The Fifteenth Amendment, ratified February 3, 1870, gave African American men in America the right to vote. It was the third and last of the Reconstruction amendments. While women’s suffrage took another fifty years, the arrival of African American men at the polls promised a dramatic change in politics and society. Historians have long wrestled with the question of whether the amendment was a success or a failure.

In this talk, Don Debats explores newly discovered electoral records that enhance our understanding of an amendment many called, “the greatest gain of the Civil War.”

Don Debats is a Virginia Humanities’ residential Fellow, NEH scholar, Flinders University professor and director of the Jeff Bleich Center for the US Alliance in Digital Technology Security and Governance.

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