Voting Rights

The Constitution originally left the issue of voting primarily to the states. However, African Americans had long called for access to the ballot. The 15th Amendment transformed the Constitution—banning racial discrimination in voting. By defending the Union cause on the battlefield and risking their lives to flee enemy lines, African Americans laid claim to this new protection.

Jan 10, 1869
Boutwell proposes suffrage amendment in House

The right of any citizen of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of the race, color, or previous condition of slavery of any citizen or class of citizens of the United States. The Congress shall have power to enforce by proper legislation the provisions of this article.

Jan 22, 1869
Henderson proposes suffrage amendment in Senate

No State shall deny or abridge the right of its citizens to vote and hold office on account of race, color, or previous condition. The Congress by appropriate legislation, may enforce the provisions of this article.

Jan 26, 1869
Bingham proposes a broader suffrage amendment

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge or deny to any male citizen of the United States, of sound mind, and over twenty-one years of age, the equal exercise of the elective franchise at all elections in the State wherein he shall have actually resided for a period of one year next preceding such election, except such of said citizens as shall hereafter engage in rebellion or insurrection, or who may have been or shall be duly convicted of treason or other crime of the grade of felony at common law.

Jan 27, 1869
Senate Judiciary Committee proposes an amendment

The right of citizens of the United States to vote, and hold office shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Feb 7, 1869
Wilson proposes a broad suffrage amendment

No discrimination shall be made in any State among the citizens of the United States in the exercise of the elective franchise or in the right to hold office in any State on account of race, color, nativity, property, education, or creed.

Feb 19, 1869
Bingham proposes broad discrimination protections

The right of citizens of the United States to vote and hold office shall not be denied or abridged by any State on account of race, color, nativity, property, creed, or previous condition of servitude.

Feb 24, 1869
Conference Committee focuses on racial discrimination

The 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.

Feb 25, 1869
15th Amendment Final Text

Section One: The 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. Section Two: The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.