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The Law: Must be Obeyed, and Enforced

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  • Visit to Dred Scott—his family—incidents of his life—decision of the Supreme Court, June 27, 1857. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, front page. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., LVA
    Dred Scott and His Family
  • : Joint Resolution Proposing An Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. July 21, 1868, Appendix Stat. 709., LVA
    Fourteenth Amendment
  • Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction and How It Works. September 1, 1866. Harper's Weekly, Ben and Beatrice Goldstein Foundation Collection. Prints and Photographs Division. Library of Congress, Washington D.C., LVA
    Andrew Johnson Political Cartoon
  • Broadside 1882 .S89 FF, Special Collections, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    The Danville Circular
  • King William County Chancery Court Case: Holmes and Cook v. Draft Board located in RG 3, Virginia, Governor (1938–1942: Price), Executive Papers, 1938–1942, Accession 23344c, Box 47: Indians Correspondence, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Depostion of Chief Cook
  • Statistical atlas of the United States, Based upon the Results of the Eleventh Census, by Henry Gannett. Proportion of the Colored to the Aggregate Population: 1890, plate 11. Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C., LVA
    African American Population Map
  • Virginia Department of the Treasury, Unclaimed Property Personal Papers, Schussler Family Papers, 1916–1926. Accession 31473 (Lot 332), State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Naturalization Certificate
  • Osage Indians, 1925, National Photo Company Collection. Item in album: v. 2, p. 41, no. 34318. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., LOC
    Indian Citizenship Act
  • Resolution against the Fourteenth Amendment. Lee-Jackson Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Richmond, to Governor James Lindsay Almond, Richmond, January 31, 1958. Virginia, Governor (1958–1962: Almond), Executive Papers, 1958–1962, Accession 26230, State Government Records Collection, Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia., LVA
    Lee-Jackson Camp Resolution
  • <em>Acts of the General Assembly of the State of Virginia, Passed in 1865–66</em> (Richmond, Va.: Allegre and Goode, 1866), 91–93.1866, LVA
    Virginia Vagrancy Law
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« Return to The Fourteenth Amendment

The Law:
Must be Obeyed, and Enforced

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.

People Featured in This Unit:

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  • Dred Scott (ca. 1799–1858)
  • Margaret Douglass (fl. 1845–1854)
  • George Major Cook (1860–1930)
  • Walter Ashby Plecker (1861–1947)
  • John Mitchell Jr. (1863–1929)
  • Aline Black (1906–1974)
  • Oliver White Hill (1907–2007)
  • J. Lindsay Almond Jr. (1898–1986)
  • Spottswood William Robinson III (1916–1998)
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