The Fourteenth Amendment

On July 28, 1868, Secretary of State William Seward issued a proclamation certifying without reservation that the Fourteenth Amendment was a part of the United States Constitution. The required number of states had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment a few weeks earlier on July 9, 1868. Known as one of the “Reconstruction Amendments” along with the Thirteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, the Fourteenth Amendment forbids any state to deny to 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.” With its broadly phrased language, the Fourteenth Amendment continues to provide a basis for civil rights claims in the United States.

Supreme Court Room. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Albertype Co. c1894. Wittemann Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Soon after ratification, the Slaughterhouse Case tested the scope of the Fourteenth Amendment. Brought before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1873, the suit argued that the monopoly the Louisiana legislature granted to a New Orleans slaughtering company abridged other businessmen’s privileges as American citizens and deprived them of property without due process of the law. The court ruled against the slaughterhouses, narrowly interpreting “the privileges and immunities” of citizens and stating that the amendment did not extend to the property rights of businessmen. In their dissenting opinion, Justices Stephen Johnson Field, Joseph P. Bradley, and Noah Haynes Swayne wrote that, in considering the Fourteenth Amendment,

the right to pursue any lawful trade or avocation, without other restraint than such as equally affects all persons, is one of the privileges of citizens of the United States which can not be abridged by state legislation.

Stephen Johnson Field, Joseph P. Bradley, and Noah Haynes Swayne, The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution Considered… Washington, D.C.: Chas. W. Gordon, Printer, 1873. African American Perspectives: Materials Selected from the Rare Book Collection. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

Women tried to use the new amendment to affirm their right to vote. In 1871, Sara J. Spencer and Sarah E. Webster brought their cases before the District of Columbia court arguing that they were enfranchised by the Fourteenth Amendment. Their lawyers argued that while District law specified that “male residents” could vote, passage of the Fourteenth Amendment nullified that requirement.

…in the presence of the first section of the Fourteenth Amendment, which confers the elective franchise upon “all persons,” this word “male” is as if unwritten, and, [therefore], the statute, constitutionally, reads, “That all citizens shall be entitled to vote.”

Albert Gallatin Riddle, Suffrage Conferred by the Fourteenth Amendment… Washington, D.C.: Judd & Detweiler, Printers and Publishers, 1871. National American Woman Suffrage Association Collection. Rare Book & Special Collections Division

Riddle further argued on the women’s behalf that “the right to vote is a natural right,” central to the notion of citizenship. Today, the right to vote is considered a fundamental civil right of all United States citizens. But, in nineteenth-century America, political rights, including enfranchisement, were viewed as distinct from civil rights.

George E. C. Hayes, Thurgood Marshall, and James Nabrit…following Supreme Court Decision… Courtesy of AP/Wide World Photos, 1954. The Civil Rights Era. The African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship. New York World-Telegram and Sun Photograph Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

On May 18, 1896, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Plessy v. Ferguson that “separate but equal” facilities were considered sufficient to satisfy the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision established a pattern in American society, until May 17, 1954, when the Court reversed the Plessy decision. In the case of Brown v. the Board of Education of Topeka (argued for Brown by Thurgood Marshall), the Court held that segregation of public schools is a denial of equal protection under the law.

Learn More

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis

One of America’s most prominent first ladies, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was born on July 28, 1929. Educated at Miss Porter’s School, Vassar College, and the Sorbonne, she earned a bachelor’s degree from George Washington University. After college, Onassis worked as the Washington Times-Herald‘s “inquiring photographer.”

First official White House photograph of Mrs. John F. Kennedy. Mark Shaw, photographer, 1961. First Ladies of the United States: Selected Images from the Collections of the Library of Congress. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1952, she met the Democratic senator from Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and a year later the two were married. The Kennedys had two children who grew to adulthood, Caroline, born in 1957, and John Jr., born shortly after his father’s 1960 election as president.

Bouvier-Kennedy wedding portrait. Toni Frissell, photographer, Sept 12, 1953. Toni Frisell Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

To the role of First Lady, Mrs. Kennedy brought her interest in history and her appreciation of the fine and decorative arts. She focused on restoring the White House rather than merely redecorating her new home. Mrs. Kennedy established a White House Fine Arts Commission, hired a curator, and published the first historic guide to the Executive Mansion. She used her position and influence to acquire significant antiques for the residence. In 1962, the First Lady welcomed the public into the residence by hosting the first televised tour of the White House.

Mrs. Kennedy carried out the more traditional duties of presidential hostess with grace and style. In addition to presiding over state functions at home, she was a successful ambassador to foreign shores. On trips abroad, she proved nearly as popular as the president. Well educated, fashionably dressed, and fluent in their language, she was embraced by the French on a 1961 trip. His wife was so admired there, that President Kennedy quipped at a state dinner, “I do not think it altogether inappropriate to introduce myself…I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it.” She was also warmly welcomed on a solo goodwill tour to India and Pakistan the following year.

Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India, 1962. External. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and MuseumExternal

Following President Kennedy’s assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy’s image was seared into the minds of the American public who, via television, saw her return, blood-stained, to the capital. Mrs. Kennedy’s remarkable composure in the days that followed, and her quiet determination to see the slain president buried in an appropriate manner facilitated the collective mourning of the American people.

Arlington House, Robert E. Lee’s former home, stands high above the Kennedy family gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia. Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, between 1980 and 2006. Highsmith (Carol M.) Archive. Prints & Photographs Division

In 1968, Mrs. Kennedy married Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. After his death in 1975, she embarked on a successful career as an editor in the publishing industry. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis died in 1994 and is buried beside her first husband in Arlington National Cemetery.

Learn More

The “Bonus Army”

On July 28, 1932, protesters known as the “Bonus Army,” or “Bonus Expeditionary Forces (B.E.F.),” who had gathered in the nation’s capital to demand an immediate lump-sum payment of pension funds (benefits) for their military service during World War I, were confronted by Federal troops (cavalry, machine-gunners, and infantry) following President Herbert Hoover‘s orders to evacuate. (While Congress had approved the payment in 1924, the bonus was not payable until 1945.) The presence of the Bonus Army was a continuing embarrassment and source of difficulty for Hoover. He sent in troops under the command of Brigadier General Perry L. Miles and General Douglas MacArthur. The veterans faced tear-gas bombs, bayonets, and tanks. Riots erupted and the veterans eventually disbanded.

Bonus veterans. Bonus veterans from Jeannette, Pennsylvania. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, ca. 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division
Veterans stage bonus demonstration as Congress struggles with deficit. Underwood & Underwood, April 8, 1932. Prints & Photographs Division

Suffering from the economic devastation of the Great Depression, veterans began assembling nationwide in March for their journey to the nation’s capital. Estimates for the B.E.F. range widely—from a low of 20,000 persons to a high of 65,000 persons (including their families) by the summer of 1932. The veterans made their presence known to Congress—lobbying for payment and marching up and down Pennsylvania Avenue. They camped out in shacks and tents along the Anacostia River and health officials worried about the threat of disease.

Bonus veterans. B.E.F. at the U.S. Capitol. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, ca. 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

A second Bonus Army came to Washington in May 1933 to appeal to the new administration of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. This time they were greeted by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Although the bonus pay legislation was again defeated in Congress, the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC) authorized jobs for 25,000 veterans. Congress eventually passed a bill authorizing early payment of the veterans’ benefits in 1936 over Roosevelt’s third veto. The Bonus Army paved the way for the G.I. Bill of Rights.

Bonus veterans. Kid from York, Pennsylvania. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, ca. 1920-1950. Horydczak Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

Learn More