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Primary Documents in American History

14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Free! Card showing African American slave reaching freedom.
Lithograph, color. 1863.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:

The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified on July 9, 1868, and granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included former slaves recently freed. In addition, it forbids states from denying any person "life, liberty or property, without due process of law" or to "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

  • June 8, 1866 - The Senate passed the 14th Amendment by a vote of 33 to 11.
  • June 13, 1866 - The House of Representatives passed the 14th Amendment by a vote of 120 to 32.
  • June 16, 1866 - The text of the 14th Amendment can be found in the United States Statutes at Large, volume 14, page 358 (14 Stat. 358).
  • June 22, 1866 - President Andrew Johnson submitted a message to Congress announcing that the Fourteenth Amendment had been sent to the states for ratification. Johnson voiced his displeasure with the amendment by stating that his actions should "be considered as purely ministerial, and in no sense whatever committing the Executive to an approval or a recommendation of the amendment to the State legislatures or to the people."
  • July 28, 1868 - Secretary of State William Seward issued a proclamation certifying the ratification of the 14th Amendment by the states.

Search in the 39th Congress to find additional legislative information on the 14th Amendment.

African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A.P.Murray Collection, 1818-1907

The Daniel A. P. Murray Pamphlet Collection presents a panoramic and eclectic review of African-American history and culture, spanning almost one hundred years from the early nineteenth through the early twentieth centuries, with the bulk of the material published between 1875 and 1900

Votes for Women: Selections from the National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection, 1848-1921

The NAWSA Collection consists of 167 books, pamphlets and other artifacts documenting the suffrage campaign.

  • Suffrage conferred by the Fourteenth amendment. Woman's suffrage in the Supreme court of the District of Columbia, in general term, October, 1871. Sara J. Spencer vs. The Board of registration, and Sarah E. Webster vs. The judges of election. Argument of the counsel for the plaintiffs. With the opinions of the court. Reported by J.O. Clephane.

America's Library

Jump Back in Time: 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

The Chronicling America site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836-1922. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the 14th Amendment.

A selection of articles on the 14th Amendment includes:

Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic. It includes a chapter on the 14th Amendment. (PDF, 2.41 MB)


African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship

This exhibition showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displays more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom

This exhibition, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, explores the events that shaped the civil rights movement, as well as the far-reaching impact the act had on a changing society.

Law Library of Congress

Fourteenth Amendment and Citizenship

Law Library of Congress page on the Fourteenth Amendment and the history of the citizenship clause.

Today in History

July 28, 1868

On July 28, 1868, Secretary of State William Seward issued a proclamation certifying without reservation that the Fourteenth Amendment was a part of the Constitution.

May 18, 1898

The Supreme Court ruled separate-but-equal facilities constitutional on intrastate railroads. For fifty years, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision upheld the principle of racial segregation.

June 2, 1924

On June 2, 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, which granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. The right to vote, however, was governed by state law; until 1957, some states barred Native Americans from voting.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Citizenship, Due Process, and Equal Protection: The Creation of the Fourteenth Amendment, HarpWeek

The Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, National Constitution Center

Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, University of Maryland

Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School

Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments, U.S. Senate

Our Documents, 14th Amendment, National Archives and Records Administration

Toward Racial Equality: Harper’s Weekly Reports on Black America, 1857-1874, HarpWeek

Selected Bibliography

Avins, Alfred, comp. The Reconstruction Amendments' Debates: The Legislative History and Contemporary Debates in Congress on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Richmond: Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, 1967. [Catalog Record]

Berger, Raoul. The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1989. [Catalog Record]

-----. Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1997. [Catalog Record]

Bond, James E. No Easy Walk to Freedom: Reconstruction and the Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1997. [Catalog Record]

Curtis, Michael Kent. No State Shall Abridge: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Bill of Rights. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1986. [Catalog Record]

Epps, Garrett. Democracy Reborn: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Fight for Equal Rights in Post-Civil War America. New York: H. Holt, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Flack, Horace Edgar. The Adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment. Buffalo, N.Y.: W.S. Hein, 2003. [Catalog Record]

Hay, Jeff, ed. Amendment XIV: Citizenship For All. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Greenhaven Press, 2009. [Catalog Record]

James, Joseph B. The Ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1984. [Catalog Record]

Meyer, Howard N. The Amendment that Refused to Die: Equality and Justice Deferred: The History of the Fourteenth Amendment. Lanham, Md.: Madison Books, 2000. [Catalog Record]

Nelson, William E. The Fourteenth Amendment: From Political Principle to Judicial Doctrine. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988. [Catalog Record]

Perry, Michael J. We the People: The Fourteenth Amendment and the Supreme Court. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Burgan, Michael. The Reconstruction Amendments. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Hudson, David L. Jr. The Fourteenth Amendment: Equal Protection Under the Law. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2002 [Catalog Record]

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  September 30, 2015
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