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14th Amendment Passed - History


14th Amendment Passed

While the 13th amendment freed the slaves it did not guarantee that they would receive the same rights as white citizens. The amendment guaranteed equal rights and equal citizenship to all citizens. The 14th amendment was initially interpreted narrowly by the Supreme Court. In the 20th century the courts have interpreted the amendment to extend all the protection of the Bill of Rights to actions of the states.


In 1865 the Congress passed the Civil Rights act of 1865. The bill guaranteed citizenship to everyone regardless of race. It was vetoed by President Johnson but the veto was swiftly overwritten by the Congress. Congress even though they passed the bill questioned whether it could be enforced without a constitutional amendment. After various proposals were put forth in June the amendments were passed by both Houses of Congress and submitted to the states for approval.

The Amendment states as follows:
Section 1. 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.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

The amendment was officially adopted on July 8, 1868.

In the course of the 19th century the Supreme Court interpreted the amendment narrowly and stated that it only applied to Federal actions. Starting in the 20th century the Supreme court interpreted the amendment so that it extended the protection of the Bill of Rights to all the actions of the states.


June 13, 1866: 14th Amendment Passed

On June 13, 1866, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed. This Amendment, known as the one of the three Reconstruction Amendments, granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States.” The 14th Amendment forbid states to deny any person “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” or to deny any person “equal protection of the laws.” The amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868. See a full copy of 14th Amendment at the National Archives.

Sylvia N. Thompson (left) with her daughter Addie Jean Haynes and Addie’s ten-year-old son Bryan Haynes holding up a poster-sized copy of the 14th Amendment at the NAACP Portland office in 1964.

The 14th Amendment was designed to grant citizenship to and protect the civil liberties of people recently freed from slavery. As historian Martha Jones explains on Democracy Now,

And so, in 1868, after Congress has promulgated a 14th Amendment, the states will ratify it, and for the first time the U.S. Constitution will provide that all persons born in the United States are citizens of the United States. It is a remedy, a radical remedy, to bring millions of former slaves into the body politic, but it is written in a way that gives it a lasting and enduring effect, which is to make every person, regardless of race, and, I might say, regardless of religion, regardless of descent, regardless of political affiliations, make every person born in the United States a citizen of the United States.

However, as described in the examples below, there were soon to be limitations on those protections.

When federal charges were brought against several white supremacists responsible for the Colfax Massacre against African Americans, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Cruikshank that the 14th Amendment only applied to state actions and offered no protections against acts by individual citizens.

These liberties were undermined and limited after the Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) Supreme Court case which upheld the constitutionality of segregation and Jim Crow laws and Black codes.

Howard Zinn writes in Chapter 11: Robber Barons and Rebels of A People’s History of the United States:

Very soon after the Fourteenth Amendment became law, the Supreme Court began to demolish it as a protection for Black [people], and to develop it as a protection for corporations. However, in 1877, a Supreme Court decision (Munn v. Illinois) approved state laws regulating the prices charged to farmers for the use of grain elevators. The grain elevator company argued it was a person being deprived of property, thus violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s declaration “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” The Supreme Court disagreed, saying that grain elevators were not simply private property but were invested with “a public interest” and so could be regulated. . . .

By this time [1886, the year in which the Supreme Court had removed 230 state laws which sought to regulate corporations], the Supreme Court had accepted the argument that corporations were “persons” and their money was property protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Supposedly, the Amendment had been passed to protect Negro rights, but of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations. [Read more in A People’s History of the United States.]


14 th Amendment

Section 1. 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.

Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each state, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the executive and judicial officers of a state, or the members of the legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such state . . . and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such state.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.


History: 14th Amendment ratified, lynchings protested

July 28, 1868: The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified, guaranteeing due process and equal protection to all men in the U.S. over 21, including former slaves. It was one of three amendments to the Constitution adopted after the Civil War to guarantee the rights of African Americans. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, the Fourteenth granted citizenship to people once enslaved, and the Fifteenth guaranteed black men the right to vote.

July 28, 1917: Up to 10,000 African Americans paraded down Fifth Avenue in silence to protest lynchings in the South and race riots in the North. The NAACP and Harlem leaders organized the protest as the U.S. was going to fight "for democracy" in World War I. One parade banner read: "Mr. President, why not make America safe for democracy?"

