BY Nduta Waweru, 1:00pm July 28, 2018,

The short story about the law that recognised African-Americans as citizens in 1868

American sketches: A Negro congregation at Washington (1876). Photo: Library of Congress

After a long battle in America, black people living in America were recognised as citizens after the 14th amendment of the constitution was ratified on this day in 1868.

Three years before, slavery had been abolished in America. However, some states instituted restrictive laws that impeded the freed black people from living a full life, including owning property and freedom of speech.

People of African descent were not considered Americans as per a decision in the Scott vs. Sanford case in 1857, which stated that:

A free negro of the African race, whose ancestors were brought to this country and sold as slaves, is not a “citizen” within the meaning of the Constitution of the United States.

Even with the freedom of black people from slavery at the time, a number of states still felt that they were not ‘citizen’ enough and carried out atrocious abuses on them including lynching.

These acts caused government officials to consider a law that would make all people in America enjoy some basic rights.  The need to change the constitution to accommodate these rights resulted in a hot debate across the country.

It was the domination of anti-slavery legislators in both houses that made the Reconstruction Amendments, one of which is the 14th Amendment, pass.

When it was passed, the Amendment allowed non-white Americans to become citizens of the country, whether they were born or naturalised, and thus receive all the rights attached to being a citizen. It also ensured three main things: due process; equal protection and privileges and immunities of an American citizen.

Last Edited by:Nduta Waweru Updated: July 28, 2018


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