Every Thursday, we will use an event that occurred on this date to discuss an important moment in international history. This week: The 14th Amendment (1868), Wimbledon (1877) and Independence for South Sudan (2011)
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1868)
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 as a part of three Reconstruction Amendments passed by the U.S. Congress in the years immediately following the Civil War. The decision was a historic one as it granted citizenship rights and equal protection of the laws to former slaves. Despite opposition from several Southern states and then president, Andrew Johnson, the law became operational on July 9, 1868, having secured ratification by the requisite three-fourths of the states.
The Amendment, which contains the Due Process and Equal Protection under Law clauses, has been subject to much debate and various interpretations in Supreme Court decisions. In Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) the Supreme Court gave federal approval to the Jim Crow laws, ruling that racial segregation on trains was in accordance with the 14th Amendment, as long as the facilities were equal. This decision was not overturned until the monumental Brown v. Board of Education (1954) when public school segregation based on race was declared to be in violation of the Amendment. The Court ruled that ‘separate education facilities are inherently unequal’. In more recent times, in a landmark decision in June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that denying same-sex couples the fundamental right to marry is in violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses.
Inaugural Wimbledon Championships (1877)
Wimbledon – the oldest tennis tournament in the world—was first held by the All England Club in 1877, only a few years after modern lawn tennis is said to have been devised by Walter Clopton Wingfield, a Welsh inventor and army officer. The Gentleman’s Singles was the only event held, until 1884, when the Ladies’ Singles and Gentlemen’s Doubles were added.
Spencer Gore became the first ever Wimbledon Champion by defeating William Marshall in three straight sets.
Today, Wimbledon – one of the four Grand Slams and the only one still played on grass-- is one of the most highly regarded tennis tournaments worldwide.
Independence for South Sudan (2011)
In the run-up to Sudan’s independence from Anglo-Egyptian rule in 1956, tensions between the southern regions and the rest of the state began to escalate. The two regions had been administered separately under colonial rule. Amidst efforts to create a federal system, leaders in the south accused the new authorities in Khartoum of trying to impose an Islamic and Arabic identity. The tensions ignited two bloody civil wars, where an estimated 1.5 million lost their lives, and millions more were displaced.
The hostilities finally halted in 2005, when a Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Nairobi. The treaty granted the south autonomy for a period of six years, following which there was to be a referendum on independence. South Sudan, the newest nation in the world, was created when an overwhelming 98.83% voted in favor of independence in the 2011 referendum.
Contrary to what was expected, South Sudan has been wracked with difficulties since its secession. This is largely due to internal conflict. Less than two years after its creation, the country broke into civil war, displacing over 2 million. Despite having inherited three-quarters of the former Sudan’s oil reserves, South Sudan’s oil revenues have suffered a crippling decline due to disputes with Sudan, which controls the only available pipeline, pushing the state to the brink of famine. South Sudan has been assigned the highest score under the Fragile States Index.