Voting Rights for Minorities—and Civil Rights

In 1868, Amendment 14 of the U.S. Constitution was passed, which states: “All citizens born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the U.S. and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge (limit) the privileges of the citizens nor deny any person within its jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.” And in 1870, Amendment 15 forbade all states from denying any person the right to vote on grounds of race, color or previous condition of servitude. In 1883, Washington temporarily extended suffrage to women and as a result, black women in Washington became the first black women to vote in the United States. However, despite the advancements in voting rights, many blacks across the country were prevented from voting through intimidation, literacy tests and grandfather clauses. To support the national fight for voting rights, in 1964 a group of Black Panthers stood on the steps of the state capitol in Olympia with guns drawn. In 1965, the landmark U.S. Voting Rights Act authorized the federal government to take over the registration of voters in areas of the country where state officials had regularly prevented blacks and other minorities from voting, in order to grant these people their full voting rights.

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