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The 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment, passed by Congress on June 13, 1866, and ratified on July 9, 1868, is a cornerstone of equality and due process in the U.S. Constitution. This amendment, born out of the Civil War and Lincoln's vision, overturned the Dred Scott decision, granting African Americans the same civil rights as whites. Created by Aspen Institute.

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Video transcript

I'm Walter Isaacson of the Aspen Institute and we are here with the second of our lessons about the reconstruction amendments I'm with Jeffrey Rosen the CEO of the National Consitution Center in Philidelphia And Jeffrey now let's get on to the 14th amendment But first let's put it on our timeline When did Congress pass it and when did the 14th get ratified? Congress passed the 14th amendment on June 13th 1866 And it was ratified on July 9th 1868 And it's viewed by some as the most important amendment of the constitution, why? Because it contains our basic guarantees of equality and due process of law. The entire Civil War was fought to constitutionalize equality it wasn't until the North won at Appomattox that that vision was embraced by Lincoln and finally it was embedded in the 14th amendment Well what was Lincoln's theory of constitutional equality? You know, it was quite powerful. There were some radical reconstruction Republicans, Lincoln was not one of them who thought that slavery was illegal even in the original constitution and basically that the so called "Privileges [or] Immunities Clause" of the original constitution forbade states to deny African Americans basic civil rights. But that wasn't the majority view. Lincoln's view was that it would require a constitutional amendment to overturn the Dred Scott decision which didn't recognize African Americans as having any legal rights, and to constitionalize equality and that's why the core of the 14th amendment is Section 1, which basically extends to African Americans the same civil rights that white people had taken for granted. Well let's read some of that, especially the "Privileges and Immunities Clause" read it to us here, what's important there? So the second sentence of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment says "No state shall make or enforce any law