Prepared by Professor Peggy Cooper Davis and her students in the Constitutional Personhood Project at NYU Law for use during a 2016 Teach-In with Bob Moses of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), this pamphlet sets forth the historical context for understanding the right to vote. Learn more about the Teach-In here.
“In slavery, black people were treated as property without rights, without privileges, without personhood. In Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), the Supreme Court endorsed this practice when it held that black people had no rights that government was required to respect. African Americans were not Constitutional People, the Court said, but Constitutional Property. Black and white Union soldiers fought a Civil War against Confederate secessionists to end the practice of treating human beings as property. With Union victory, the Nation was reconstructed to guarantee human equality and dignity. Since Reconstruction, the Nation has struggled to define and secure the Constitutional Personhood of every man, woman, and child. At the heart of that struggle is the right to vote.”