The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Passed by Congress: 2/26/1869
Ratified by states & took effect: 2/3/1870
Here, African Americans are shown registering to vote in Marion County, Indiana. Even though African Americans gained the right to vote in 1869, it was a long time before most African Americans were able to exercise this right. Indianapolis Recorder Photo Collection, Indiana Historical Society
One result of the Civil War was the addition of three new amendments to the U. S. Constitution: the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, the 14th granted blacks citizenship and equal protection; and the 15th Amendment attempted to secure the right to vote for newly freed slaves. In many abolitionists’ eyes, the right to vote was the most important right of citizenship for black men.
Republicans knew that at the conclusion of Reconstruction, Democrats most likely would regain control of state and local governments in the southern states. When this happened, without access to the ballot, they anticipated that the freedmen would lose their hard earned rights and also their voice in government. In an effort to secure black citizens’ rights, Congress passed the 15th Amendment on February 26, 1869. Tennessee was the last state to ratify the 15th Amendment, 128 years later.
McPherson, James. Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. New York: McGraw Hill, 2001 p. 588-589.