reconstruction amendments


December 6th 1865: 13th Amendment ratified

On this day in 1865, the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the states, formally banning slavery in the United States. Ratification does not require unanimous approval, and some states rejected the amendment; Mississippi only ratified the 13th Amendment in 2013, 148 years after the amendment’s passage. The 13th amendment marks the first of the three so-called ‘Reconstruction’ amendments, which secured civil and voting rights for African-Americans after the Civil War. The amendment was proposed by the Lincoln administration following the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation - which was a temporary war measure abolishing slavery in the Confederacy - to assert that the ban on slavery was to be permanent. Lincoln did not initially intend to free the slaves, and always prioritised saving the Union, but emancipation became intriscially tied to Union victory. This was due to the actions of slaves, who fled to Union lines and tried to enlist in the army. The Reconstruction period that followed the American Civil War was largely a contest over the implications of the 13th Amendment and the emancipation of four million slaves. Radicals in Congress pushed for equality of the law and opportunity, while white Southerners, with assistance from violent groups like the Ku Klux Klan, sought to maintain racial subordination and white supremacy. Reconstruction ultimately failed to truly implement freedom for African-Americans, and it was not until the Civil Rights Movement one hundred years later that America again tried to come to terms with the legacy of emancipation.

Killer Cops: Licensed to Kill

The Leveller

Killer Cops: Licensed to Kill

As I pour over article after article of police brutality, criminal activity and corruption for the “Copwatch Report” of The Leveler I am struck by the fact that each and every article has scores of quotes from the cops; rationalizing the insane behavior of the police. Whether it was murdering innocent people, beating peaceful demonstrators, or using their badge to act out their racist fantasies against communities of color, the function that the corporate media assumed was to try to legitimize the conduct.

A great example of this was a recent 3-day series in the Los Angeles Times which tried to refute the fact that the C.I.A. had helped import cocaine into Los Angeles to finance covert support for right-wing terrorism and guerilla activity in places like Central America. Implicit in the information which came out about this is that local law enforcement seems to have been aware of what was going on. After the story broke, the Los Angeles Chief of Police Willie Williams (Who was chief in Philadelphia when the cops and D.E.A. fire-bombed M.O.V.E.; killing innocent children and destroying a city block) took great pains to commission a report denying the allegations. Williams was locked into a battle for political survival at the time because of charges of personal corruption brought to light by his enemies within the Police Department.

When you read these articles over and over, the number of police quotes and quotes from government authorities is overwhelming while, there is usually little information from the victims of police abuse. Judging from the victims of police violence that I know personally, a lot of this is because the System is stacked up against the victim. When the cops interrogate you and say “I want to hear your side of the story” what they really mean is “I want you to spill your guts and give us any fragments of information we might be able to distort to legitimize police conduct against you and to lock you up in prison for as long as possible.”

The most extreme things you ever read about cops is when they absolutely can’t beat the rap. Then you hear a lot of fairy tales about the “one cop gone bad” or the “rotten apple in the barrel” and the cop gets a slap on the wrist. The only time you really see a cop do hard time is when the Police Department wants to shut them up to cover a wider conspiracy within the Department which would ordinarily be kept under wraps by the police “code of silence” which operates similar to the code attributed to La Cosa Nostra (The Italian Mafia).

The way the System treats police conduct is incredible. Most behavior that would land an ordinary person in jail is considered part of a police officer’s job! When you read about the level of brutality that police exercise on the job, it is apparent that the job of a cop must attract a lot of closet sociopaths and personalities with a need to reassure their ego that they’re a worthwhile person by exercising dominant behavior over others (sort of like a dominatrix except with less leather). Most obsession with authority, control and machismo (the person who is out to prove how tough they are by bullying others) are characteristic of deep-seated inferiority complexes and incomplete emotional development created by a highly regimented family, religious, peer group, school and “career path” which left little room for the development of individualized personality, creativity or ambition.

