Civil and Human Rights

The Road from Lincoln to Obama

In November, Constitutional Accountability Center (CAC) joined the American Constitution Society (ACS) in hosting The Second Founding and the Reconstruction Amendments: Toward a More Perfect Union, a two-day conference celebrating the importance of the post-Civil War Amendments in realizing our Constitution’s progressive promise. In keeping with the congressionally-declared theme of the upcoming inauguration, “the new birth of freedom,” we are bringing the message of the Second Founding back to Washington, hosting a pre-inaugural panel laying out a potential legal agenda for the incoming Obama Administration that would bring these Amendments back into constitutional focus.

On Wednesday, January 14, CAC will join the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (NAACP LDF), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), and ACS, in co-sponsoring The Road from Lincoln to Obama: the Constitution and the New Birth of Freedom. This midday panel will feature leading historians, constitutional law experts, and civil rights leaders discussing how the “new birth of freedom” took form in the Civil War Amendments, how those Amendments have been interpreted (and in some cases misinterpreted) since their ratification, and how their promise can be better fulfilled today.

CAC Founder and President Doug Kendall will speak at this event, along with John Payton of NAACP LDF, John Trasviña of MALDEF and historians Eric Foner and Mary Frances Berry. Doug will provide an overview of how the Supreme Court has often departed from the Second Founders’ vision of the way in which liberty and equality should be protected through the Fourteenth Amendment. In particular, he will discuss the need to revive the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the original centerpiece of the Fourteenth Amendment that was effectively written out of the Constitution by the Supreme Court in the 1870s. Doug and the other panelists will also address the Supreme Court’s unjustifiable efforts to limit Congress’ ability to enforce the Civil War Amendments. The relevance of this point was vividly illustrated last week, when the Supreme Court granted review in Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District v. Mukasey (08-322), a critical Voting Rights Act case that will test whether the Supreme Court will respect Congress’ authority to prevent racial discrimination in voting.

Registration for this event is free and open to the public. Further details, including where to register, are available here.

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