Federal Control of Basic Civil Rights 14th Amendment to the Constitution for Kids and Teachers Illustration

14th Amendment
Federal Control of Basic Civil RightsKids

For Kids - 14th Amendment - imposing federal control over basic civil rights, citizenship

After the Civil War, and after the 13th Amendment was ratified, which ended slavery forever by law, many Northerners believed that was the end of the problem of civil rights for African-American males. But it wasn't. Throughout the South, states began to pass various Black Codes. These codes did allow African-Americans some rights, but limited many others. The Black Codes were laws that said things like African Americans could not hold public office, serve on a jury, testify against a white man in court, bear arms, or assemble except in church. African American children were not allowed to attend white schools, creating segregation. The Codes required special passes for travel. In some southern states, African Americans were limited to jobs only as a domestic or a field hand. Any African American who was unemployed could be arrested and hired out by whomever captured him or her. 

By 1868, Lincoln was no longer president. He had been assassinated in his second term of office, a few days after the end of the Civil War. Andrew Johnson took over as president. Andrew Johnson was a Democrat and a Southern supporter. But the Republicans controlled 2/3 of both the House and the Senate. During Andrew Johnson's term, the 14th Amendment was presented to Congress. It imposed federal control over basic civil rights, removing control from the states. It's purpose was to remove the Black Codes. President Andrew Johnson worked against the amendment, which outraged people in the North. Northern newspapers released article after article, calling President Andrew Johnson all kinds of names, and encouraging people to contact their representatives and add their voice to the outcry. President Andrew Johnson lost his popularity with the people. Without the clout he once had to influence other politicians, the 14th Amendment was finally ratified. But it was only ratified after two things occurred; (1) Ratification of the amendment was made a requirement for readmission to the Union and (2) The South's war debt was dissolved.

The 14th Amendment imposed federal control over basic civil rights. Those rights included (1) Citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States. (2) Any states refusing the vote to any portion of their adult male population would lose seats in Congress. (3) Former Confederate officials were barred from national office.

The 13th Amendment - the end of slavery

The 15th Amendment - the right of all 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. 

Other Amendments to the Constitution

After the Civil War - Reconstruction

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