Southern History and Civil Rights in the News 9 July 2021

Scout Johnson's picture

9 July 2021


This Week’s History:


This week marks the anniversary of the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment which was ratified 9 July 1868 as part of the Reconstruction Amendments to the US Constitution. Section 1 reads


All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


Among other rights, the Fourteenth codified citizenship for Americans of African descent, overturning the 1857 Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v Sandford. In that decision, the Chief Justice, Roger B Taney, wrote that Black Americans were “not included, and were not intended to be included, under the word ‘citizens’ in the Constitution, and could therefore claim none of the rights and privileges which that instrument provides for and secures to citizens,” and “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”


In addition to citizenship, the Fourteenth also included a Due Process clause, reinforcing the Fifth Amendment, and crucially, added an Equal Protection clause. The latter two have proven instrumental in securing civil rights for many groups in the century and a half since ratification. Cases such as Brown v Board of Education (1954), which ruled public school segregation unconstitutional, Gideon v Wainwright (1963), which guaranteed the accused’s right to counsel, Loving v Virginia (1967), which overturned miscegenation laws, Roe v Wade (1973), which guaranteed a woman’s right to reproductive choice, and Obergefell v Hodges (2015), which enshrined marriage equality, were all based on the due process and equal protection clauses. (Unfortunately, so was Plessy v Ferguson (1896) which instituted segregation through the “separate but equal” doctrine)


As consequential as the Fourteenth Amendment was for African Americans at ratification, it has proven moreso, and for many more groups, as time has passed, and the Fourteenth is one of the most cited constitutional foundationss in civil rights legislation to this day.



References and Further Reading:

Fourteenth Amendment,” Library of Congress

The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution, Eric Foner, WW Norton & Co, 2019

Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America, Garrett Epps, Holt, 2007

The Second Founding: An Introduction to the Fourteenth Amendment, Ilan Wurman, Cambridge University Press, 2020

The Original Meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment: Its Letter and Spirit, Randy E Barnett & Evan D Bernick, Belknap Press, 2021


News Links:

Southern History

The Unique Language of Southern Appalachia,” ReckonSouth

Bipartisan Effort to Preserve Carolinas US Revolution Sites,” The Charlotte Observer


Civil Rights

Houston County Marker Added to State Civil Rights Trail,” KPVI—NBC News Affiliate, Pocatello, ID

Almost 50 Years Later, Deadly Attack at New Orleans Gay Bar Remains Unsolved,” Mississippi Center for Investigative Journalism

Atlanta’s Newest Park Intended To Honor Civil Rights Leaders and Address Flooding,” WABE—NPR Affiliate, Atlanta

Federal Probe of American Indian Boarding Schools Reflects Dark Chapter in US History,” The Press-Enterprise—Riverside, CA


Until next week, take care,


Michele “Scout” Johnson

Editor, H-South


This series of posts to H-South, “Southern History and Civil Rights in the News,” aims to generate and track informed public discussions of southern history and civil rights. To recommend a reading, please email Dr. Michele Johnson at