July 29, 1895: The First National Conference of Colored Women Convention was held in Boston. The participants gathered to assert their position as a critical component of the women's movement, to discuss the issues and challenges facing African-American women, and to debate how best to move forward in light of those challenges.

July 29, 1918: In response to the increase of racially motivated killings (83 lynchings were recorded in 1918 alone), the National Liberty Congress of Colored Americans asked Congress to make lynching a federal crime. Despite attempts over the next several decades, anti-lynching legislation never passed.

July 30, 1866: African-American men, many of them veterans of the Civil War, were killed in New Orleans when they paraded in favor of suffrage outside the Louisiana Constitutional Convention, which refused to give them the right to vote. More than 40 were killed, and more than 150 were injured.

July 30, 1966: Clarence Triggs was a bricklayer who had attended civil rights meetings sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality. He was found dead on a roadside in Bogalusa, La., shot through the head.

July 31, 1820: Elihu Embree began publishing The Emancipator in Tennessee. It was the first abolitionist paper to be published in the South.

July 31, 1874: Patrick F. Healy was inaugurated as president of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Healy was reportedly the first African American in the U.S. to earn a Ph.D., the first to become a Jesuit priest and the first to become president of a predominantly white university.

July 31, 1896: The National Association of Colored Women (NACW) was established in Washington, D.C. Its two leading members were Josephine Ruffin and Mary Church Terrell. Founders also included some of the most renowned black female educators, community leaders, and civil rights activists in America, including Harriet Tubman, Frances E.W. Harper, Margaret Murray Washington, and Ida B. Wells. By the time the United States entered World War I, membership reached 300,000.

August 1, 1834: August 1 became an abolitionist holiday when Britain abolished slavery in its colonies.

August 1, 1943: A white police officer shot African-American soldier Robert Bandy, who questioned the arrest of a woman for disorderly conduct. According to one report, Bandy hit the officer and was shot trying to flee. When the report incorrectly spread that the soldier had been killed, a riot took place for two days, leading to six deaths and almost 600 arrests. The event helped inspire Ralph Ellison's brilliant novel, Invisible Man.

August 2, 1850: African-American abolitionist William Still began recording his involvement with helping runaway slaves find lives of freedom. Years later, he wrote a book based on that work titled The Underground Railroad.

August 2, 1924: Novelist, playwright, poet, essayist and social critic James Baldwin was born in Harlem, New York. His work explored themes of racial, sexual and class differences and discrimination in America. Baldwin is best known for his semi-autobiographical novel, Go Tell It on the Mountain, in which examined the role of the Christian Church in the lives of African Americans. Active in the civil rights movement, he worked with SNCC and CORE, joining the 1963 March on Washington.

August 3, 1967: William Kunstler and other lawyers formed the Law Center for Constitutional Rights, later known as the Center for Constitutional Rights. The group became one of the most important legal institutions for the civil rights movement. In 1961, Kunstler traveled to Mississippi and began working in civil rights cases, helping to form the Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee.

August 3, 1979: Patricia Roberts Harris began serving as Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Jimmy Carter after serving for two years as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. She was the first African-American woman to serve in the presidential cabinet. When someone questioned her ability to represent the underclass, she shot back, "You do not seem to understand who I am. I am a black woman, the daughter of a dining-car worker. I am a black woman who could not buy a house eight years ago in parts of the District of Columbia!"


The 14th Amendment’s Disqualification Provision and the Events of Jan. 6

Before the violence at the Capitol, Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was one of the most obscure parts of the Constitution. Ratified shortly after the Civil War, Section 3 was designed to prevent current and former U.S. military officers, federal officers and state officials who served the Confederacy from serving again in public office unless their disability was removed by at least a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress. Section 3 was enforced for a few years at the federal and state levels, but in 1872 the necessary supermajorities in Congress granted an amnesty to most of the men who were barred from office.

Now Section 3 is back in the news because of its declaration that officials who swore an oath to defend the Constitution and then “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States are ineligible to serve in office again. This raises the significant question of whether President Trump and other individuals who played some part in the events surrounding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are now ineligible from future service. A review of the basic parameters of Section 3 suggests it is the best legal framework available for addressing the extraordinary events at the Capitol with respect to the eligibility of participants to hold public office.