When you realize that these people are given power by the Government, the only rational explanation is that they are tools of the system which created them. If you examine the dictates of the Court System, which is the most reactionary element of the government (outside the military), it is clear that this is the case. American courts base their rulings in legal cases on: (1) Their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, (2) The concept of Common Law (based on English Common Law) which interprets the law based on custom and practice (Based on how the law has been applied historically in cases the judges regard as similar — sometimes called “case law.”) and (3) on the doctrine of “Legislative Intent” (this means that the judges do research to try to see what the people who wrote the law intended it to mean). What this means is that if the system has always been racist, classist and allowed unrestricted police brutality, then the courts would favor those things continuing.

In 1871 a law was passed that said that people who committed acts which violated the Bill of Rights but, claimed to be acting with the authority of the law could be penalized for violating the U.S. Constitution.

Cops got around this by arguing that their conduct was either not defined by the law (“in a grey area”) or it was authorized by state law (this was the case in the South) and therefore not subject to the Federal Constitution.

In 1961 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case, where a black family had been terrorized by cops, that the cops should be accountable to the Federal Law even if they didn’t violate a state law.

In 1978 another case said that the local government was also accountable to Federal Law. In this case a pregnant social worker sued for job discrimination for being forced to take an early unpaid maternity leave.

The courts have used these cases as a “custom and practice” rationale for lawsuits filed for police violations of the U.S. Constitutional limits on Government conduct toward individuals.

On 28 April 1997 all this changed when the United States supreme Court ruled that “taxpayers” (in other words, “The Rich”) should not have to pay if a cop is guilty of violating a persons rights (for example, if they beat the shit out of someone for kicks). Their argument was that the person filing the complaint had to show that the City Government was the “moving force” behind the injury: basically, that they told the cop to do it either as an order or written policy. The case in question, Brynt County v. Brown, involved a reserve deputy sheriff who was shown to be a person of “deficient character,” with a “propensity for violence” and “disregard for the law”: The guy was some redneck bully who got hired only because he was the nephew of County Sheriff B. J. Moore! According to the Supreme Court, hiring someone with a warped and violent personality doesn’t make the Government at fault if that person beats the shit out of someone.

This defies all reasoning unless you look at who is now at the Supreme Court. Since Ronald Reagan was President of the United States, there have been a string of Reactionary political appointments to the Court. The capitalist press focused on whether they would be social activists for people like the Christian Right and concluded that they were “Strict Constructionists” not interested in judicial activism. Nothing could be further from the truth. Their activism isn’t social, it is economic. These justices were selected for their ideology preferring the protection of private property over justice for people. Their activism is on behalf of the possessors of wealth rather than a social agenda. The last time this was done was during the heyday of robber Baron Capitalists and resulted in a Supreme Court invention of “Civil Rights” for corporations based on the Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution which were written to protect former slaves from discrimination (which didn’t stop the court from handing down the Plessy v. Ferguson decision authorizing “separate but equal” discriminatory treatment for non-whites).

Lawyers interviewed in the capitalist press claim that this Supreme Court ruling won’t stop them from filing “Civil Rights” lawsuits in response to Police Brutality and abuse. But, relying on courts which are increasingly lorded over by judges chosen from the ranks of prosecutors and business lawyers is never going to free us from the growing Police State being built around us. How many police brutality lawsuits actually succeeded before the new decree? 1 in 5? Worse? What happens when we take the police into the courts? It is much like a rape trial. The victim or victims are presented as immoral, not politically correct and trouble-makers while the jury, which is mostly selected from middle and lower-middle class employees of the Government and Big Business (ordinary people have to work for a living and don’t get time off from their employer to be on a jury, let alone get paid while their on jury duty), is told fairy tales about how noble the cops are and how they protect us from the “bad elements” of society. They are told that cops only use force when they “have to” and then asked to believe that Police terrorism, murder, and mayhem somehow fits this thin definition of “necessity.”

If we cannot rely on the courts, it is equally absurd to rely on the politicians who appoint the judges. The politicians who feed at the trough of corporate money to get elected have echoed the corporate law and order propaganda in the media that is contradicted by years of decline in violent crime. They want more cops and more prisons. They contract out prisons to profit-driven corporations who convert them to forced labor camps. With so many cops roaming the streets with less and less to do except harass the innocent and imagine the ghosts of criminals, the psychology of paranoia and brutality can only become epidemic.

