"Race, Reconstruction and Voting Rights" is the second program in our October series of DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY. Moderator, WNYC Legal Editor, Jami Floyd, will be joined by: Richard Hasen, Professor of Law & Political Science, University of California, Irvine; Rina Shah, Managing Director, Red Fort Strategies; and Ekow N. Yankah, Professor of Law, Yeshiva University, Benjamin Cardozo School of Law.
The Constitution explicitly excluded African Americans and Indigenous People from its protection, and the Bill of Rights subsequently enacted by the First Congress at Federal Hall in 1789 as the first ten Amendments– did nothing to correct that. Extending Constitutional protections and rights to Black people fell to later Amendments, what are often called “the Reconstruction Amendments.” But the reality is that African Americans have been impeded in the free exercise of their right to vote—by state laws, federal court decisions, and the resistance of their fellow citizens. This, despite passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 and subsequent legislation protecting Black Americans and other disenfranchised populations.
In 2013, in Shelby County v Holder, the Supreme Court struck down key requirements of this legislation, reasoning that it was no longer responsive to current conditions. The panel will discuss this long history of efforts to suppress Black voting, its impact on other minority voting, and challenges to voting rights that are a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY is presented by the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy at Federal Hall in partnership with New York University and the National Park Service. For more details on DEBATE DEFENDS DEMOCRACY, and to see video of past programs, visit federalhall.org.