What does the term "Recontruction Amendments" mean or represent in African American History?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The term “Reconstruction Amendments” refers to three constitutional amendments that were passed and ratified right after the Civil War.  These were the 13th, the 14th, and the 15th Amendments.  They were meant as a way to ensure that slavery would be abolished and that blacks would have rights equal to those of whites.  They represent a major promise to African Americans, though one that was broken by whites for a very long time.

The Reconstruction Amendments form the basis of the rights that African Americans enjoy today.  The 13th Amendment prohibited slavery.  The 14th Amendment guaranteed that all people should have the “equal protection of the laws.”  The 15th Amendment guaranteed that African Americans would have the right to vote.  All of these are very important rights.  For example, the 14th Amendment was used to ban segregation in schools.

Because of this, the Reconstruction Amendments represent a very important promise to African Americans.  Sadly, this promise was broken for most of the time from the end of the Civil War until the 1960s.  The Jim Crow laws made a mockery of the 14th Amendment and various legal subterfuges destroyed the meaning of the 15th Amendment.

Today, the Reconstruction Amendments actually do help to protect African Americans.  Thus, we can say that they represent a promise that was long broken but is now, for the most part, being kept.