Now the Police tell us to believe in “Neighborhood Watch” and “Community-Based Policing.” But, Neighborhood Watch is nothing more than recruiting people as the Gauleuters of the cops: to inform on their neighbors and risk their lives for cops that turn a blind eye to crimes against anyone without money and property. Community-Based Policing is a farce where we are told that committees hand-picked by police captains truly represent the community and will keep the cops accountable. Obviously, their only purpose is to legitimize any course of action the cops choose.

What are the Police afraid of? Are they afraid of criminals? No! They are afraid of us; the ordinary people. They are afraid of accountability. They are afraid of loosing control. Like any army of occupation, they are afraid of the freedom of the people whose communities they have occupied and the justice of those they have wronged. The fact that they fear us means that they know that our action is all that is necessary to begin to change the direction of society and dismantle the Police State. It means that only our reluctance to act keeps the present system in place.

We can only be free of the Police State when we refuse to condone it. We must refuse to cooperate with its activities. We must challenge the free reign of police terror and hold each police action accountable to the members of our communities. We must be the court of last resort that decides the fate of any cop who violates us. We must treat cops as criminals and accept no excuses. We must expose all police criminals and kick them out of our communities. We must refuse to be abused. Our power is in our refusal!

Reconstruction Amendments (mnemonics)

13th Amendment: ONE THREE SLAVES ARE FREE—Slavery is abolished

14th Amendment: ONE FOUR CITIZENS GALORE—African Americans are given citizenship and due process of law is affirmed.

15th Amendment: ONE FIVE THE VOTE’S ARRIVED—Black males are given the right to vote.

DBQ/FRQ First Aid (Precolonial to Imperialism)

Tomorrow, you will be taking the APUSH Advanced Placement Exam. Determining on what college you want to go to, at least a three is commonplace. I don’t know about you guys, but my biggest problem is going the length of an entire essay (for example if they want me to talk about Colonial Times through the Revolution, but they just write “1763-1781” I wouldn’t know what to write about). Furthermore, I’m going to list eras, what happening during them in chronological order and a very brief description of what they did. Keep in mind that many eras (such as the 1960’s) are important both in foreign policy and domestic affairs. I will divide them accordingly. The DBQ will not ask for specific years, but it’s better to have a general understanding of the era they are asking you about so you can throw in some “specific evidence” to get that 7-9 essay. This chart is also particularly helpful with the FRQ. Anyway, let’s begin.

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February 3rd 1870: Fifteenth Amendment ratified

On this day in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. This measure came as the third and last of the so-called ‘Reconstruction amendments’, passed after the end of the Civil War by the Radical Republicans in Congress. The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the country, expanding on President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation which freed slaves in the Confederacy. The second Reconstruction Amendment, the Fourteenth, provided citizenship and equal protection for freedmen. The Fifteenth granted African-American men the right to vote. It was passed by Congress in February 1869, and received ratification from the requisite number of states the following year, being formally adopted in March 1870. For many abolitionists, this was the most important measure of the Reconstruction effort. In the words of black abolitionist Frederick Douglass, “slavery is not abolished until the black man has the ballot”. Black enfranchisement meant that for the first time in American history, African-Americans were elected to political office. These included first black Senator, Hiram Rhodes Revels, Representative Joseph Rainey, and Governor P.B.S. Pinchback of Louisiana (who until 1990 was the only black state governor in U.S. history). In states such as South Carolina, slaves made up a majority of the population, meaning that once enfranchised they dominated state politics. Despite being enshrined in constitutional law, African-Americans were prevented from voting through discriminatory measures like poll taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses, as well as by the violent intimidation of the recently formed Ku Klux Klan. The 1965 Voting Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, finally provided for the full registration of black voters in the U.S. This measure came in the larger context of the Civil Rights Movement, which also targetted post-Reconstruction injustices such as Jim Crow segregation.

