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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

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

In 1873, the U.S. Supreme Court examined the 14th Amendment in the Slaughterhouse Case. The dissenting opinions can be read in this collection. Also includes a speech from 1904 by Edward Morrell, a congressman from Pennsylvania, entitled "Negro Suffrage: Should the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments be Repealed?"

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

The Senate passed the 14th Amendment on June 8, 1866, by a vote of 33 to 11, while the House of Representatives passed the 14th Amendment on June 13, 1866, by a vote of 120 to 32. On 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 information on the 14th Amendment.

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

In 1871, Sara J. Spencer and Sarah E. Webster each brought cases before the court in the District of Columbia arguing that they were enfranchised by the Fourteenth Amendment. This pamphlet outlines the arguments of their lawyers and the decision of the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia denying their claim.

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.


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.

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.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

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

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

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

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

Selected Bibliography

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

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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  January 21, 2015
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