During our Civil war of 1861-1865, the North defeated the South, and in the aftermath of that war, there were three absolutely critical Amendments (the 13th through 15th) to our Constitution that were passed by the legislative branches of Congress and subsequently were ratified by the States. The 13th Amendment was ratified in 1865, whereas the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, and the 15th Amendment was ratified in 1870. In point of fact, none of these Amendments were ratified while Lincoln was still alive, as two were ratified during the Johnson Administration, and the last was ratified during the Grant Administration. Each of these Amendments was critical to our republic, of which the 13th Amendment, abolished slavery; the 14th Amendment stipulated that African Americans were American citizens, and the 15th Amendment provided the right to vote to all male Americans, including those previously enslaved.
If, America, at that time, had lived up to the letter of the law of each of these Amendments, than America would have torn asunder from its heritage of permitting the destructive and inhumane institution of slavery and would have instead lived up to its Declaration of Independence, that all men are created equally. This would have meant that America, in the 19th Century, had the opportunity to provide to all of its citizens, the same rights that each are entitled to, regardless of their race, or their class, of which, the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, actually saw some African Americans democratically elected from the Southern States into the Congress of the United States.
Unfortunately, despite the 13th through 15th Amendments, the South would essentially return to the planter class, which were the instigators of the Civil war, and they would once again take over the reins of governance within those States, and those that were enfranchised by the 15th Amendment, would lose that very right and having lost that right to vote, as well as being precluded by violence or through the bastardization of the law of that State from voting, the African American would lose their place at the table of this republic, and therefore despite the victory of the North in the Civil war, would have, in effect, none of the benefits of that war, won.
So then, it can be said, that laws on the book, even Constitutional law, which are unequivocal, are of no effect, if the people that are in the political, justice, and economic control of that community or State, do not permit such, and are not thereby stopped by Federal power in so doing. This thus means that the winning of a war, even of a Civil war, does not mean, in and of itself, that change will occur, if the conditions within those communities and States are fundamentally placed back into the previous power structure, which in all practicality thereby supersedes the Amendments so written.
Those that have the right to vote, can effect change, and from that change, can aid in the implementation of the conditions to have this country live up to its lofty Amendments. When, that right to vote, is circumvented or taken away especially from those previously disenfranchised, then within a very short while, those that have returned to power, can simply ignore those laws that get in their way, so that those that have lost via war, have won via their control of the ballot and the law as implemented within their domain.
This thus means, that within the United States, the laws so written for the benefit of mankind as a whole, in order for them to be implemented and in effect for all, that each of us must not only exercise their right to vote, but also must make sure that all that are entitled to the enfranchisement of that vote have that vote, and that ultimately those implementing and exercising the law, are doing so for the benefit of and by the people, or all will be as if it was not.