Some of the nation’s foremost legal scholars, attorneys and civil rights advocates met for a two-day online symposium through the UNC Center for Civil Rights.
The speaker and panelist explored the origins, present status and future promise of the Equal Protection Clause.
The program, "Equal Protection's Grand Promise and Betrayals: Reconstruction, Plessy to Bakke and Beyond: Is There a Way Forward?" was hosted through the UNC School of Law. It took place over Zoom Thursday and Friday.
The program held six panels and several events in which they discussed modern issues facing the U.S. Supreme Court, with far-reaching and adverse consequences. The consequences, the panelists said, most especially impact people of color in the areas of school desegregation, housing and employment law, access to governmental services, the criminal justice system, voting rights and higher education.
The first panel was "Beyond Chattel Slavery: The 39th Congress Frames A New Fourteenth Amendment, an Equal Protection Clause, and 'Affirmative Action' Statutes To Assist Newly Freed African Americans." The panelists were Yale University Law Professor Akhil Amar and University of Washington Law Professor Eric Schnapper. The moderator was Dean of the University of Virginia School of Law Risa L. Goluboff.
At the first panel, Amar said that the 13th Amendment created the need for the 14th and 15th Amendments.
"When you solve one problem, you often create other problems," Amar said. "Success means creating new problems for yourself."
He then explained the importance of the 14th Amendment and how it personally affected him.
"I'm born in the United States but my parents are not American citizens," Amar said. "When I was born the 14th Amendment gave me an amazing gift that makes me a citizen, an equal citizen, with equal civil rights."
Schnapper spoke about other pieces of legislation including the Freedmen's Bureau Act of 1865.
"The act actually happened before the 13th Amendment was effective, they're dealing with the consequences of the Emancipation Proclamation," Schnapper said. "So the 1865 Act protected freedmen and refugees."
Professor at Columbia University Eric Foner presented at the annual Frank Porter Graham Lecture Thursday in connection with the symposium.
"The Civil War and Reconstruction, as you will know, transformed American society in innumerable ways, many of their effects are still with us today," Foner said.
Foner also explained sections of the 14th Amendment. Section three disqualified leading Confederates from holding local, state or national office, stating that representatives who have participated in rebellion or insurrection against the state cannot serve in government.
Foner said he thinks the ability to bar people from office could even be applied today.
"Section three can and should be applied to ex-President Trump as well as others," Foner said. "The mob on Jan. 6 included public office holders from various places and military veterans who took part in the riot."
At the end of the symposium, UNC law professor and director of the UNC Center for Civil Rights Theodore Shaw, thanked attendees and participants.
"I want to thank all of you for allowing us to come into your home virtually," Shaw said. "I have a love of the opportunity to see people even if it's virtual in their home."
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