15th Amendment Summary: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Angela Burke

Angela has over ten years of teaching experience in Special Education, classroom teaching and GT. She has a master's degree in Special Ed with an emphasis in Gifted.

In this lesson, you will learn about the 15th Amendment, which gave voting rights to black men. But, as you will learn, this was easier said then done. Find out about this amendment and the roadblocks African American men met when they tried to vote.

The 15th Amendment

Have you ever had something important to say and realized that nobody was listening to you? It's a very frustrating experience! This is what happened to people fighting for the rights of black people in the 1800's. And just because the 15th Amendment, which gave African American men the right to vote, was passed, didn't mean things got any easier for them.

The Civil War

As you may recall, from 1861 - 1865, the United States engaged in a Civil War, a battle between the northern states and the southern states. There were many reasons for this war, but the burning issue was slavery. The North won and, as a result, three amendments, changes to the United States Constitution, known as the Reconstruction Amendments, were passed. The 13th Amendment abolished, put an end to, slavery and was ratified in December 1865. The 14th Amendment, passed in 1868, made ex-slaves citizens of the United States. Now it was time to pass an amendment for black suffrage. Suffrage is the right to vote.

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass, a famous black leader, was born a slave. But he escaped and played an important role in the abolitionist movement. Douglas spoke to thousands of people, even in Ireland and Britain, about slavery and equal voting rights for not only black men, but also for women. During the war, he spoke to President Lincoln about the treatment of black soldiers and later to President Jackson about black suffrage.

Frederick Douglass


The 15th Amendment, which states that United States citizens should not be denied the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude, was passed on February 3, 1870. This meant that black men could now vote. However, this did not mean it would be easy. The southern states, unhappy about losing the war and about the passing of the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments, placed many roadblocks in the way of black men who tried to vote.

Although these roadblocks were designed specifically to prevent black men from voting, they also affected many poor white men. One of these roadblocks was a literacy test. This meant that if any male, black or white, wanted to vote, they first had to prove that they could read. Most black men and poor white men were illiterate, having never learned how to read.

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