Following its ratification by the necessary three-quarters of U.S. states, the 14th Amendment, guaranteeing to African Americans citizenship and all its privileges, is officially adopted into the U.S. Constitution.
Two years after the Civil War, the Reconstruction Acts of 1867 divided the South into five military districts, where new state governments, based on universal manhood suffrage, were to be established. Thus began the period known as Radical Reconstruction, which saw the 14th Amendment, which had been passed by Congress in 1866, ratified in July 1868. The amendment resolved pre-Civil War questions of African American citizenship by stating that "all persons born or naturalized in the United States...are citizens of the United States and of the state in which they reside." The amendment then reaffirmed the privileges and rights of all citizens, and granted all these citizens the "equal protection of the laws."
In the decades after its adoption, the equal protection clause was cited by a number of African American activists who argued that racial segregation denied them the equal protection of law. However, in 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Plessy v. Ferguson that states could constitutionally provide segregated facilities for African Americans, so long as they were equal to those afforded white persons. The Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which announced federal toleration of the so-called "separate but equal" doctrine, was eventually used to justify segregating all public facilities, including railroad cars, restaurants, hospitals, and schools. However, "colored" facilities were never equal to their white counterparts, and African Americans suffered through decades of debilitating discrimination in the South and elsewhere. In 1954, Plessy v. Ferguson was finally struck down by the Supreme Court in its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.
On May 7, 1915, less than a year after World War I (1914-18) erupted across Europe, a German U-boat torpedoed and sank the RMS Lusitania, a British ocean liner en route from New York to Liverpool, England. Of the more than 1,900 passengers and crew members on board, more than 1,100 perished, including more than 120 Americans. Nearly two years would pass before the United States formally entered World War I, but the sinking of the Lusitania played a significant role in turning public opinion against Germany, both in the United States and abroad.
Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924), the 28th U.S. president, served in office from 1913 to 1921 and led America through World War I (1914-1918). An advocate for democracy and world peace, Wilson is often ranked by historians as one of the nation’s greatest presidents. Wilson was a college professor, university president and Democratic governor of New Jersey before winning the White House in 1912. Once in office, he pursued an ambitious agenda of progressive reform that included the establishment of the Federal Reserve and Federal Trade Commission. Wilson tried to keep the United States neutral during World War I but ultimately called on Congress to declare war on Germany in 1917. After the war, he helped negotiate a peace treaty that included a plan for the League of Nations. Although the Senate rejected U.S. membership in the League, Wilson received the Nobel Prize for his peacemaking efforts.
William McKinley served in the U.S. Congress and as governor of Ohio before running for the presidency in 1896. As a longtime champion of protective tariffs, the Republican McKinley ran on a platform of promoting American prosperity and won a landslide victory over Democrat William Jennings Bryan to become the 25th president of the United States. In 1898, McKinley led the nation into war with Spain over the issue of Cuban independence; the brief and decisive conflict ended with the U.S. in possession of Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam. In general, McKinley's bold