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30 Howard L.J. 983 (1987)
Toward a Plain Reading of the Constitution - The Declaration of Independence in Constitutional Interpretation

handle is hein.journals/howlj30 and id is 1009 raw text is: Toward a Plain Reading of the
Constitution-The Declaration of
Independence in Constitutional
Now, take the Constitution according to its plain reading and I defy
the presentation of a single pro-slavery clause in it. On the other
hand, it will be found to contain principles and purposes, entirely
hostile to the existence of slavery.'
What country have I? asked Frederick Douglass.2 The Bicen-
tennial of the Constitution challenges all Americans but must strike
Black Americans with particular poignancy. What Constitution have
we? In order to include Black Americans the Constitution of 1787
required amendments, which were then followed by reversals of
Supreme Court interpretations. Is not the Black American's Constitu-
tion really the Bill of Rights plus the Civil War amendments and the
Poll Tax amendment, which eventually struck down unjust practices
and legislation affecting Blacks? What do Black Americans have to
celebrate? But to quote Douglass, again before the Civil War, we are
here... this is our country; and the question for the philosophers and
statesmen of the land ought to be, what principles should dictate the
policy of the action towards us?3 Douglass' question remains ours.
Properly understood, the founding documents themselves-in
particular the link between the Constitution and the Declaration of
Independence-give us those principles. The Civil War amendments
* B.A., Holy Cross College (1971); J.D., Yale University (1974). Chairman of the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission since 1982.
1. F. DOUGLASS, Fourth of July Oration: in WHAT COUNTRY HAVE 1? 38 (H. STORING
ed. 1970).
2. Id.
3. Id. at 40.

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