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The Fifteenth Amendment, 1870

Five years after the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, former abolitionists who believed in equality for freedmen and practical politicians who saw their votes as a way to retain Republican control of the conquered Confederate states worked together to ratify the Fifteenth Amendment, giving African American men the right to vote.

Lithograph created to celebrate passage of the Fifteenth Amendment

Gift of Warshaw Collection of Business Americana

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African Americans celebrated the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment as another step toward equality, but the celebration was short-lived. Within ten years former Confederates had regained control of southern state governments and began to use intimidation, violence, and restrictive voter qualifications to keep African Americans from the polls.

Proclaiming Suffrage

Pen used by President Ulysses S. Grant to sign the presidential proclamation of the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment enfranchising African American men

Gift of Edward H. Preston

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No Negro Equality

As this ballot from Ohio’s 1867 governor’s race attests, not all Americans wholeheartedly embraced equality for African Americans.

Gift of the Honorable Michael V. DiSalle in memory of Thomas H. Williams

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