July 9 marks the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting American citizenship to former Black slaves following the Civil War.
The 14th Amendment, one of the Reconstruction Amendments, was adopted on July 9, 1868, after being bitterly opposed by states that were former members of the Confederacy. The states were forced to ratify the amendment to regain representation in Congress.
The amendment’s Citizenship Clause nullified the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1857 decision concerning Dred Scott v. Sanford, which the court ruled that Americans who descended from African slaves could not be United States citizens.
The Amendment also prohibits states from denying persons equal protection of the laws or depriving them of life, liberty or property without due process of the law. The first section of the Amendment is the most-litigated forming the basis of U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as 1954’s Brown v Board of Education and Roe v. Wade in 1973.