31 Days of History: 28 July

On this day in 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is passed, establishing African-American citizenship and guaranteeing due process of law.

As a brief reminder, the Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. It is the foundation and source of the legal authority underlying the existence of the US and it provides the framework for the three main branches of the government: executive, legislative and judicial.

The Constitution was adopted on 17 September 1787, by the Constitutional Convention (or Constitutional Congress]) in Philadelphia and later ratified by conventions in each state. It has been amended (or modified) twenty-seven times. As mentioned earlier, the handwritten original document is on display at the National Archives.

The 14th Amendment, along with the 13th and 15th, are called the “Reconstruction Amendments”, as they were adopted during the period of Reconstruction after the Civil War.

The 14th Amendment represented a significant reversal of the Dred Scott decision (Dred Scott v. Sanford; 1857) which ruled that black people (more specifically, people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants) were not and could not become citizens of the United States, were not protected by the Constitution, nor could they enjoy any of the privileges and immunities of citizenship. Dred Scott also established the slaves were private property of the slave owner.

FYI: The 13th Amendment officially abolished and continues to prohibit slavery and indentured servanthood, while the 15th Amendment prohibits each government in the United States from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude" (i.e., slavery).”

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