Source: Harper's Weekly, 1867
The image from Harper's Weekly always warms my heart. In the image one sees men of color participating in the affairs of government, by voting. That simple act of casting a vote is so well reflected in the image. One sees a man dressed as he may have been a farmer. A suited man stands behind him, and then there is the soldier. All are standing proud as men ready to participate in the voting process for the first time, in country of their birth. This was a privilege that until February 3, 1870, that they had not had. But finally when given the opportunity, they did cast their votes so proudly.
On this day in 1870, the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified. This amendment state that "right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
Of course the next century would see continuous efforts to prevent the vote from being extended equally to all. And many states would rescind claiming states rights to prevent people of color from exercising this right. Until 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, efforts to prevent the descendants of former slaves from having equal rights. The struggle was a long and painful one. I recall as a young girl listening to a courageous Fannie Lou Hamer speak of how she was so brutally beaten for fighting for that simple right to cast a ballot. It was hard to understand how after almost a full century after ratification, the battle for the right to vote was still being fought in this land.
Although this is not a widely known data in American history, it should be, especially in this season of Freedom. So we must pause and understand the importance of February 3 and not forget its significance.
The right to cast a vote was ratified, and to all who fought to keep that right and to defeat illegal laws that were put in place to supress that right, this day should be commemorated.
It is our history. It is American history.