Legacies links for September 18, 2023: the Constitution and other legacies of slavery

Yesterday was Constitution Day, a great opportunity to consider the legacies of American slavery. (As always, the editorial team at the Legacies blog encourages you to share this post with friends, students, colleagues, etc. A link does not imply agreement or endorsement by the Council of Independent Colleges.)

Photo montage of Abraham Lincoln and various U.S. Senators in 1865
President Lincoln and all of the U.S. Senators who voted in favor of the 13th Amendment. image source: The Library of Congress

Constitution Day:

  • Lana Ulrich, “A look at landmark Supreme Court cases on race and the Constitution,” National Constitution Center (May 25, 2023): LINK. A review of landmark Supreme Court cases on race, equality, and the 14th Amendment from Dred Scott (1857) to Bakke (1978).
  • Eugene Scott, “Fight over felons’ voting rights heats up for 2024,” Axis (August 14, 2023): LINK. An overview of voting rights for formerly incarcerated people across the United States, with a helpful map detailing where felons’ voting rights are at risk or completely taken away. “Black Americans, who make up about 12% of the U.S. population, account for about 40% of the felons who can’t vote.”
  • Christy DeSmith, “‘Tyranny of the Minority’ warns Constitution is dangerously outdated,” The Harvard Gazette (September 12, 2023): LINK. The authors of the bestselling book How Democracies Die (Crown Books, 2017) now make the case that “antiquated institutions” like the Electoral College protect and enable an increasingly extremist Political Right who have “lost commitment to democratic rules of the game.”

Race and Religion:

  • Rosie Dawson, “The ‘white Christian problem’: the doctrine of discovery that encouraged enslavement and lynchings,” Religion Media Centre (September 11, 2023): LINK. Robert P. Jones, founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, discusses his new book The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future (Simon & Schuster, 2023). A long view of race, racism, and evangelical Protestantism in America.
  • Fr. Brian Paulson, “Jesuit conference president: White American Catholics need to face the truth about slavery,” America: The Jesuit Review (September 14, 2023): LINK. The president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States soberly reflects on the journey to reconciliation for Georgetown University and the descendants of the 272 people enslaved and sold into slavery: “Together we can choose to do our part to end a 400-year cycle of pain and work to fulfill the vision that we all hold within our hearts of hearts.”
  • Karsonya Wise Whitehead, “Slavery is (still) the ‘peculiar institution,’” Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education (September 9, 2023): LINK (may require a free account to access). “[S]lavery was indeed a peculiar institution[;] it was also an unnecessary evil and America is still struggling to reconcile itself with the history and legacy of slavery.” The author is director of the Karson Institute for Race, Peace, and Social Justice at CIC member Loyola University Maryland (a college in the Jesuit tradition).

Local Stories of Resistance and Persistence:

  • Alison Stine, “How Are American Monuments Telling Our Stories?” Nonprofit Quarterly (September 14, 2023): LINK. “A panel organized by the Mellon Foundation grappled with questions surrounding monument-making, attempting to acknowledge America’s painful histories, our ongoing fight against racism, and the lessons we must carry into the future.”
  • Darcel Rockett, “Keeping the legacy of freedom seekers relevant and present,” Yahoo! Finance (September 14, 2023): LINK. In Illinois, lay historians, community members, researchers, and teachers have been hard at work to uncover the “untold stories” of enslaved people escaping from bondage. Some of them have now pushed Illinois legislators to support a statewide plan to connect a series of local projects—including the well-documented role of CIC member Knox College that was featured in a recent Legacies blog post—to create a cohesive statewide history of the Underground Railroad.
  • Lisa Foust Prater, “Generations of resilience: The inspiring legacy of Butler Farms,” Successful Farming (September 13, 2023): LINK. A farm founded by a former enslaved man in Tennessee in 1869 has endured for over five generations, outlasting the Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, and other challenges. Today, the heirs have found ways to optimize estate planning and ensure the farm’s sustainability, becoming one of the state’s leading beef producers in the process.
  • Cole Kindiger, “‘Queen City’ is a Testament to the Black Community Removed to Make Way for Roads to the Pentagon,” ”DCist (September 12, 2023): LINK. A new public art project aims to recover the long-buried history of East Arlington, Virginia, a Black neighborhood that was displaced by the federal government via eminent domain for construction of the Pentagon.

An update from the CIC Network:

  • Jennifer Meininger Wolfe, “Examining Incarceration as a Legacy of American Slavery,” Ursinus College (September 13, 2023): LINK. A team from Ursinus College (Collegeville, PA) participated this summer in the Public History Institute offered as part of the Legacies of American Slavery initiative. The team is looking closely at the relationship between slavery and freedom in Pennsylvania, with a focus on the prison industrial complex and the disproportionate incarceration of Black people in eastern Pennsylvania.