The most important of the three American Civil War and Reconstruction amendments to the US Constitution. Drawn up in 1866 by the Joint Committee of Fifteen, the Fourteenth Amendment extended US citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the USA (and thus, by including ex-slaves, reversed the Dred Scott decision). It also prohibited the states from abridging the privileges and immunities of citizens or depriving any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or denying any person the equal protection of the laws. Another clause reduced the representation in Congress of states that denied the vote to Black people. The Fourteenth Amendment has caused more legal controversy than any other part of the constitution. In the late 19th century, it was used as a device to protect big business from state regulation. In the 20th century it has been the main constitutional instrument of the civil rights movement and, in more recent years, of the women's rights movement. (The Fifteenth Amendment, adopted in 1870, provided that the right to vote should not be denied on grounds of race, colour, or previous condition of servitude.)
Subjects: Law — History.