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Lesson 25: How Has the Right to Vote Expanded Since the Constitution Was Adopted?


civil rights movement  A social movement in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s, in which people organized to demand equal rights for African Americans and other minorities. People worked together to change unfair laws. They gave speeches, marched in the streets, and participated in boycotts.

Civil War Amendments  The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution ratified after the Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. The Fourteenth Amendment granted full citizenship to African Americans. The Fifteenth Amendment guaranteed the right to vote to men regardless of their "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."

Fifteenth Amendment  An amendment to the Constitution, ratified after the Civil War in 1870, that forbids the denial of voting rights to any person based on race, color, or whether that person was previously a slave.

Fourteenth Amendment  An amendment to the Constitution that states that no person-including people who are not citizens-will have their life, liberty, or property taken away by state or local governments without due process of law. This amendment protects a citizen's right to be treated fairly by his or her state and local governments. It also defines a citizen as anyone born or naturalized in the United States. It was one of the Civil War amendments.

grandfather clause  A law that stated that a citizen could vote only if his grandfather had been allowed to vote. The law made it impossible for African Americans to vote because their grandfathers had not been allowed to vote.

literacy test  A test that requires people to prove that they are able to read and write. Until 1964, these tests were used in various states throughout the country to keep minorities from voting.

Nineteenth Amendment  Added to the Constitution in 1920, it gave women the right to vote.

poll tax  A tax that voters in many states were required to pay in order to exercise their right to vote. These barriers were used until 1964 to prevent African Americans from voting.

register  To enroll one's name officially as a requirement for voting.

suffrage  The right to vote.

Thirteenth Amendment  This Amendment abolished slavery. It was adopted after the Civil War in 1865.

Twenty-fourth Amendment  The Amendment adopted in 1964 that forbids the levying of a poll tax or any other tax on eligible voters in elections for federal officials, including the president, vice president, and members of Congress.

Twenty-sixth Amendment  The Amendment adopted in 1971 that says a state cannot deny someone the right to vote if they have reached the age of 18 and are otherwise eligible to vote. Although eighteen-year-olds had already been accorded the vote in national elections by the Voting Rights Act of 1970, the Twenty- sixth Amendment assured them the vote in all elections.

Voting Rights Act (1965)  The act further protected the right to vote for all U.S. citizens. It forced the states to obey the Constitution. It made it clear that the right to vote could not be denied because of a person's color or race.