Reconstruction Era What was the significance of the 14th Amendment?

With the Union victory in the Civil War in 1865, it left many Confederates and Southerners in dismay over the freeing of enslaved individuals. In an attempt to reform, President Andrew Jackson imposed unjust laws such as the “black codes,” restricting the rights of former slaves, essentially blocking them from being treated as equals. However, this angered Northerners and radical Republicans, essentially progressing them to push harder for the rights of these former slaves, and by 1867, Blacks were given a voice in government. The following year, the 14th Amendment was ratified, which further sealed the future for slaves. But during these years of Reconstruction, what was the significance of the 14th Amendment?

A success of the era was the progressive changes that the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment provided, not only for Blacks, but for society as a whole. The primary source explains that the Fourteenth Amendment provided the granting of citizenship for all individuals born or naturalized in the U.S., while forbidding states from denying any individual “life, liberty, or property” without the use of due process, or denying them of any rights given to other individuals. Not only did this revolutionize the way of life for Blacks, but it also helped shape the future for women and free men. This was truly a success during this era in that it changed the lifestyles for so many individuals whether it was through the now-available education or through the opening of many jobs not previously accessible by certain members of society.
A failure during this era concerning the Fourteenth Amendment was the continuation of racial setbacks and separation in society. Even with the implementation of this amendment, cases such as Plessy vs. Ferguson in May of 1896 displayed the deliberate existence of discrimination. In this case, as explained by the primary source, Homer Adolph Plessy, an individual who was 7/8th Caucasian, was arrested on a train car for sitting in a “white-only” train car and refusing to move to the “blacks-only” car. His arrest in Louisiana was justified through the fact that these cars were “separate but equal” displaying the failure of the Fourteenth Amendment to eliminate separation in society.
A legacy of the Fourteenth Amendment was the widespread struggle and challenge of white and black citizens to actually implement the changes that were ensured by the Amendment. Many citizens attempted to take their cases to courts and petitioned laws. Congress implemented legislation and the Executive Branch continued to fight and provide laws that would guard all citizens’ lives. While many of these actions failed, the legacy provided by the Fourteenth Amendment during the Reconstruction Era helped pave the way of the 20th century and many others’ rights as well.

Although having a multitude of issues, the Fourteenth Amendment was able to shape many futures and change the lives of many individuals who did not have the rights prior to its ratification. This relates to a more current event of LGBT+ individuals and the passing of the law that all states must allow same-sex marriage, implemented on June 26th, 2015. With the passing of this law, individuals everywhere were provided with the same rights given to all others.

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