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Are our rights secure?

Some believe that proponents of an Article V Convention want to take the United States back to a time when women and minorities had no rights. This assumption is based on the understandable but erroneous belief that the federal government has been the sole champion and protector of our civil rights and is rooted in our recent history with Jim Crow laws and other forms of race-based discrimination. A more complete examination of our history demonstrates that neither the federal government nor the states have a consistent record as champions of racial justice in the United States. State and federal courts, legislatures, executive branch leaders, as well as both the convention and Congressional execution of Article V have all played a role in what can best be described as a vacillating ambivalence surrounding the rights of minorities in America.


8 states outlaw slavery


Pennsylvania is the first of 9 states to pass sanctuary state laws prohibiting state & local officials from returning enslaved persons who had escaped

8 states pass personal liberty laws extending habeas corpus & jury trial rights to enslaved persons who had escaped

3 states pass resolutions to hold an Article V Convention to address slavery

Reconstruction Amendments ratified within 2 years of Congressional approval

Louisiana elects the first Black Congressmen

Southern states implement Jim Crow laws



New York passes Human Rights Law

Minnesota creates Department of Human Rights; Arizona desegregates Phoenix public schools and city housing






















Federal Government

Congress enacts the first fugitive slave law

The Supreme Court vacates Pennsylvania's sanctuary state law



The Supreme Court hands down its infamous Dred Scott decision

Congress passes the Reconstruction Amendments

Congress refuses to seat the Black members of Louisiana's congressional delegation


The Supreme Court will uphold Jim Crow for over 70 years

Congress passes Civil Rights Act of 1875

The Supreme Court overturns it

President Woodrow Wilson segregates a previously desegregated federal workforce

120,000 Japanese Americans interned by FDR's Executive Order 9066


Brown v. Board




Civil Rights & Voting act of 1965


Congress passes mandatory sentencing minimums making posessionof crack coaine (more common in Black communities) comparable to possession of 100x the amount of powder: Black incarceration skyrockets

Congress passes the Fair Sentencing Act, reducing cocaine disparity to "only" 18:1

It is not federal supremacy, but rather, the separation of powers and the ability of the states and the federal government to check and challenge each another that has led us to the place at which we find ourselves today. In the Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, Steven Andrew Smith & Adam Hansen point out that state civil rights laws are, in many states, superior to federal statutes; they describe the states as the rightful “primary protector of individual rights,” and argue for a greater role for the state supreme courts in the federal appeals process.


America still grapples with important issues like Black incarceration, access to quality education, and economic enfranchisement. It is crucial that we recognize that federal policy, however well-intended, has exacerbated these problems. The time has come to reinvigorate the role of the states in checking the federal government when Washington cannot muster the political will to walk back its own errors.

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