On this day in 1870 the U.S. Congress ratified the 15th Amendment of the Constitution. This amendment gives the right of all American citizens of legal age the right to vote. It ensured that their right to vote was not to be denied or abridged by the United States or any of its states on the account of race, color or previous condition of servitude.
This amendment empowered many African-Americans (Blacks) across the country, specifically the South during Reconstruction that had political aspirations. In fact thousands of Blacks were elected to political office during that time. Congress and state legislatures began to pass radical bills to help eliminate all race-based laws.
Many Blacks holding public office and their Republican allies saw hopeful signs of progress, while the mostly defeated White Democratic power structure saw it as an intolerable threat. Although President Grant had to send federal troops to New Orleans to dispel an angry white mob who did not like interracial government, but it was his successor, President Hayes that withdrew those troops in 1877 that ended the protection and adherence of many of the policies enacted to protect Blacks.
Black politicians were voted out, southern legislatures passed poll taxes, literacy tests and various segregation laws. Jim Crow, the son of the south was born.
It wasn’t until the efforts of the countless and far too often nameless people of the Civil Rights Movement that help get American back on track to civility. The passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was a full ninety-five (95) years after the ratification of the 15th Amendment. Essentially the struggles, fights, sacrifices and deaths that lead to President Lyndon Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act into law was basically the re-ratification of the 15th Amendment.
Today, I can see someone like me hold elected offices and positions of power through the land. It’s still a struggle for the most part, but when I look at a Mayor such as Cory Booker (Newark, NJ) or a formal U.S. Congressman such as Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN) or J.C. Watts (R-OK), a Governor such as Duval Patrick (D-MA), a chairman of a major political party and former Lt. Governor such as Michael Steele (R-MD) and even the President of the United States Barack Obama I am appreciative and hopeful for the allies of both major political parties, Republican & Democrat can see someone like me as the constitution currently states it, equal.
Regardless of our disagreements on policies we are in this game together. Civil Rights is not some passive movement of long ago, nor is this amendment, a political party, specific top politicians or chairmans accountable to just a single group of people. February is called Black History Month, but there are many people who were not Black who helped make this history along with many Blacks. I hope we all can work to not discount the significants of each others personal triumphs and collective achievements.
I take this opportunity to congratulate one more time the Republican Party in the election of it’s new party chairman former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Chairman Michael Steele and the Democratic Party in the election of our 44th President of the United States, President Barack Obama.