Equality and the Constitution
Fall 2015 quarter
Equality is an ancient ideal, yet at best, the United States has embraced it ambivalently throughout its history. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal,” yet he owned slaves; the framers claimed to cherish equality, yet they chose not to enshrine it in the Constitution. Even the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection did not prevent the states from passing Jim Crow laws to maintain white supremacy or the Supreme Court from ruling that the amendment did not mean what it said. Women were denied the right to vote until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. The struggle to secure equal rights for all Americans continues to this very day.
We will begin by taking a critical look at the early cases in which the Supreme Court eviscerated the ideal of equality by circumventing the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth amendments. Then we will study the many cases in the 20th and 21st centuries that have chipped away at Jim Crow and inequality. These involve struggles for equal rights in education, employment, public accommodations, housing, voting, and university admissions. We will also examine the modern cases that have gone beyond race to fight discrimination based on sex, age, disability, indigence, alienage, wealth, and sexual orientation.
Working in legal teams, students will develop appellate briefs on real equal protection cases and will present oral arguments before the “Evergreen Supreme Court.” Students will also rotate as justices to read their peers’ appellate briefs, to hear arguments, and to render decisions. Students should expect to devote long hours to reading court opinions and legal analysis. The principal text will be a law school casebook.
Fields of Study
Preparatory for studies or careers in
Location and Schedule
Offered during: Day