Social History for Every Classroom


Social History for Every Classroom

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The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments

Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery, before the Civil War had ended. Once the war was over, white southerners passed laws (known as Black Codes) to keep freedmen from exercising their rights, and Congress responded by passing a Civil Rights Act in 1866 to ensure black citizenship. Congress overrode President Andrew Johnson’s veto and went even further, passing the 14th Amendment. When enfranchised African Americans began exercising political power, white southerners and organizations like the Ku Klux Klan targeted them with violence and intimidation (especially after 1867). To protect black voting rights, Congress passed the 15th Amendment. The 15th Amendment, however, did not outlaw literacy tests, poll taxes and other methods that might prevent poor blacks and whites from voting. After Congressional passage, constitutional amendments require three fourths of the states to approve them—by 1871, 31 states out of 37 had ratified the 14th and 15th amendments.


Passed by Congress on 31 January 1865; Ratified 6 December 1865 

Section 1 

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. 


Passed by Congress 13 June 1866; Ratified 9 July 1868 

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… 


Passed by Congress 26 February 1869; Ratified 3 February 1870 

Section 1 

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…

Source | U.S. Constitution, National Archives; full text available from the National Archives,
Creator | U.S. Congress
Item Type | Laws/Court Cases
Cite This document | U.S. Congress, “The 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 23, 2023,

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