Skip Content
U.S. Flag

Landmark Legislation: The Fifteenth Amendment

The Fifteenth Amendment

As a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, William Stewart of Nevada guided the Fifteenth Amendment through the Senate. Ratified February 3, 1870, the amendment prohibited states from disenfranchising voters “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” The amendment left open the possibility, however, that states could institute voter qualifications equally to all races and many former confederate states took advantage of this provision, instituting poll taxes, and literacy tests, among other qualifications.

The Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution extended new constitutional protections to blacks, though the struggle to fully achieve equality would continue into the twentieth century.