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In this lesson, we will learn about the 24th Amendment.

We will examine what provisions it set forth, the background behind it, and the impact it has had.

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The 24th Amendment

Hi, guys and gals! Does anyone know how many amendments to the U.S. Constitution there are? Think hard! There are 27. In this lesson, we will be looking at one of the more modern amendments: number 24. Let’s first discuss the provisions laid out in the 24th Amendment, and then we will go back and explore its background and impact.

The 24th Amendment reads: ‘The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or any Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.’So let’s break this down and figure out what that means. The 24th Amendment prohibits conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on the payment of a poll tax or other type of tax. Put simply, this means a person shouldn’t have to pay a fee to vote.

Pay a fee to vote? What? Okay, yes, this idea might seem a bit odd to some of us, but there was once a time (actually not that long ago) where citizens had to pay what’s called a ‘poll tax‘ in order to vote. The 24th Amendment did away with the practice and effectively made poll taxes illegal. The 24th Amendment was ratified in January 1964.

Background and Context

Okay, now let’s explore the background behind all of this. So why would there be a poll tax in the first place? Well, poll taxes were primarily used as a means to restrict African-Americans from exercising their right to vote. If you remember, after the Civil War, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, while the 15th Amendment granted African-Americans the right to vote. So once this happened, black citizens freely exercised their right to vote and everything was just fine and dandy, right?Wrong! Throughout the late 19th and into the 20th century, many Southern states passed Jim Crow laws.

Jim Crow laws were racist laws designed to restrict the freedom of African-Americans. Jim Crow laws were in effect between the end of the Civil War and the mid-1960s. The poll tax was one of many Jim Crow laws.

Another common Jim Crow law required citizens to pass a literacy test before being permitted to vote. This was done because many African-Americans at this time could not read.The poll tax was enacted in a variety of forms throughout the South.

Because many African-Americans tended to be poor, the white upper-class population passed these types of laws, figuring many black Americans would not be able to afford the tax. Basically, the poll tax was a way to get around the 15th Amendment and keep African-Americans from voting.

Impact

You all are smart – why do you think the 24th Amendment was passed in the mid-1960s as opposed to any other time in American history? What was happening in the mid-1960s? Bingo! The civil rights movement! As we know, the civil rights movement was a movement aimed at securing equal rights for African-Americans. The civil rights movement peaked in the 1950s and 1960s. The passage of the 24th Amendment was a direct result of the civil rights movement.The 24th Amendment was proposed by Congress in 1962. It was then ratified on January 23, 1964.

It was a super important law because it effectively did away with poll taxes. It gave everyone an equal opportunity to vote. It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor; everyone was able to have a voice.

Lesson Summary

Now let’s review. The 24th Amendment prohibits conditioning the right to vote in federal elections on the payment of a poll tax or any other type of tax. Basically, the amendment made poll taxes illegal. A poll tax is a fee required in order to vote. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, while the 15th Amendment gave African-Americans the right to vote.

Jim Crow laws were racist laws designed to restrict the freedom of African-Americans. These laws were popular in the South from the end of the Civil War up until the 1960s. The civil rights movement was a movement aimed at securing equal rights for African-Americans. It peaked in the 1950s and the 1960s.

Learning Outcomes

This lesson provides information you can use to:

  • Summarize the 24th amendment
  • Outline the original purpose of poll taxes and their relationship to the Jim Crow laws
  • Discuss the cultural context and impact of the 24th amendment

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