Mar 22, 2022
This is the second episode in an occasional series that will focus on slavery, the Constitution, and the ongoing debate over the meaning of the American founding. The first episode with historian Joseph Ellis dropped on Feb. 1.
In a sense it may seem odd that Americans continue to argue over what the Constitution says about slavery. After all, the South’s “peculiar institution” was forever abolished in 1865. But we know this is not merely an academic issue or legalistic debate. The racism that underpinned human chattel slavery in the antebellum United States persisted in new forms after the Civil War. New interpretations, from The 1619 Project on the left to 1776 Unites on the right, have emerged amid a tumultuous reckoning with the nation’s past, forcing us to revisit the morally unresolvable contradictions of the founding generation. In this episode, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Alan Taylor weighs in on why the Constitution's compromises over (and protections for) slavery often overshadow the importance of abolition in modern discourse.