In order for an amendment to be adopted into our Constitution, it must pass the ratification process. The ratification process is the process of approving an amendment or changing a law to the Constitution. It must be proposed by Congress, with two-thirds of a majority vote in the House of Reps and the Senate, or be proposed by a constitutional convention that was called by two-thirds of the State legislatures.
One of the bigger amendments the Constitution has is the 14th Amendment, which was adopted as law on this day, July 28th, in 1868. It passed the ratification process with three-quarters of US States approving it. For those that aren’t aware, the 14th Amendment guaranteed African Americans citizenship as Americans and also gave African Americans the same rights and privileges as everyone else.
The South went through a dark period of time that consisted of war, hate and separation from the US. After the Civil War ended, the South was divided up into five districts known as “military districts.” These districts were to have new state governments installed that were based on “universal manhood suffrage.” They were separated due to the Reconstruction Acts of 1867. This period of time became known as the Radical Reconstruction and is the period that saw the 14th Amendment passed by Congress and ratified by the states.
The 14th Amendment officially stated that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States…are citizens of the United States and of the state in which they reside.” It also confirmed that African Americans are given the same rights and privileges as everyone else, granting them “equal protection of the laws.”
This raised the question of whether segregation was against this amendment and against the Constitution as a whole. Many African American activists argued that it denied them “equal protection of the laws” and therefore was against the Constitution. In 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court was given a case that dealt with this argument, Plessy v. Ferguson. The Supreme Court ended up ruling that states can provide segregated facilities as long as whites and blacks were kept equal. This ruling was later used to justify the segregation of public facilities, such as schools, bathrooms, restaurants, railroad cars, etc.
The ruling of Plessy v. Ferguson lasted quite a while and actually did the opposite of the 14th Amendment. However, it finally was given justice when the Supreme Court gave its ruling over the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka trial.
Since then, equality has been one of the biggest question marks regarding our constitution and society as a whole. Although it might not seem like it, this world and most definitely this country is separated by color when it shouldn’t be. We live in a world where everyone knows blacks, whites, etc. are equal, yet we still feel the need to poke at the question until it flares up again. In a world where unity is hoped for every day, it’s sad to see we can’t win.