Law school by tweet: the 14th Amendment's Biggest Failure


Law school by tweet: the 14th Amendment's Biggest Failure


The 14th Amdt’s Biggest Failure, or Women Excluded for Naught: a long thread.

Two decades after the Civil War, it was as though it had never happened. Instead of the safety to work their land and vote, Black families were re-enslaved as sharecroppers and as vulnerable as ever.

After the war, white supremacists in former Confederate states continued to murder African-Americans with impunity. Even in states where African-Americans were a MAJORITY--South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi--they were prevented from self-government by vigilante terrorism.

For a brief moment states fought back against their lawless citizens. Hundreds of Ku Klux Klan members were convicted of crimes against African-Americans. But the terrorism continued.

Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, the Enforcement Acts & other federal legislation meant to protect African-American citizens.

The other branches did everything they could to obstruct. Pres. Andrew Johnson vetoed all their legislation - Congress overrode his veto. Then the Supreme Court eviscerated Congress’ authority to take action.

By the end of the 1870s Congress gave in and ended Reconstruction. For Black men in the South (and after 1920 women too), the constant threat of extrajudicial killing kept them from voting . . . for almost another century. Apr 21, 2020But African-Americans still counted in the census - and not as ⅗ of a human being but as whole persons. Just without votes. So the former states of the Confederacy got MORE seats in Congress. All white seats.

Didn’t the 14th Amdt explicitly say this wasn’t supposed to happen?

Wasn’t this the whole reason Congress added “male” to the Constitution for the first time? To protect the votes of Black men and prevent unjust enrichment of southern states?

Well, yes. But it was clunky and weak and unenforceable - and unenforced.

Other solutions that might have been easier to enforce - like tying electoral power to “voters” - were rejected by the Senate for fear that states would expand power by enfranchising women. Horrors.

In other words, the drafters of the 14th Amdt deliberately chose language that would block women from voting, even though it weakened the amendment. And worse, it was so weak that it utterly failed to do what it was intended to do.

In short, the first and only gender restriction in the Constitution was added for nothing. #Suffrage100 


Daily Suffragist






Daily Suffragist, “Law school by tweet: the 14th Amendment's Biggest Failure,” Daily Suffragist, accessed December 4, 2023,

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