True or False: The U.S. Constitution Defines Blacks As Three-Fifths of a Person?

It’s a tired refrain – the Founders were racists, the Declaration didn’t really mean all men, the Constitution is pro-slavery. It’s also a gross distortion of our history – as King well knew when he invoked the promise that “all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” at the heart of the Founding.

The Constitution, contrary to what the New York Times would have you believe, does not classify people according to race. Free blacks in the North and the South were counted on par with whites for purposes of apportionment. As for enslaved blacks, it was the Southern states that wanted to count them as full persons, thereby inflating pro-slavery representation in the House. The three-fifths compromise was aimed at preventing Southern states from magnifying their own political power by holding slaves.

Yet this myth of a racist Founding has, unfortunately, become deeply entrenched in academia and among the chattering classes. It’s taught in high schools and colleges nationwide and has become unquestionable dogma for many.

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