The first question under Section 3 is who decides whether someone is ineligible. The answer is that a court must determine if someone outside of Congress is subject to the disability. This point was established in cases between 1868 and 1872, in which men who were accused of being ineligible contested that claim in court with full due process of law. In this respect, Section 3 is different from a disqualification from federal office imposed as a sentence for an impeachment conviction. A disqualification sentence from the Senate is final and not, for all intents and purposes, subject to judicial review.

By contrast, Congress cannot simply declare an official outside of that body ineligible under Section 3 without the concurrence of the courts. To hold otherwise would allow simple majorities in Congress to oust federal and state officials without judicial scrutiny and would subvert long-established constitutional principles, such as life tenure for federal judges and the limits of the impeachment process. At most, Congress can exercise its Section 5 enforcement authority under the 14th Amendment to express its considered opinion that certain individuals are ineligible, with the expectation that the courts will accept that opinion under the “congruence and proportionality” standard articulated by the Supreme Court’s decision in City of Boerne v. Flores —assuming that City of Boerne even applies to the enforcement of Section 3.

With respect to sitting members of Congress, Section 3 must be enforced internally, because the Constitution contemplates no other disciplinary process. The most obvious enforcement mechanism is expulsion , which can be done for virtually any reason with a two-thirds vote. During Reconstruction and on one occasion during World War I, Congress enforced Section 3 by refusing to seat members-elect who were deemed ineligible. In Reconstruction, the issue was that these members-elect were involved with the Confederacy. During World War I, the member-elect was convicted under the Espionage Act—a conviction that was later reversed on appeal.

Whether Congress can by a majority vote exclude a sitting member on Section 3 grounds is doubtful. The issue turns on whether Section 3 is viewed as an eligibility requirement (comparable to age or citizenship) or as a punishment. Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Powell v. McCormack , eligibility requirements permit exclusion by a majority vote, while all other grounds must be addressed through expulsion and a two-thirds vote. The Supreme Court expressly declined in Powell to decide which of these categories applied to Section 3. On balance, I believe that the Court would hold that Section 3 may be enforced against a sitting member of Congress only through expulsion, largely because the two-thirds requirement for expulsion is an important safeguard against partisan abuses.

Second, there is the question of whether Section 3 is self-enforcing. The answer is probably not. In 1869, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase issued a circuit opinion holding it was not. This opinion was not well reasoned, as I explain in my paper on Section 3, and might not be followed by the current Supreme Court. But, then again, the court might come to the same conclusion today.

Congress enacted Section 3 enforcement legislation in 1870 that authorized the Department of Justice to bring quo warranto actions—a common-law writ asking, “by what warrant” does someone lawfully hold office—to oust from office some ineligible officials. But Congress repealed this statute in the 1940s as part of a broad cleanup of “obsolete” provisions. If Chase was right, then Congress would be well advised to enact new Section 3 enforcement legislation. The quo warranto provision of the 1870 Ku Klux Klan Act could be reinstated with some adjustments. For example, the act authorized actions against ineligible officials, not ineligible candidates. There are instances, though, where enforcement should be authorized before elections are held so as to resolve ex ante any uncertainty about whether someone can serve.

Third, a presidential pardon cannot cure Section 3 ineligibility. This conclusion rests on the text of the amendment, which permits only a supermajority in both houses of Congress to grant an exemption, and on the original public meaning of Section 3. During the debate on the 14th Amendment in the 39th Congress, the Senate rejected a proposed amendment to Section 3 that would have made an exception for presidential pardons. This rejection was made against the backdrop of Congress’s bitter fight with President Andrew Johnson over Reconstruction, which supports the argument that Congress intended to make Section 3 an exception to the president’s pardon power. In the 1880s, the attorney general issued an opinion stating that pardons Johnson gave to individuals before the 14th Amendment was ratified did cure their Section 3 ineligibility, but the implication was that subsequent pardons did not.

