Civil War Amendments
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The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments were important to the Civil Rights Movement. The Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery in the United States. The Fourteenth Amendment allowed Blacks to have the same rights as Whites. The Fifteenth Amendment allowed Blacks to vote. Although many people were against the amendments at first, the amendments were very helpful for the Civil Rights Movement.
The Thirteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1865. It made slavery illegal in the United States. Many states passed laws to protect the rights of Blacks, but white people against racial equality, mostly from the South, fought against similar laws when Congress tried to pass them. In addition to the equality issue, some states did not accept the Thirteenth Amendment because they believed freeing the slaves would cause other problems.
Slave owners were used to the slavesí cheap labor and paying others to do the same work would cost more and lower how much money they made. Some slave owners wanted the government to pay for their freed slaves. Workers in the North wanted Blacks to stay in the South because they were afraid Blacks would take their jobs for less pay and poorer working conditions. Many slaves still could not obtain a good job because of discrimination and the lack of a good education. Blacks still did not have the same Civil Rights as Whites.
Congress passed the Fourteenth Amendment, sometimes called the "Great Amendment," to help protect the rights of the freed slaves. It was added to the Constitution in 1868. It stated that all people who were born in the United States, including African-Americans, are considered natural citizens and have the same rights as all other Americans. It also prohibited any state from making or enforcing any laws that took away or hurt an individualís civil rights. After the Fourteenth Amendment passed, many African-Americans still didnít have all the rights Whites had. Many Whites, especially in the South, continued to treat the Blacks unfairly.
Voting was one right many Blacks had taken away. Many Blacks didnít vote because some Whites didnít want the Blacks to have this power. Voting provided power to change things. These Whites said that Blacks werenít smart enough to vote and wouldnít know who to vote for. They purposely did not tell the Blacks when or how to vote and did other things so Blacks could not vote.
The Fifteenth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1870 to protect Blacksí voting rights. It prohibited the national and state governments from refusing citizens the right to vote because of their race, color, or because they were a slave at one time. After the Fifteenth Amendment was passed, a large number of Blacks voted during the late 1860ís through the 1880ís. The African-Americans used their voting rights to gain political power and to protect their rights. Soon, southern states started passing laws to make it harder for Blacks to vote. Some states passed laws that required people to pay a poll tax before voting. Others required people to pass a reading or writing test before voting. Since most Blacks had been slaves their whole lives, they had little money to pay a poll tax and did not know how to read or write. Some people were still trying to take away the civil rights of African Americans.
Although many were against the amendments, the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments played an important part in the Civil Rights Movement. The amendments declared that Blacks were real people and should be treated as equals and not as property. The amendments also gave Blacks the right to vote, making it possible to change things.
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