The Law Library of Congress and the Library of Congress have announced the annual Constitution Day lecture for Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020 at 3:00 pm Eastern Time. This year's lecture will be an online lecture given by Michael J. Murphy, a Historical Publication Specialist in the Office of the Historian for the U.S. House of Representatives, entitled“The Bulwark of Freedom”: African-American Members of Congress and the Constitution During Reconstruction. Registration is free, but required in order to attend the online event. From the blurb:
"Mr. Murphy explains that in 1870, Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first of 14 African Americans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives before the end of Reconstruction in 1877. Following the Civil War, Congress amended the Constitution to outlaw slavery, extend civil and political rights to African Americans, and expand the power of the federal government. Rainey and the small cohort of Black Representatives who served alongside him were all elected from southern states and many were formerly enslaved. They saw the Constitution as a battleground in the debate over Reconstruction and the future of the country, arguing for an expansive vision of citizenship and legal equality. For Rainey, the Constitution was “the bulwark of freedom,” designed to provide “protection to the humblest citizen, without regard to rank, creed, or color.” During the 1870s, Black Members embraced the Constitution—the founding document which had long denied them their very personhood—as a tool to redefine American democracy and fully realize the promise of representative government."