So what does it mean to be “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” under the language of Section 3? There are some clues about what “engaged” means. When Congress addressed claims that members-elect were ineligible under Section 3, the facts in each case were examined carefully. In some instances, the member-elect was excluded and in others he was not. Extracting a general principle from these few examples, though. is difficult. Another insight comes from the only reported criminal case on Section 3, in which a jury was instructed that a “voluntary” act was required to engage in insurrection.

The harder question is what constitutes an “insurrection,” a point on which I have thus far been unable to find any particularly helpful authority. During the 1860s and 1870s, everyone understood that the insurrection in question was the Confederacy, and no thought was given to what other insurrections might look like. The Insurrection Act , passed in the wake of Aaron Burr’s alleged conspiracy in 1807, was on the books when Section 3 was ratified. But the Burr trial was about treason, not insurrection, and thus supplies no useful guidance.

Section 3 and Jan. 6

With this limited background in mind, let us turn to the application of Section 3 to the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Almost immediately after the riot, members of Congress on both sides of the aisle described the violence as an insurrection. Why was that? The most logical answer is that the violence was intended to disrupt a constitutionally mandated process—the 12th Amendment’s electoral vote count — for the formal recognition of the presidential election results. In other words, this was not just a violent attack upon Congress, as bad as that would be. The mob was seeking to halt or overturn a core constitutional function at the seat of government, which can reasonably be described as an attempt to replace law with force. The criminal charges subsequently brought against the people who entered the Capitol also indicate that some of them intended to inflict bodily harm on members of Congress, which can be reasonably understood as a direct attack on the legislative branch itself and, more generally, the existing government. Notably, federal prosecutors described the riot as a “violent insurrection” in at least one recent court filing.

What’s more, the article of impeachment adopted against President Trump by the House of Representatives expressly describes what occurred as an insurrection and cites Section 3. In a Section 3 case, courts will probably defer to this conclusion, especially since the members of Congress were direct witnesses to the event. An acquittal of Trump in the impeachment trial may undercut that deference somewhat, but not fully.

Section 3 enforcement within Congress does not require judicial involvement, and thus members of that body could be punished simply if a house of Congress were to conclude that an insurrection occurred and that some members “engaged in insurrection.”

That said, the case for saying that members of Congress are ineligible under Section 3 and deserve expulsion is not strong based on what is now known, though more facts may be forthcoming. Simply voting to reject the certification of some electoral votes (or speaking to explain those votes) under the procedures set forth by the Electoral Count Act is not sufficient. The Speech and Debate Clause should be construed to immunize these actions from an extreme sanction like expulsion. Moreover, these members were participating in a long-established legal process and making their voices heard in protest, as others have in the past. They were not breaking the rules. One member of the House of Representatives, Mo Brooks, was at the rally that preceded the riot and spoke at that rally—and Rep. Brooks might have a Section 3 problem depending on how his words are parsed and whether inciting an insurrection is tantamount to engaging in one. But even if there is insufficient evidence for expulsion, a house of Congress could still discipline one of its members through a reprimand or censure based on Section 3 that would, in effect, refer the eligibility question to the voters.

To be sure, allegations that individual members actively participated in the violence—through their private communications, through public disclosures of the location of members during the incursion, or by giving participants reconnaissance tours of the Capitol in advance—could change the calculation concerning individual members. The key point for present purposes is that without more, merely opposing the certification of electoral votes should not result in expulsion under Section 3.

The actual members of the mob who stormed the Capitol present a more straightforward case. According to press reports , some of the rioters were state officials. They would be barred from serving, now and in the future. Congress probably needs to enact enforcement authority to implement Section 3’s command, though state legislatures could impose their own discipline on state legislators and state law could be used in some cases to enforce Section 3 for state officials.

Likewise, some former military officers were apparently also present in the mob. The text and history of Section 3 make plain that former or current military officers are subject to exclusion from office if they engage in insurrection. Thus, these officers would almost certainly share the same fate as the state officials in the mob if they ever sought civil office—again, assuming that enforcement authority is available.

