In case you’re not already aware, this year’s black history month theme is “African Americans and the Vote.” That being said, today is the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of a significant voting rights milestone: the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
The dictionary defines the word ratification as “the process of officially sanctioning or formally recognizing something.” In the context of the US Constitution, visit the “Resources” section below to learn how an amendment is ratified (i.e. becomes part of the US Constitution).
So then, what is the 15th Amendment? It’s a two-section amendment that granted black men the right to vote as follows:
Section 1: 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.
Section 2: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation
Significance of the 15th Amendment
* Prohibits the federal government or any US state government, from denying a U.S. citizen the right to vote, based on race or skin color
* It was the third of three post Civil War era amendments that were ratified in the US Constitution, geared to ensure that formerly enslaved African Americans could fully exercise their citizenship rights as a free people
* On March 31, 1870, Thomas Mundy Peterson of Perth Amboy, New Jersey, was the first black man to vote under the 15th Amendment
BHM Action Item: Visit and bookmark https://866ourvote.org/ or https://vote.gov/ now and register to vote, or to confirm your voter registration status. Tell your friends/loved ones to do the same!
In closing, visit the below resources to learn more about The Fifteenth Amendment, and Thomas Mundy Peterson:
WH Statement – 150th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 15th Amendment
briefings-statements/ presidential-message-150th- anniversary-ratification-15th- amendment/
Constitutional Amendment Process – National Archives
U.S. Senate: Fifteenth Amendment (original text)
NJ.com article: “Black men got the right to vote in 1870. This ex-slave’s son was the first to cast a ballot”
Video (Year 2017 – Perth Amboy, NJ): “Citizen Peterson – How Thomas Mundy Peterson Made the Most of His Historic Vote”