This Day in History: 1870-03-30

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments, is certified as duly ratified and part of the Constitution. The Amendment prohibits the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In actual practice, the courts would for the next 3/4 century interpret the amendment so narrowly and so peculiarly as to be nearly meaningless; the interpretations deviated so severely from the plain, clear language of the Amendment that there was no pretense of enforcement. It was not until the second half of the late 20th century that courts began to enforce the plain meaning of the amendment, especially after passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Learn more.