The president presents the most challenging example. Further investigation may reveal more about his actions before and during the violence. Whatever those facts disclose, some of the legal issues are clear. First, there is no federal statutory enforcement authority for Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Without congressional action on that front, the ex-president could argue—if he runs for office again and is denied ballot access in a state—that Section 3 may not be applied to him, relying on Chief Justice Chase’s reasoning. State election statutes may refer to the federal constitutional requirements for eligibility to serve as president, but they may not refer to Section 3 specifically. I am unsure about what the law in each state says on this question.

Further, the ex-president can contest any Section 3 ineligibility claim in court, no matter what Congress does. This is because, as noted above, a concurrent resolution by Congress or a statute declaring someone ineligible under Section 3 does not make that person ineligible. Congress can only express its opinion on that constitutional point, backed by any record it might assemble, and expect deference from the courts. But expecting is not the same as guaranteeing. The former president could argue, for instance, that what occurred at the Capitol was not an insurrection, that his role in that event does not mean that he was “engaged in insurrection,” or that the presidency is a unique office that is simply not covered by Section 3.

There is a significant advantage to using Section 3 instead of impeachment as the means to bar the president from serving another term in office: There can be a fair process in court. Congress can further that goal in a new enforcement statute by creating a special procedure to address Section 3 claims. For example, perhaps a three-judge federal district court should hear the case rather than a single district judge. The forthcoming impeachment trial, by contrast, may be a lengthy televised free-for-all that will only make matters worse. And at the end of the day, if there is an acquittal in the Senate, the country will be right back at square one.

Some scholars have raised the question of whether a joint resolution of Congress declaring the president ineligible would be an unconstitutional bill of attainder . But the due process available in a Section 3 case addresses this concern. Unlike a typical bill of attainder, such a joint resolution would not bind the courts. Thus, one of the principal criticisms of a bill of attainder—that there is a conviction without a trial—would not apply.

Furthermore, several members of the 39th Congress raised the criticism that Section 3 was incompatible with the Attainder Clause, and their objections were rejected . Lastly, it is unclear whether Section 3 will be construed as a punishment or as an eligibility requirement, though the question is a fairly close one. If it is just an eligibility requirement, then that removes the subject even further from a classic bill of attainder, which involves criminal liability.

There is another benefit of using Section 3. If the former president decides to run again, he would be subject to ordinary judicial process and could be compelled to testify under oath—and penalty of perjury—about his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, in an appropriate forum. This would either act as a deterrent to a future candidacy or compel the disclosure of additional details that will inform the public. An impeachment trial, by contrast, is ill suited to a careful examination of facts and will probably be used instead for speeches and grandstanding that will shed more heat than light. Moreover, some of the judges involved in a Section 3 case will be people appointed to the bench by Trump himself, which should help alleviate concerns about bias or a political vendetta.

Congress could turn to Section 10 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 as one model for a concurrent resolution or a statute regarding Trump and Section 3. Section 10(a) made factual findings and then stated Congress’s conclusion that poll taxes in state elections denied people their fundamental right to vote. Congress did not have the authority to simply prohibit poll taxes in state elections, which is why Section 10(a) was styled as a declaration of Congress’s opinion rather than as a command. The rest of Section 10 established a judicial process for assessing Congress’s constitutional declaration and directed the attorney general to seek declaratory and injunctive relief against poll taxes in state elections pursuant to that process. The courts were then left to decide if Congress’s conclusion about state poll taxes was accurate, and the Supreme Court ultimately held that Congress was correct in Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections .

The Voting Rights Act, of course, was a statute, rather than a concurrent resolution. Nonetheless, a concurrent resolution could accomplish many of the same goals, though by “encouraging” or “inviting” the attorney general to bring an action, rather than by directing him to do so. The enforcement procedure could then be put into whatever statute Congress might pass to reinstate Section 3 enforcement authority more generally. Or Congress could simply do everything with respect to the president in one standalone statute and copy Section 10 of the Voting Rights Act more directly.

The violent mob that carried the Confederate flag into the Capitol, an invasion that Robert E. Lee never achieved, should be forced to confront the only constitutional provision that was specifically directed against those who helped carry that flag into battle—along with anyone who engaged in that insurrection with them.


14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Civil Rights (1868)

Passed by Congress June 13, 1866, and ratified July 9, 1868, the 14th amendment extended liberties and rights granted by the Bill of Rights to former slaves.

