Equal Protection and the African American Constitutional Experience: A Documentary History

Equal Protection and the African American Constitutional Experience: A Documentary History

Equal Protection and the African American Constitutional Experience: A Documentary History

Equal Protection and the African American Constitutional Experience: A Documentary History

Synopsis

Trace the roots of the concept of equal protection from the American Revolution and the formation of the Constitution through its application today using this collection of 177 primary documents from a variety of sources. Students can use this unique reference resource to examine the tension between the concept of equal protection and recognition of slavery in the constitutional order, to explore the devaluing and revitalizing of the 14th and 15th Constitutional amendments from the era of Jim Crow through the Civil Rights movement, and to study current court rulings on equal protection of the law. Petitions, laws, court decisions, personal accounts, and a variety of other documents bring to life the experiences of African Americans in the American constitutional order.

Excerpt

In the summer of 1997, prior to the annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), newspaper editorials around the country declared that the organization was considering reviewing its stand on school integration. A conservative judiciary unwilling to question resegregation; public reaction against affirmative action; continued low academic achievement among many black youth, despite busing; and calls by some African Americans to "take care of their own" all seemed to contribute to a feeling that a new vision was required. At the convention and through its public statements, however, the organization restated its commitment. Members were reminded that for so many years, segregated schools were a badge of racial inferiority imposed by whites. They were reminded of the great sacrifices made in the effort to dismantle segregation, of the significance of the Supreme Court's 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka declaring that separate schools were inherently unequal. They were reminded of the role of integration in the effort to achieve equal protection of the laws. This volume, Equal Protection and the African American Constitutional Experience: A Documentary History, also serves as a reminder of that struggle for equality.

The Declaration of Independence declared that "all men are created equal." The equality reflected in the Declaration was rooted in both Christian egalitarianism and a concept of political equality that can be traced through the British constitutional experience to antiquity. This same body of political thought also informed the Constitution. The Constitution, however, recognized the existence of slavery, an institution that belied the notions of equality and equality before the law. Thus, at the heart of the American constitutional experience, a tremendous tension existed: that between a tradition of equality and rights, on the one hand . . .

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