grandfather clause

1. U.S. Hist. a clause in the constitutions of some Southern states after 1890 intended to permit whites to vote while disfranchising blacks: it exempted from new literacy and property qualifications for voting those men entitled to vote before 1867 and their lineal descendants.
2. any legal provision that exempts a business, class of persons, etc., from a new government regulation that would affect prior rights and privileges.
[1895-1900, Amer.]

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Constitutional provision enacted by seven Southern U.S. states (1895–1910) to deny suffrage to African American men.

It exempted descendants of men who voted before 1867 from meeting new literacy and property requirements. Since African American men were not granted voting rights until passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, this clause effectively prevented them, and many impoverished and illiterate whites, from voting. The U.S. Supreme Court declared such clauses unconstitutional in 1915.

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▪ United States history
      statutory or constitutional device enacted by seven Southern states between 1895 and 1910 to deny suffrage to American blacks; it provided that those who had enjoyed the right to vote prior to 1866 or 1867, or their lineal descendants, would be exempt from educational, property, or tax requirements for voting. Because the former slaves had not been granted the franchise until the adoption of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, these clauses worked effectively to exclude blacks from the vote but assured the franchise to many impoverished and illiterate whites. In 1915 the Supreme Court declared the grandfather clause unconstitutional because it violated equal voting rights guaranteed by the Fifteenth Amendment.

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Universalium. 2010.

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