Following the Civil War, Congress submitted to the states three amendments as part of its Reconstruction program to guarantee equal civil and legal rights to black citizens. The major provision of the 14th amendment was to grant citizenship to “All persons born or naturalized in the United States,” thereby granting citizenship to former slaves. Another equally important provision was the statement that “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 right to due process of law and equal protection of the law now applied to both the Federal and state governments. On June 16, 1866, the House Joint Resolution proposing the 14th amendment to the Constitution was submitted to the states. On July 28, 1868, the 14th amendment was declared, in a certificate of the Secretary of State, ratified by the necessary 28 of the 37 States, and became part of the supreme law of the land.

Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio, the primary author of the first section of the 14th amendment, intended that the amendment also nationalize the Federal Bill of Rights by making it binding upon the states. Senator Jacob Howard of Michigan, introducing the amendment, specifically stated that the privileges and immunities clause would extend to the states “the personal rights guaranteed and secured by the first eight amendments.” Historians disagree on how widely Bingham's and Howard's views were shared at the time in the Congress, or across the country in general. No one in Congress explicitly contradicted their view of the Amendment, but only a few members said anything at all about its meaning on this issue. For many years, the Supreme Court ruled that the Amendment did not extend the Bill of Rights to the states.

Not only did the 14th amendment fail to extend the Bill of Rights to the states it also failed to protect the rights of black citizens. One legacy of Reconstruction was the determined struggle of black and white citizens to make the promise of the 14th amendment a reality. Citizens petitioned and initiated court cases, Congress enacted legislation, and the executive branch attempted to enforce measures that would guard all citizens’ rights. While these citizens did not succeed in empowering the 14th amendment during the Reconstruction, they effectively articulated arguments and offered dissenting opinions that would be the basis for change in the 20th century.

(Information excerpted from Teaching With Documents [Washington, DC: The National Archives and Records Administration and the National Council for the Social Studies, 1998] p. 40.)


July 5, 1819:

Alabama's first constitutional convention is convened in Huntsville . Less than a month later the forty-four delegates, representing twenty-two counties, adopted what would become known as the Constitution of 1819 , the first of six Alabama constitutions .

July 7, 1915:

Author Margaret Walker is born in Birmingham. Walker is best known for her collections of poetry and her novel, Jubilee, which is based on her maternal grandmother's memories of slavery. Walker taught for many years at Jackson State University in Mississippi and she died in 1998.

July 10, 1820:

Alabama's first governor, William Wyatt Bibb , dies as a result of injuries received in a riding accident. As specified in the 1819 constitution the president of the state senate automatically became the new governor. The new governor was Bibb's younger brother, Thomas Bibb , who had represented Limestone County at the Constitutional Convention and in the state senate.

July 13, 1868:

The Alabama legislature ratifies the 14th amendment to the U.S. constitution, thereby meeting one of the requirements for readmission to the Union. In part, the amendment guaranteed that states could not abridge citizenship rights of "persons born or naturalized in the United States," which included freedmen.

July 14, 1948:

At the National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, half of the Alabama delegation walks out in protest of the party's stand for civil rights. Three days later those delegates and other southerners formed the Dixiecrats Party at a convention in Birmingham, nominating Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for president.

July 19, 1941:

The first black pilots in the American military begin their primary flight training at Tuskegee Institute's Moton Field . This first class of "Tuskegee Airmen" graduated the next March after transferring to Tuskegee Army Air Field to complete their training. The group saw its first action in World War II in 1943 as members of the segregated 99th Fighter Squadron of the Army Air Corps.

July 26, 1914:

Erskine Hawkins , famed jazz musician, is born in Birmingham. His band, the 'Bama State Collegians , became the Erskine Hawkins Orchestra in the late 1930s after gaining a following in New York and winning a recording contract with RCA Victor.

July 26, 1952:

Alabama Senator John Sparkman is named the Democratic vice-presidential running mate with Adlai Stevenson. Sparkman was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Alabama in 1936 and served in that body until 1946 when he was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served until 1979. The Democratic ticket lost the election to Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon.

July 27, 1813:

The Creek Indian War of 1813-1814 begins at Burnt Corn Creek in present-day Escambia County, Alabama. Creek leaders Peter McQueen and High Head Jim were returning from Pensacola, where they had secured supplies and arms from the Spanish and British, when they were attacked by American forces.


