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Origins of Jim Crow - the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments

The Reconstruction era after the Civil War saw the passing of the 14th and 15th Amendments, granting full citizenship and voting rights to African Americans. Despite these laws, Southern states resisted with black codes and the Ku Klux Klan. Federal troops occupied the South until states acknowledged the 14th Amendment.

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Video transcript

- [Voiceover] In the last video we were talking about the era of reconstruction and how after the Civil War when the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawed slavery many Southern states enacted laws known as black codes, which in many cases were really just slavery by another name. They prevented African Americans from voting, from owning firearms, from not being in some kind of labor contract, or they might be enslaved or jailed for vagrancy and the North, controlled by a republican Congress, was outraged by these codes having just fought an incredibly destructive war to end slavery. In response to the black codes, Congress passed the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and the 14th Amendment... guaranteed that anyone born in the United States, regardless of previous condition of servitude, had full citizenship, meaning they're entitled to all the rights and privileges of being a citizen, and equal protection under the law. So a law could not target someone on the basis of their race. Now to enforce the 14th Amendment, Congress sent federal troops to the states in the South, divided the Southern region up into military zones and said that the South would be occupied by federal troops until the states rewrote their constitutions to recognize the 14th Amendment, in effect to give equal citizenship to African Americans. In fact they also passed the 15th Amendment two years later in 1870, which said voting rights are included among these citizenship rights guaranteed in the 14th Amendment. I should mention that these voting rights were only for African American men as women will not get the right to vote until 1920. So from the 14th Amendment until 1877 there's a military occupation in the South and military troops are only taken away from the Southern states when they write their constitutions to grant equal citizenship to African Americans. Now you can imagine in the South where whites have had racial supremacy from the 1600s, getting them to recognize social equality with African Americans was an incredible struggle and it was a struggle that the republicans in Congress and the federal troops really didn't win. This is the era of the Ku Klux Klan, which ran terrorist raids at night trying to prevent African Americans from voting or to prevent their allies from helping them to vote. This era of reconstruction was really a continuation of the Civil War where troops from the North tried to enforce the 14th Amendment, tried to enforce the end of slavery and the citizenship of African Americans with really implacable resistance from white Southerners. So by 1877, only two states were left that still had troops 'cause the rest of the states had rewritten their constitutions to acknowledge the 14th Amendment. But that is not to say that racial equality had been achieved in the South whatsoever. So what happened in 1877? Which is generally known as the end of reconstruction and the beginning of this period of Jim Crow segregation. Well we'll get to that in the next video.