The Fifteenth Amendment, 1870

A primary source by William Henry Seward

William Henry Seward, [Fifteenth Amendment resolution], February 27, 1869 (Gilder Lehrman Collection)The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments gave constitutional status to emancipation’s promise of freedom. The Fifteenth Amendment provided suffrage for black men, declaring that “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 celebrated May 19th 1870,” print, 1870 (Private CollectIn this lithograph, “The fifteenth amendment celebrated May 19th 1870,” the legislation takes symbolic form. The artist depicts African Americans’ hopes arising from the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment: scenes of education, family life, jobs, and the vote. Among the collage of images are portraits of abolitionist heroes Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and Abraham Lincoln.

 

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