Amending America: This Day in History the 14th Amendment Became Law

July 28, 1868 is only one of many important dates wrapped up in the history of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On that day this amendment which continues to be at the heart of many issues facing our nation was certified by Secretary of State William Seward. While there is still vigorous debate as to the exact intent of this law in legal and historical circles, many believe one of the main purposes of the law was to extend to all citizens, especially the newly freed slaves, the same protections against State governments which the Bill of Rights granted them against the Federal government. The Fourteenth Amendment also granted freed slaves citizenship, limited the rights of former Confederates to serve as United States Government officials, repealed the “three-fifths” clause in Article I Section 2 of the United States Constitution, and famously guaranteed equal protection under the law for all citizens.

Written during Reconstruction by Radical Republican Representative John Bingham from Ohio, the amendment arose during a time of great tumult and change in United States history and has continued to be at the heart of many of the United States biggest controversies. You can read more about how the Fourteenth Amendment was a factor in Supreme Court decisions regarding the Defense of Marriage Act, Roe v. Wade, interracial marriage, Chinese immigration, and more here at Pieces of History. The amendment consists of five sections which address respectively: citizenship, Congressional representation and voting-rights of males, ineligibility for government service as any sort of elected or appointed official by those who have participated in rebellion unless the individual in question is approved for service by a two-thirds majority of each House of Congress, the public debt of the United States and establishing that the United States would not pay the debts of the Confederate government or any other rebellion, and the right of Congress to legislate further to support the amendment.

At the time the amendment was written and passed through Congress, the United States was without a Vice President. When Abraham Lincoln was shot Andrew Johnson became President, but before the 25th Amendment was adopted in 1967 there was no clear procedure for replacing a Vice President who became President due to the death of the sitting President. Andrew Johnson was a War Democrat and Southern Unionist who Lincoln, a Republican, had chosen as his running mate in 1864 to signal his commitment to reconciliation with the South as the Civil War was winding down. Johnson’s Presidency was embattled as he faced hostility from Radical Republicans and the challenge of guiding the nation through some of its darkest hours. Johnson opposed both the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment. Contentiousness and acrimony reigned in the political climate of 1866 and would go on to haunt Johnson’s only term, culminating in his impeachment by the House of Representatives in 1868. He escaped conviction in the Senate by only one vote.

In these circumstances of spirited debate, in the wake of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and attempted assassination of Secretary of State William Seward, as the nation recovered from the War Between the States, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution became law. Debate raged in the years following the war around a number of key issues. What would happen with the newly freed slaves and what would happen with those who had taken up arms against the United States were the two big questions before Congress and the President. The Thirteenth Amendment formally abolished slavery but did nothing to secure freed slaves’ status as citizens, guarantee them voting rights, protect their individual rights from abuse by state governments, or establish limits on the rights of former Confederate officials to hold positions of power in the United States government. To a large extent these issues were addressed in the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment. Many lawmakers felt that the Fourteenth did not go far enough to guarantee the voting rights of the former slaves, which led to the Fifteenth Amendment.


14th Amendment Passed - History

An Update from Larry Mantle

Announcing LAist Studios

Southern California Public Radio Receives Grant Award from California Humanities

Southern California Public Radio Awarded California Arts Council “Arts and Public Media” Grant

We've featured some of the text from the 1868 amendment to the United States Constitution and what the amendment entails, as well as the model bill that some conservative state legislators hope will force federal judges to revise it in their quest to deny U.S. citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.

The amendment itself has a long and storied history, dating to just after the Civil War. Worth highlighting is the landmark late 1800s legal case that set the precedent for how it is interpreted, and which involved the U.S.-born son of Chinese immigrants.

The 14th Amendment was one of three changes to the Constitution during and after the Civil War era known as the Reconstruction Amendments: The 13th abolished slavery, the 15th prohibited the states from denying the vote to anyone based solely on race. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History's website has a detailed article from a Columbia University history professor on how the amendment came to be, placing it in historical context.

