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On this day in history, July 28, the 14th Amendment was certified, assuring equality for all Americans

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The Fourteenth Amendment, considered by both scholars and ordinary Americans to be one of the most consequential assurances of civil liberties in U.S. history, was certified as part of the Constitution by Secretary of State William Seward on this date — July 28, 1868. 

Congress passed it on June 13 and it was ratified by the requisite 28 of then-37 states on July 9, 1868. 

The Fourteenth Amendment encoded citizenship and due process for former slaves and is notably remembered, lauded, discussed and debated today for its landmark “equal protection” clause.

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“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside,” states Section 1 of the Amendment. 

Rep. John A. Bingham, R-Ohio, is shown between 1860 and 1875. A politician and lawyer, he was assistant Judge Advocate General in the trial of the Abraham Lincoln assassination, plus House manager (prosecutor) in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. (Artist is unknown.) 

Rep. John A. Bingham, R-Ohio, is shown between 1860 and 1875. A politician and lawyer, he was assistant Judge Advocate General in the trial of the Abraham Lincoln assassination, plus House manager (prosecutor) in the impeachment trial of President Andrew Johnson. (Artist is unknown.) 
(Heritage Art/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The passage is credited to Congressman John Bingham, R-Ohio, considered the principal author of the amendment, according to the Library of Congress.

The United States rushed to encode the liberties secured at the horrific cost of human carnage during the conflict.

The Fourteenth Amendment was the second of three Reconstruction Era-amendments adopted in rapid succession after the Civil War, as the United States rushed to encode the liberties secured at the horrific cost of human carnage during the conflict.

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The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery. The Fifteenth Amendment secured the right to vote regardless of “race, color or previous condition of servitude” — though only for men at the time. 

A Union charge at the Battle of Vicksburg, 1863. The terrible American Civil War ended slavery in the U.S. and inspired a flurry of efforts to encode in the Constitution values espoused in the American Revolution. 

A Union charge at the Battle of Vicksburg, 1863. The terrible American Civil War ended slavery in the U.S. and inspired a flurry of efforts to encode in the Constitution values espoused in the American Revolution. 
(DeAgostini/Getty Images)

America’s Revolutionary ideals, stating that “all men are created equal,” had now been more directly formalized in the Constitution. 

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The nation would continue the struggle for civil liberties at home, while fighting to defeat slavery around the world for generations, most notably during World War II. 

Nazi Germany counted 7.6 million slave laborers in August 1944 alone, according to the National World War II Museum, before its defeat at the hands of the U.S. and its Allies in 1945. 

Imperial Japan conscripted a vast force of tens of millions of slave laborers from across Asia during its World War II conquests of much of the continent. 

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Its victims included an estimated 10 million Chinese and up to an equal number of Indonesians, among many others, according to historians. 

General Dwight Eisenhower gives the order of the day, "Full Victory - Nothing Else," to paratroopers in England just before the invasion of Europe. Victory by the United States and its Allies in World War II ended the widespread practice of slave labor in both Europe and Asia.

General Dwight Eisenhower gives the order of the day, “Full Victory – Nothing Else,” to paratroopers in England just before the invasion of Europe. Victory by the United States and its Allies in World War II ended the widespread practice of slave labor in both Europe and Asia.
(U.S. Army Signal Corps Photo via AP)

The U.S. House of Representatives declared in 2007 that Japan forced 200,000 women into sex slavery during the war.

In the U.S., the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment still fuels major constitutional debates today on major issues from abortion to gun rights.

“The 14th Amendment wrote the Declaration of Independence’s promise of freedom and equality into the Constitution,” proclaims the National Constitution Center. 

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“In many ways, the history of the modern Supreme Court is really a history of modern-day battles over the 14th Amendment’s meaning.”



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