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How the Civil War Changed Your Life

8 things to think about as we mark the conflict's 150th anniversary

A political cartoon by Currier & Ives after the Civil War

A political cartoon by Currier & Ives depicts Horace Greeley, the newspaper editor and anti-slavery activist, and Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy during the Civil War. — Currier & Ives/Library of Congress

7. We hold certain rights to be sacred.

Think of these three amendments to the U.S. Constitution, all ratified within five years of the end of the Civil War:

  • 13th Amendment (1865). Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. ...
  • 14th Amendment (1868). Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. ...
  • 15th Amendment (1870). 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. ...

 

Before the Civil War, the concept of liberty and justice for all meant little unless you were white and male. Going beyond the abolition of slavery, the 14th and 15th amendments were the first extensions of citizenship and voting rights to minority groups.

Of course, half of us — women — went without a voice until 1920, but the postwar laws set a precedent that eventually would lead to suffrage for all adults. Imperfect in practice over the next 100 years, voting rights finally gained protection through the 1964 Civil Rights Act, ensuring that bigotry could never again disenfranchise any U.S. citizen.

Next: All Americans >>

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