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Human and Civil Rights and the Constitution
The Reconstruction Amendments were intended to give our nation what Abraham Lincoln promised at Gettysburg: a New Birth of Freedom. Unfortunately, much of their power and meaning was eviscerated in a series of egregious Supreme Court rulings in the 1870s and 1880s. These rulings are just as wrong as long-overruled opinions such as Plessy v. Ferguson, but remain on the books. Read properly, the Reconstruction Amendments provide a solid foundation for courts and the federal government to protect human and civil rights. CAC works to raise public consciousness about the importance of the Reconstruction Amendments and convince politicians and judges about the mandate these Amendments create for the advancement of civil and human rights.
When the Constitution was framed, the promise of access to the federal courts was at the heart of a new system of government accountable to the people. The federal judiciary, with the Supreme Court at its head, would be the “keystone of the arch,” establishing a binding rule of law for the nation. Today, the Framers’ constitutional vision is in shambles. In filling a vacancy on the Court, left by the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, progressives have a chance to restore basic constitutional first principles that give Americans their day in court to redress legal wrongs and prevent abuse of power by the government. The story laid out in the pages that follow shows why this is what the Constitution’s text and history requires.