Read a PDF of our statement here.

Today, the Thurgood Marshall Institute (the Institute) at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Emory University School of Law, and Spelman College will convene leading scholars, lawyers, and civil rights activists in Atlanta at two events that will touch on the history, development, and continued relevance of the Fourteenth Amendment—the constitutional provision that guarantees due process and equal protection under the law for all Americans.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Institute and Emory will hold a discussion with leading legal scholars and historians, including Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Carol Anderson, Robert Chang, Fred Smith, Jr. and Vesla Weaver, which will focus on the continued relevance of the Fourteenth Amendment and the need for lawyers, advocates, and citizens—especially the next generation—to safeguard and advance civil rights that are currently under attack.

This evening, the Institute and Spelman will host a keynote conversation between Sherrilyn Ifill and Melissa Harris-Perry, Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. They will discuss the future of our democracy and the need for everyday citizens to help fulfill the full power and promise of the Fourteenth Amendment to safeguard our civil rights and ensure access to justice for all.

“150 years after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund continues to work tirelessly as civil rights lawyers and advocates to fulfill the guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment— for Black people and for all who continue to be denied due process and equal protection under the law,” said Sherrilyn Ifill. “We are delighted to partner with Emory Law School and a fellow African American legacy institution Spelman College in our culminating celebration of this critical amendment to our Constitution.”

“As scholars, practitioners, and advocates of the law, it is of ineffable importance to us that due process is observed and that all citizens are afforded equal protections,” said James B. Hughes, Jr., Interim Dean of Emory University School of Law. “This conversation will help us put in perspective the history of this law in America, and Emory Law is proud to participate in the exchange.”

“Founded 13 years after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, Spelman College was created as a space for two demographics not explicitly considered by the Amendment – Black women and girls – to prepare young women of African descent for the promise and full actualization of the rights of citizenship,” said Cynthia Neal Spence, Ph.D., director, Spelman College Social Justice Program. “Not only do we prepare our women to exercise their rights as citizens, we also prepare them to seek social justice for those whose rights have been denied because of marginalization or disenfranchisement.