitutional Amendments passed after the Civil War. The 13th abolished slavery and the 14th granted African Americans citizenship and equal treatment under the law. At least in theory. The hard truth is that the struggles have never stopped. Incredibly, from 1901 to 1928, zero black members served in Congress.
“It’s a remarkable accomplishment given that slavery was such a dominant institution before the Civil War. But the history of the 15th Amendment also shows rights can never be taken for granted: Things can be achieved and things can be taken away.”
“The fatal defect of the 15th Amendment was enforcement.”
“American history is not just greater and greater freedom for everyone. Sometimes, it goes backward.”
What can you do?
Donate your time or money to the ACLU. If you’re unable to do either, try to educate others on the century and a half uphill battle to vote by African Americans. Help purge the voting purges so everyone has a voice.