The Brown v. Board of Education Historical Site in Topeka, Kansas, commemorates the landmark case that led to desegregation in U.S. public schools. The entrance to the site quotes the 14th amendment, one of the most bitterly contested clauses in the entire U.S. Constitution.
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  • On July 28, 1868, the 14th amendment to the United States Constitution was certified for ratification. The 14th amendment guarantees the rights and privileges of citizenship to all persons born or naturalized as U.S. citizens. The 14th amendment (along with the 13th and 15th amendments) was one of the “Reconstruction amendments” passed in the aftermath of the Civil War. These amendments abolished slavery and established voting and citizenship rights primarily for African American men. These rights were later extended to women and other ethnic groups.
    The 14th amendment has four sections. The first section has four clauses: the citizenship clause, the privileges and immunities clause, the due process clause, and the equal protection clause. These clauses limit states’ authority in determining the rights of U.S. citizens.
    The clauses of the 14th amendment—especially the equal protection clause—are among the most litigated and controversial in U.S. history. Plyer v. Doe is an interpretation of the citizenship clause. It prevents states from denying public-school funding to undocumented immigrants. Roe v. Wade is an interpretation of the due process clause. It allows a woman to have an abortion under certain circumstances. Brown v. Board of Education is an interpretation of the equal protection clause. It prohibits public schools from segregating students and facilities based on race.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    14th amendment Noun

    update to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing all citizens equal protection and due process under the law.

    abolish Verb

    to wipe out or get rid of.

    abortion Noun

    surgical removal of an embryo or fetus to end a pregnancy.

    amendment Noun

    change made to a law or set of laws.

    authority Noun

    person or organization responsible for making decisions.

    circumstance Noun

    condition or situation.

    citizen Noun

    member of a country, state, or town who shares responsibilities for the area and benefits from being a member.

    Civil War Noun

    (1860-1865) American conflict between the Union (north) and Confederacy (south).

    clause Noun

    one part of a contract, treaty, or other agreement.

    constitution Noun

    system of ideas and general laws that guide a nation, state, or other organization.

    controversial Noun

    questionable or leading to argument.

    deny Verb

    to refuse or not allow

    due process Noun administration of justice, according to which no citizen may be denied his or her legal rights.
    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    ethnic group Adjective

    people sharing genetic characteristics, culture, language, religion or history.

    extend Verb

    to enlarge or continue.

    funding Noun

    money or finances.

    guarantee Verb

    to promise or confirm.

    interpretation Noun

    way of understanding an event or set of facts.

    litigate Verb

    to bring and proceed with a lawsuit.

    naturalize Verb

    to officially confer the rights and privileges of a citizen on a person not born a citizen of a nation.

    primarily Adverb

    first or most important.

    privilege Noun

    benefit or special right.

    race Noun

    arbitrary grouping of people based on genetics and physical characteristics.

    Reconstruction Noun

    (1865-1877) period during which the states formerly belonging to the Confederate States of America were transformed and integrated back into the United States following the Civil War.

    right Noun

    specific freedom or opportunity granted to an individual or organization based on the law.

    segregate Verb

    to separate or set apart.

    slavery Noun

    process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.

    undocumented immigrant Noun

    person who has migrated to a nation without following the immigration laws of that nation.