Saturday, January 30, 2016

Coming Soon: Alternative Constitution Day

I am happy to announce that the Race and the Law Prof Blog will host an online symposium to launch Alternative Constitution Day. The symposium will start this Wednesday, February 3 and run until Friday, February 12.

Over these ten days, we will share comments from law professors from across the country on why and how we should celebrate an alternative to the mandated Constitution Day of September 17 (the anniversary of the signing of the 1787 Constitution). Alternative Constitution Day seeks to make what Professor Colin Starger recently called “The Reconstructed Constitution” central to our legal and political thought and to discuss what issues need to be addressed to make the promise of a reconstructed Constitution a reality.

3a52371rIndeed, many have criticized celebrations of the U.S. Constitution that focus solely on the founders and the document of 1787. This focus implicitly ignores or downplays the faults of the original document—including the tacit approval of slavery and gender subordination and the lack of a concept of equality.

Professor Starger in a blogpost for Constitution Day 2015 reiterated this critique and issued a call to celebrate the Constitution on a different date. He argued that

[t]he flawed document of [1787] no longer rules us. We can now proudly celebrate the reconstructed Constitution. In 1987 the great Justice Thurgood Marshall critiqued bicentennial celebrations of the 1787 date, saying: “While the Union survived the civil war, the Constitution did not. In its place arose a new, more promising basis for justice and equality.” When we interpret – or celebrate — today’s praiseworthy Constitution, we should look not only to the nobler commitments of the original Founders, but also to Reconstruction’s promise of a nation that is uncompromisingly respectful of human dignity. (Emphasis in original.)

We are hosting this online symposium to act on Professor Starger’s challenge and to discuss in depth why having an Alternative Constitution Day matters and the distance between the promise of the reconstructed Constitution and the reality of today. Following his suggestion, we will begin on February 3 to recognize the day in 1870 when the States ratified the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the last of the three Reconstruction Amendments.

We hope you will read and comment on what promises to be a rich symposium. Law profs interested in contributing, please contact us as for submission details.

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