NAACP Legal Defense Fund : Defend, Educate, Empower

Skip to Navigation
"The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund is simply the best civil rights law firm in American history." -- President Obama

Leading Legal Scholars, Historians, and Civil Rights Advocates Reflect on the Importance of the Amendment Ratified 150 Years Ago

April 23rd, 2018

The Thurgood Marshall Institute (TMI) at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and the National Constitution Center (NCC) convened leading scholars, lawyers, and civil rights activists in Philadelphia, PA today to discuss the history, development, and continued relevance of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The co-hosted symposium commemorated the 150th anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment—the Constitutional provision that guarantees equal protection under the law for all Americans. The keynote discussion with former Attorney General of the United States Eric H. Holder, Jr., Sherrilyn Ifill and Jeffery Rosen reflected on the importance of the Fourteenth Amendment in pursuit of economic justice, voting rights, access to education and affordable housing.




“The principal thrust of the Fourteenth Amendment was to ensure the full citizenship of the millions of formerly enslaved Black people living principally in the South. Despite the powerful words of the Fourteenth Amendment, its promise was denied to Black people for more than a hundred years. We needed the Civil Rights Movement, and the passage of sweeping civil rights statutes to bring even the basic elements of equality and citizenship to the lives of most Black living in the United States. And today, 150 years after its passage, the struggle continues to give full meaning to the promise of the guarantees set out in the Fourteenth Amendment—not only for Black people, but for women, members of the LGBTQ community and all who are denied equal protection under the law.”

Sherrilyn Ifill
President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund


“The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees due process and equality under the law for all Americans. But for too many, there are unjust disparities when it comes to voting rights, housing rights, and our criminal justice system. Lawyers, advocates, and citizens must work together to make the promise of equality that is enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment a reality.”

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Former United States Attorney General  


“The National Constitution Center is honored to collaborate with the Thurgood Marshall Institute to convene America’s leading liberal and conservative scholars of Reconstruction, to educate Americans about the constitutional guarantees of equality that unite all Americans. Today’s celebration is part of a yearlong commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment that will culminate early next year in our opening of America’s first gallery of the constitutional legacy of the Civil War and Reconstruction and the ongoing quest for equal protection under law.”

Jeffrey Rosen
President and CEO of the National Constitution Cent


The symposium convened leading legal scholars and historians, including Allen GuelzoMartha JonesKurt Lash, and Darrell Miller, who discussed the story of Reconstruction, leading to the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment. Historians Eric FonerKate Masur, and Thavolia Glymph discussed the struggle over Reconstruction in American public memory. And scholars including Randy Barnett, Kimberly West-FaulconGarrett EppsJanai Nelson, and Earl Maltz debated what the Fourteenth Amendment means today and in the future.

Watch a recording of all of the panels here.