. the Fourteenth Amendment was the most important constitutional change in the nation’s history since the Bill of Rights. Its heart was the first section, which declared all persons born or naturalized in the United States (except Indians) to be both national and state citizens, and which prohibited the states from abridging their “privileges and immunities,” depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denying them “equal protection of the laws.”

In clothing with constitutional authority the principle of equality before the law regardless of race, enforced by the national government, this amendment permanently transformed the definition of American citizenship as well as relations between the federal government and the states, and between individual Americans and the nation. We live today in a legal and constitutional system shaped by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Senate passed the 14th Amendment on June 8, 1866, by a vote of 33 to 11, according to the site the House of Representatives approved it June 13, 1866, by a vote of 120 to 32. It was ratified July 28, 1868.

The Chinese Exclusion Act, which blocked nearly all immigration from China, had been enacted in 1882. In the summer of 1895, a young man named Wong Kim Ark was returning to his native San Francisco by steamship after a trip to China to visit his parents, who had returned there to live after many years in the United States, where he was born. Upon his arrival, he was denied re-entry on the grounds that he was not a U.S. citizen.

The case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in March 1898 that he was indeed a citizen, citing the first section of the 14th Amendment. From the Supreme Court case:

It is conceded that, if he is a citizen of the United States, the acts of Congress, known as the Chinese Exclusion Acts, prohibiting persons of the Chinese race, and especially Chinese laborers, from coming into the United States, do not and cannot apply to him.

The question presented by the record is whether a child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution,

"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."


14th Amendment Passed - History

An Update from Larry Mantle

Announcing LAist Studios

Southern California Public Radio Receives Grant Award from California Humanities

Southern California Public Radio Awarded California Arts Council “Arts and Public Media” Grant

We've featured some of the text from the 1868 amendment to the United States Constitution and what the amendment entails, as well as the model bill that some conservative state legislators hope will force federal judges to revise it in their quest to deny U.S. citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants.

The amendment itself has a long and storied history, dating to just after the Civil War. Worth highlighting is the landmark late 1800s legal case that set the precedent for how it is interpreted, and which involved the U.S.-born son of Chinese immigrants.

The 14th Amendment was one of three changes to the Constitution during and after the Civil War era known as the Reconstruction Amendments: The 13th abolished slavery, the 15th prohibited the states from denying the vote to anyone based solely on race. The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History's website has a detailed article from a Columbia University history professor on how the amendment came to be, placing it in historical context.

. the Fourteenth Amendment was the most important constitutional change in the nation’s history since the Bill of Rights. Its heart was the first section, which declared all persons born or naturalized in the United States (except Indians) to be both national and state citizens, and which prohibited the states from abridging their “privileges and immunities,” depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denying them “equal protection of the laws.”

In clothing with constitutional authority the principle of equality before the law regardless of race, enforced by the national government, this amendment permanently transformed the definition of American citizenship as well as relations between the federal government and the states, and between individual Americans and the nation. We live today in a legal and constitutional system shaped by the Fourteenth Amendment.

The Senate passed the 14th Amendment on June 8, 1866, by a vote of 33 to 11, according to the site the House of Representatives approved it June 13, 1866, by a vote of 120 to 32. It was ratified July 28, 1868.

The Chinese Exclusion Act, which blocked nearly all immigration from China, had been enacted in 1882. In the summer of 1895, a young man named Wong Kim Ark was returning to his native San Francisco by steamship after a trip to China to visit his parents, who had returned there to live after many years in the United States, where he was born. Upon his arrival, he was denied re-entry on the grounds that he was not a U.S. citizen.

The case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in March 1898 that he was indeed a citizen, citing the first section of the 14th Amendment. From the Supreme Court case:

It is conceded that, if he is a citizen of the United States, the acts of Congress, known as the Chinese Exclusion Acts, prohibiting persons of the Chinese race, and especially Chinese laborers, from coming into the United States, do not and cannot apply to him.

The question presented by the record is whether a child born in the United States, of parents of Chinese descent, who, at the time of his birth, are subjects of the Emperor of China, but have a permanent domicil and residence in the United States, and are there carrying on business, and are not employed in any diplomatic or official capacity under the Emperor of China, becomes at the time of his birth a citizen of the United States by virtue of the first clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution,

"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."


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