Commentary

On the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment, activism and advocacy more important than ever

Our friends at NC CRED remind us that today is a vitally important day in American history with the following post:

Today, July 9th, is both the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the day President Donald Trump will reveal his nomination to fill Anthony Kennedy’s seat on the Supreme Court. It’s difficult to say which action will have a greater effect on American jurisprudence in the short-term, but it is clear both the long legacy of the 14th Amendment, and the potential legacy of Trump’s appointment, will both loom large in the conformation battles coming this summer.

It is difficult to overstate the impact the 14th Amendment has had on the lives of ordinary Americans since it was ratified in 1868. Originally intended to protect individuals from the tyrannies of the state without due process of law, it was used for a century to help repress and deny those very rights to poor and Black citizens, largely with the blessing of the Supreme Court. It wasn’t until the 1950’s and many critical decisions of the Warren Court that again turned the 14th Amendment into a true force for good.

The constitutional right to privacy (derived in part from the 14th Amendment) helped prevent Robert Bork — President Reagan’s first choice for the Supreme Court — from winning Senate confirmation. That victory for the Amendment, in turn, allowed Kennedy to easily win the nomination in his place — a fact that may ultimately be the largest hurdle for President Trump’s nominee to navigate.

If all of this is news to you, or if you already know the broad strokes but want a more historical and legal perspective, please come out for an event organized by the North Carolina Commission for Racial and Ethnic Disparity in the Criminal Justice System (NC-CRED) on July 28th in Raleigh, #DEFENDTHE14TH, a commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 14th Amendment. The program will talk about the historical implications of the 14th Amendment, and how it informs our justice system and society today.

No matter which side of these important issues you may personally come down on, we can all agree that some historical perspective and expert analysis can only help all of us in what are almost certainly contentious days to come.

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