Community & Government

The Redeemer Constitution

Kimberlé Williams Crewnshaw offers the real story of how the promise of the 14th was thwarted, almost before the ink was dry, by white supremacists. See how the legacy of the Redeemer Constitution continues to bleed through into politics today.

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Topics include: The Slaughterhouse Cases • Lasting Effects of The Redeemer Constitution

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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[MUSIC PLAYING] - So the Supreme Court, in a series of cases, destroyed the possibilities that the Reconstruction framers were hoping to advance through the 14th Amendment. I call the Supreme Court's efforts to dismantle Reconstruction an effort to create a new constitution. I call it a Redeemer Constitution. By Redeemer Constitution, what I mean to do is to say that the destruction of Reconstruction was framed as redemption. It was framed as the white South basically riding again, coming back to where it had been unfairly deposed. It is the idea that the effort to push Black people out of the electoral arena, to put them back under heel was redemption. So just think about it. Black people exercising rights, Black people being citizens-- from the white Southern point of view, that was a horror. That was horrible. That was intolerable. So redemption was about using any means necessary to put Black people back into their place. [MUSIC PLAYING] Slaughterhouse cases. That's one of the cases that the Supreme Court used to basically batter and bludgeon out of existence this spirit of a broadened conception of equality. We'll start with Dred Scott. Dred Scott was a decision in which the Supreme Court basically said that Black people can never be citizens of the United States of America. Why? Well, because Black people were degraded, because they were so low on the human totem pole. Remember, this is our Supreme Court saying this, that they could be enslaved for their own good. So the enslavability of Black people as a race justified their exclusion from the American political project. It's important to keep this in mind because their enslavability and their race were tied together. Blackness was the defining characteristic, according to the Supreme Court, Justice Taney. Our Blackness was the thing that made us enslavable. Our Blackness was the thing that made us not citizens. Race discrimination was justified on that basis. So all Black people, slave or free, were in the same bucket because we were a people who were enslavable. That's important to remember because one of the first things that the 14th Amendment did was reverse Dred Scott's statement that we were not ever capable of being citizens, that we had no rights that white people were bound to respect. So the Reconstruction Amendment, 14th Amendment, was to say all that stuff that the Supreme Court said about you all before slavery, that's history. That's over with. You are now citizens, and you do have rights that white people are bound to respect. That was the idea. So Black people say, great, tell us what these rights are. So here we are. We've moved into the neighborhood. It's kind of like welcome wagon. We've moved into the republic. And the Reconstruction Congress shows up with a welcome wagon basket. And in this welcome wagon basket, there's this stuff called privileges and immunities. And so what the Reconstruction amendments are basically ...

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From critical race theory to the 1619 Project, Black intellectuals are reshaping conversations on race in America. Now seven of those preeminent voices share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future. Gain a foundational understanding of the history of white supremacy and discover a path forward through the limitless capacity and resilience of Black love.

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Angela Davis, Cornel West, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Sherrilyn Ifill, Jelani Cobb, and John McWhorter

Seven preeminent Black thought leaders share their insight on the reckoning with race in America in three parts: past, present, and future.

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