Many of you show figures here with enough firepower to be considered one-man armies. This figure holds what may be a power even greater than the biggest gun—the vote. The 14th Amendment to the Constitution gave African Americans the rights and privileges of citizenship. The 15th Amendment gave African American men the right to vote. Both amendments were specifically passed to grant blacks a measure of equality. They used the newfound power of the ballot to elect black politicians and their white Radical Republican supporters to local, state, and national offices. During the period of Radical Reconstruction, African Americans, in some states, constituted the majority of state legislatures and forged some of the most progressive social programs the south had ever known. Unfortunately, their time in power was fleeting and the “old south” was eventually redeemed. By the beginning of the 20h century, most African Americans had been disfranchised and would have to fight a long and bloody civil rights struggle to reclaim a promise that had been guaranteed by the Constitution many decades earlier.
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