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Lithograph, The Fifteenth Amendment and its Results, drawn by G.F. Kahl, Baltimore, lithograph by E. Sachse & Co., c. 1870

A parade in Baltimore, Maryland, celebrated the enactment of the Fifteenth Amendment. This commemorative print features portraits of President Abraham Lincoln (top center), abolitionist Frederick Douglass (bottom left), and Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi (bottom right). Revels, the first African American elected to Congress, won a seat formerly occupied by a slaveholding secessionist.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Lithograph, The Fifteenth Amendment and its Results, drawn by G.F. Kahl, Baltimore, lithograph by E. Sachse & Co., c. 1870

The Fifteenth Amendment

Following the Civil War, Congress passed and the states ratified the Fifteenth Amendment. It prohibited states from denying citizens the right to vote "on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude," although women were excluded from the privilege. The language was a compromise between radical and moderate Republicans during Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War. Many Southern states, however, found ways to evade its intent through intimidation, poll taxes, literacy tests, or other means of denying suffrage.