There is an ongoing debate about the relationship between the Constitution and slavery prior to the 13th Amendment. On the one hand, the words “slave” and “slavery” do not appear in the document. On the other, there was no explicit federal ban of this evil practice until 1865. Some view this omission as a covert way of preserving slavery while shrouding the Founders’ hypocrisy. Others, such as Frederick Douglass, consider the Constitution to be an “anti-slavery” document because a “plain and common-sense reading of the Constitution” clearly prohibits slavery. Still others see it as a compromise, delicately omitting the word “slave” to avoid the implication that there could be “property in men,” but conceding its permissibility, with the hope that it would become extinct. Please join us for a thoughtful discussion about these rival conceptions of the Constitution with our distinguished historians and constitutional scholars.

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