America is the land where dreams get started. Back in the day, however, slaves were stuck with virtually nothing. Instead of dreams, they were surrounded by constant nightmares with no escape. One crucial amendment broke down the barriers set during wartime.

What’s the deal, Andrew?

With the Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment, slaves assumed things would go smoothly for them. Most slaves weren’t born in America, which meant they weren’t getting the same rights as everyone else. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was created to protect all Africans both born and brought into this country. Everyone was down for it except for President Andrew Johnson, who vetoed it on March 27, 1866. He thought it would make the rights of Africans stronger than Caucasians born in the country.

No Congress for you

Johnson’s veto was overridden a week later, but Africans still didn’t feel the benefits from it. To solidify things, Congress proposed the 14th Amendment. This Amendment made sure that it would grant all slaves citizenship and equal protection of the law. As expected, Confederate states ignored the new law. Congress has a trick up its sleeve to combat the denial. They passed a law stating that Confederate states must ratify the amendment or they’ll relinquish representation in Congress.

Getting it done

Over time, Confederate states slowly ratified the amendment. After Georgia’s ratification, they officially adopted the 14th Amendment on July 28, 1868. “It is really important that it’s a vision of citizenship based on land rather than blood. It is an idea that anyone can be an American if they commit themselves to our Constitutional values,” National Constitution Center CEO Jeffrey Rosen told CNN.

While they ratified it, the country wouldn’t hear the last of the 14th Amendment. In 1959, both California and Maryland ratified the amendment. Seventeen years later, Kentucky followed suit. In 2003, Ohio and New Jersey both re-ratified it. While it took another century to push things further, this amendment was the first step towards equality.