Civil Rights and Copperheads: the fight for the 15th Amendment |

Civil Rights and Copperheads: the fight for the 15th Amendment

Submitted by Susan Kane

Local historian and author Linda K. Jack will present a program marking the 150th anniversary of the passage of the Civil War era’s “right to vote” amendment and the “nest of copperheads” who tried to stop Nevada County’s African Americans from voting. The presentation will take place from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on June 2 at the The North Star House in Grass Valley.

On February 26, 1869 the U.S. Congress voted in favor of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution that prohibited the federal government and each state from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Secretary of State William Henry Seward then sent the proposed amendment to the states for ratification. Following the end of the Civil War, Nevada County’s African American residents had been at the forefront of a civil rights movement to promote the passage of the amendment and its ratification by California. State and local opposition to ratification was fierce. Grass Valley was then described as a “nest of Copperheads.” Named after the venomous pit viper found in the American Southeast, Copperheads were Northern Democrats that had favored settling with the Confederacy to end the Civil War. Even as our black residents celebrated the 15th Amendment’s ratification on February 3, 1870, they faced another fight as state and local officials tried to prevent the newly enfranchised black citizens from voting.

This presentation will take place at The North Star House, located at 12075 Auburn Rd. in Grass Valley. The historic Julia Morgan home is owned and operated by The North Star Historic Conservancy. For more information, visit

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