Prior to the 14th Amendment, the protections offered by the Bill of Rights applied primarily to the Federal Government. While most States had similar protections in their own constitutions, these were inconsistent and locally interpreted.
The 14th Amendment changed all of that in ways neither immediate nor obvious. Passed in 1868 as part of the ‘Reconstruction Amendments,’ its initial intent was to guarantee full and equal citizenship for Freedmen – newly freed Black Americans.
It reads, in part: