The Civil War and the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the Unites States, and Congress passed several Civil Rights Acts in the second half of the 1860s to protect the economic and civil rights of freedpeople. The Fourteenth Amendment granted American citizenship to the freedpeople and guaranteed that all people were entitled to the protections of due process of law and the equal protection of the law. The amendment also allowed Congress to enforce the protection of citizenship rights with appropriate legislation in the event any state discriminated against the freedpeople. In spite of the language and intention of the amendment, some states during the following decades enacted laws that did discriminate against African Americans and often relegated them to second-class citizenship.
The provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment enabled the federal government to protect the rights of freedpeople, and during the twentieth century it has permitted Congress to pass civil rights and voting rights laws and allowed federal courts to invalidate state laws that required segregation or discriminated against people because of race or color. As a result, the Fourteenth Amendment not only conferred citizenship on former slaves and protected their civil rights, it also enlarged the power of the federal government to protect those and other rights from possible infringement by the states.
In the years following ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments, many state governments in the South passed legislation to restrict the social and legal equality of African Americans and to reduce participation of black men in public life. After the downfall early in the 1880s of the Readjusters, a biracial coalition of white and black Republicans and other men who refinanced Virginia's public debt and improved education and other public services for American Americans, the conservative Democratic Party restored white supremacy through election laws that made it difficult for black men to register and vote, culminating in the Constitution of 1902 that effectively disenfranchised most African American men and a large portion of white voters, too. Conservatives counted on and received the acquiescence of federal authorities who failed to enforce provisions of the Reconstruction amendments and various civil rights acts. During the first three decades of the twentieth century, the state government enacted stricter laws requiring racial segregation and providing inferior schools and other public services for black Virginians.
While African Americans struggled for civil rights in the twentieth century, Virginia Indians led their own struggle to regain their centuries-old rights as Indians and to be exempt from racial discrimination laws that applied to them as well as to African Americans so that they could enjoy the same rights and privileges as other American citizens.