The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution grants citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the U.S., declares that states may not deny any person life, liberty or property without due process of law, and says that a state may not deny a person the equal protection of the law. The three clauses are called: the Citizenship Clause, the Due Process Clause, and the Equal Protection Clause.
The amendment was ratified on July 9, 1868, greatly broadening the protection of civil rights to all Americans, including freed slaves. This amendment marked a major shift in the way the American Constitution was applied in America. Abraham Lincoln was the acting president and had freed the slaves, and this amendment helped answer lingering questions regarding the status of freed slaves as American citizens.
The Fourteenth Amendment was one of the Reconstruction amendments, which were amendments to the Constitution ratified from 1865 to 1870, immediately following the Civil War. The amendments helped to reconstruct the American South after the war. Although the majority of Southern states rejected the Fourteenth Amendment, it was still ratified because it got the necessary votes. The Fourteenth Amendment remains one of the most important pieces of legislation in American history.