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Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution
Ratified 1870


Although the Fifteenth Amendment does not guarantee the right to vote, it prohibits the denial of this right based on the grounds of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." For decades, however, the amendment was circumvented in the South by white-only primaries, poll taxes and literacy or property tests. In 1915, in Guinn v. United States, the Supreme Court cited the Fifteenth Amendment in striking an Oklahoma "grandfather clause," which limited the right to vote to those men whose grandfathers had been eligible for the vote in 1867. Subsequent decisions eventually eliminated other discriminatory practices.


Section 1. 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 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.