15th amendment gives black men right to vote

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WWAY)– Since it is black history month and election season it is a good time to look at the right to vote in America.

This month marks the 150 anniversary of congress passing the 15th amendment, granting African-American men the right to vote, but black women also played a major role early on.

For black people, voting is an earned privilege. It is something we fought and died for.

In 1870, shortly after slavery ended, congress passed the 15th amendment which sparked change.

“The 15th amendment which guaranteed black males at that time, the right to vote,” Former UNCW Political Science Professor Earl Sheridan said.

And at the time, even though black women were not able to vote, Sheridan says their work behind the scenes was key.

“They were drawn into the political conversation of the time. There were lots of meetings, and lots of local conventions,” Sheridan added.

The 15th amendment prevented the country or state from turning black men away based on color, race, or their previous condition of servitude; however, there were a series of steps taken before the amendment was approved.

“It was part of the Civil War amendments. The 13th amendment, which ended slavery, the 14th amendment which guaranteed birth rights citizenship and equal protection under the law,” Sheridan said.

Sheridan says these changes were necessary.

“There had to be so many changes because before the Civil War. Many blacks weren’t even considered as citizens. They were slaves in the South, and their rights were restricted in many other parts of the country as well. There were people who hated the idea of blacks being able to vote and exercise citizenship rights,” Sheridan stated.

Shortly after the 15th amendment, the first blacks were elected to political office, but it wasn’t long before they experienced voter suppression again.

“Southerners took control again of their governments, that’s when they did pass new constitutions and new laws that did literacy tests, and poll taxes, and used intimidation, and various other things to prevent blacks from voting,” Sheridan expressed.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 helped guarantee access to the polls. Sheridan says it’s up to all of us to live up the legacy left us.

You can take advantage of your right to vote right now. Early voting is underway. The primary election is two weeks away.

Categories: Community, Local, New Hanover

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