The United States of America is a country shaped by the ideals that every person should be treated equally, given access to justice and freedom to make their own decisions about how they live their lives. But even today, "every person" doesn't exactly mean all.
In 1868, the not so recognizable 14th amendment was ratified, granting citizenship to all persons born in the United States. Though it does not receive as much "air time" as the 2nd amendment (the right to bear arms), it is probably the most important amendment of all. It promises true equality - specifically for former slaves freed by the 13th amendment after the Civil War.
This was a massive step in the African American quest to achieve true freedom. They finally had equal protection under the law and could now own property and access public education and more. The 14th amendment was one of the legacies of the Civil War, as well as President Lincoln's and his Emancipation Proclamation and former slave Douglas Adams who exposed how slaves were treated down South.
Sadly, after ratification, a string of violent atrocities like the Colfax massacre, among others, plagued the Reconstruction movement. These enabled the pro-white Supreme Court to systematically subvert and undermine the equality promised by the 14th amendment. The Jim Crow Laws soon followed, denying black Americans societal rights and promoting segregation in schools, churches and more. Even worse, it normalized lynching by anti-black organizations such as the Klu Klux Klan.
There was also a new revisionist ideology born in the South that swept the nation as well. "The Lost Cause" ideology promoted a belief in white supremacy, glamorizing the past with claims of a genteel South where slaves were not treated that badly. Hollywood also helped spread these sentiments with movies like "Gone with the Wind."
During the 1960s, African Americans were tired of being segregated. Thus, the Civil rights movement began and quickly gained momentum. It was led by Martin Luther King Jr., who pushed President John F. Kennedy into action by orchestrating peaceful yet strategic protests. His goal was for segregation to be abolished - which President Kennedy eventually did in 1963.
When the 1970s arrived, a new group of disenfranchised Americans now demanded that they benefit from the promises of the 14th amendment. Women, at this point, were not given the same rights as men, with the state having control over a woman's body. Feminism was on the rise, and the Women's Movement was born, appealing to evolving interpretations of their constitutional right, fighting for control over their destinies and choices within a changing society.
The 14th amendment is a revolutionary piece of legislation and continues to influence America's quest for true freedom for all its citizens. Its central promise is still being fulfilled today as Americans work together towards equality.
Directed by: Kenny Leon, Reinaldo Marcus