This fall, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we’re exploring the struggles African Americans faced for full citizenship and racial equality—as well stories of black resistance—during the 50 years following the Civil War in our exhibition Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow.
After the Civil War, the 13th Amendment was passed, which abolished slavery, and not long after, the 14th Amendment granted citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included formerly enslaved people. It also included the following mandate:
“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.”
Those words promised that all citizens were guaranteed equality under the law of the land. But unfortunately, despite all of these measures, as soon as the Civil War ended, efforts to create an interracial democracy were contested, and a harsh backlash (that we are still in the midst of today) rose up against that promise.
Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow interprets the history of African Americans exercising and fighting for their rights as well as the of “Jim Crow” laws, social codes, and violence that promoted racial segregation and discrimination to maintain white supremacy and oppose black advancement.
How to Use the Family Discussion Cards
What is Jim Crow and why is it called that? What makes a home and a family? We encourage families to discuss these tough questions together using our Family Discussion Cards as they view the exhibition. The set of eight cards includes an introductory card at the beginning of the exhibition with this prompt, which invites families to explore the portrait of Dred Scott (above) and its label:
Talk with your family about this statement: “To be a citizen is to be accepted, to be ‘one of us.’” How does being a citizen mean being accepted?
The other seven cards in the set each offer a guiding question and three gallery-based investigations into themes in the exhibition: Community, Equality, Fighting for Rights, Freedom, Home and Family, Soldiers and Service, and White Supremacy. You can use as many cards as you and your family like, in any order. Each card’s investigations are color-coded to the three galleries, and each card features a glossary of relevant terms. Check out a sneak preview below of the “Freedom” card.
In the first few weeks of the exhibition, we’ll be asking families for their feedback on these cards. We hope you’ll come, use them, and share your thoughts with us. See you at the Museum!
Written by Rachel Walman
Assistant Director, DiMenna Children’s History Museum
Top image credit: Extract from the Reconstructed Constitution of the State of Louisiana, 1868. New-York Historical Society Library.