Civil Rights & Politics: Historical Images

The James C. Beard Lithograph of the Fifteenth Amendment Celebration,

May 19, 1870, Baltimore, Md.

The Fifteenth Amendment Parade and Celebration of May 19, 1870 represented a coming out of the African American as a central player in the politics of the City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland. Because Maryland had not seceded, had not joined the rebellion against the U.S. government, the Reconstruction programs which provided most Southern blacks with their first political participation, blacks in Maryland had to await the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment. It should not be overlooked, however, that black political activism pre-dated political participation by several years. It can be argued that the very act of joining the Union Army in the against slavery was a form of political activism on the part of disfranchised black men. By any measure, blacks in Baltimore welcomed May 19, 1870 as an opportunity to reflect on the struggle for freedom and citizenship, and to present itself to the rest of the city and the state as worth candidates for equality and opportunity.

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