Voting Rights Amendment

Thomas Kelly after James C. Beard, The Fifteenth Amendment. Celebrated May 19th 1870. New York, 1870. Lithograph with added watercolor. GA2008-in process

This print was designed to celebrate the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guaranteed African American men the right to vote. Its central vignette records a parade held in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 19, 1870, and peripheral vignettes feature portraits of Schuyler Colfax, Martin Delany, Frederick Douglass, Ulysses S. Grant, and Hiram Revels. Also included are generic scenes of African Americans participating in various political and cultural activities.

Section one of the amendment reads: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.

Opposition to the amendment took many forms including intimidation and physical violence. Literacy tests were authorize, along with poll taxes, grandfather clauses excluding all whose ancestors had not voted in the 1860s, and other obscure regulations, all enacted to disenfranchise African Americans.