The Declaration of Independence declared that “All men are created equal”, most people in the United States did not have full rights of citizenship until almost two hundred years later. The United States has a long history of denying the right to vote to the poor, women, and people of color purposefully, through intimidation, violence, or creating laws as barriers.
Have students create a timeline of voting rights in the US!
Declaration of Independance
"All Men are Created Equal"
Voting Rights in the U.S. - 1776-1869
In 1775, the Declaration of Independence is written. At this time, only people who own land can vote. This basically covers only white male landowners over the age of 21.
Washington Elected President
“I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love.”
When the Constitution is adopted, there is no standard for voting rights. States are given the power to regulate their own voting laws and in most cases, voting remains in the hands of wealthy white men.
When George Washington is elected president in 1788, only about 6% of the population is eligible to vote.
Naturalization Act of 1790
The 1790 Naturalization Law stated that only “free white” immigrants could become naturalized citizens. Citizenship was based on race and African Americans couldn't vote even if they were free.
Women's Rights Convention in NY
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal."
Women’s Rights Convention was held in Seneca Falls, NY in 1847. The convention adopted a resolution called the 'Declaration of Sentiments' which called for voting rights for women.
Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo
Citizenship is granted to Mexicans living in the territories conquered by the U.S. However, English language requirements and unlawful, violent intimidation continue to deny access to the vote for most Mexican-Americans.
14th Amendment Passed
"No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States."
15th Amendment Passed
After the 13th Amendment abolishes slavery in 1865, the 14th Amendment is passed in 1866 granting citizenship to African Americans. They are still denied the right to vote.
The 15th Amendment granted all men the right to vote regardless of race, color, or if they were formally slaves. Local laws and intimidation still disenfranchised Black voters.
“The Declaration of Independence is not yet fully carried out, nor will it be, until…the Black man, as well as the white, is permitted to enjoy all the franchises pertaining to citizens of the United States of America.”-William Howard Day , speech at the White House, July 4, 1865