How were the rights of African Americans guaranteed in the Constitution?

1 Answer
Oct 27, 2017

They were guaranteed through various amendments and in the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence.


The Declaration of Independence

The Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal." In theory, this should encompass all Americans, regardless of race or identity. But slavery continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, despite this proclamation.

The Bill of Rights

This document guarantees all Americans certain liberties, such as the right to bear arms and religious freedom. It does not mention or specifically allow any sort of exception to these rights, indicating that African Americans should not be excluded. However, the "peculiar institution" - slavery - continued to exist.

Constitutional Amendments

It was not until after the Civil War in the 1860s that the rights of African Americans were explicitly guaranteed. The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, passed as part of Reconstruction, gave African Americans freedoms and liberties. Tragically, though, these rights were largely denied, particularly in the South, by Jim Crowe laws and white supremacist groups.

The 13th Amendment
This amendment ended slavery entirely, freeing African Americans in the Southern, Confederate states.

The 14th Amendment
This amendment prohibited states from denying any person equal protection under the law. Furthermore, it granted citizenship and, by extension, the right to vote to all African Americans.

The 15th Amendment
This amendment gave African Americans men the right to vote. But they were still denied this basic liberty for another century, through the use of poll taxes and literacy tests. African American women would not be able to legally vote until 1920 with the 19th Amendment.

Through these documents, the rights of African Americans are guaranteed in the Constitution.