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”


July 9th 1868: 14th Amendment ratified

On this day in 1868, the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by the required number of states and thus officially adopted. The amendment, which was one of the three post-Civil War Reconstruction amendments, was crucial in guaranteeing rights to newly freed slaves. The 13th Amendment had abolished slavery, and in 1870 the 15th Amendment was ratified, providing former slaves with the right to vote. The 14th Amendment was a momentous achievement, but the final version (written by Ohio Republican congressman John Bingham) which passed by Congress was one of the most conservative of the over 70 proposed drafts. More radical proposals included black suffrage, and included women in their furnishing of civil rights. However, the amendment was radical in that it gave African-Americans full citizenship, thus overruling Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) which ruled that African-Americans were not US citizens. The amendment also guaranteed people due process of law and “equal protection of the laws”. These clauses have especially lent the amendment to interpretation, and has been frequently used by the Supreme Court to guarantee rights and strike down actions which violate ‘equal protection’, famously ruling against segregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954).

This Means More Than War||Closed RP

[ pyromouse ]


In hindsight, anybody could have easily guessed this was coming. The signs were all there, if not the hostile behavior and tension only thickening with each new generation. At the time, nobody had really wanted to believe it would occur– it was only a radical movement, they would say, no matter what their race or genetic coding. Though the rebellious ones and anarchists certainly showed support for the upcoming devastation no one wanted to acknowledge, everyone else attempted to ignore it up to a certain point. The protests, the raids, the assaults; the list went on, yet nothing ever truly happened. Avert your attention, turn off the TV or radio, and tune out the state this area of the word was coming to, and everything was okay. For a while, anyway. 

Then the terrorist movement began. Who started it was impossible to work out, but the suspicion that the inhumans were behind the whole ordeal might have been closer to the truth than anything else. Sick and tired of all the mistreatment, judgement, and oppression, anybody could see why they would transition to such brash actions. However, the humans saw no justice in it; they’d killed and maimed innocent people, children and families. Rather hypocritical of them to say, he thought, though he held his tongue and tried to remain neutral. 

As soon as violence was returned from the opposite side, the nonexistents pulled their affairs away from the humane dimension. Smart move on their part, though he also knew many of them were upset about it. They wanted no part in the beginning of this revolutionary ‘war’ even before it started– not until it had thinned itself out into black and white, allowing a decision to be made. Naturally, that meant Xenon had been called back. Oh, he’d been enraged about the abrupt restraint on his and others of his kind’s transitioning between forms; there was no real way to keep them at bay, but he supposed they’d worked something out, considering he hadn’t heard from the rowdy Shadeflame since the first attack began. 

Sickening, merciless onslaughts broke out all over the country, beginning slowly, but steadily spreading. Mutilations and scourging on both sides constantly flashed across the newsfeed and became the gossip and fears of the surrounding towns. It was all anyone could hear. Eventually, even technological systems were hacked into in order for each side to spread their own messages. Who sided with who? Was there a wrong or right decision to make? Could instinct be trusted, or was rationality a better route to take? Was neutrality even an option? Already there had been countless murders, raids, pillages, and invasions. Entire cities were taken over, bases were created, focal points for both sides were seized and taken control of– not even the government was functioning properly. Hell, they weren’t even bothering with stopping the sudden civil war threatening to break out. 

But when two protesting groups broke into violence and ended up destroying the countryside, effectively killing off all other signs of life and violating the already fragile code system set up to keep from a full-blown war– that was when it all came crashing down. This was war, and nothing could stop it now. No number of apologies, reconstruction, or amendments could be made to possibly make up for the crimes committed on both sides. The overhanging threat, now all too real, clutched them all in its iron fist and set the war in motion. 

Looking around now, Aokigahara never would have guessed this had once been a place of refuge. Everywhere he turned, there was hostility shown to those choosing to remain neutral. Either you were for or you were against 'true freedom’ for the inhumans. The way they saw it, only one could be right and one could be wrong. Negotiation wasn’t an option among a bunch of war-crazed beings both human and inhuman. Now that he looked back on it, none of this could have been avoided, but it could have been lessened had somebody used their head and decided to voice these problems with common sense and open-mindedness. 

A heavy sigh fell from his lips, followed by the shifting and popping of bones beneath his skin. Icy eyes skimmed the foggy terrain, searching for any signs of sudden movement or misplaced landmarks. Rubble and skeletons of buildings dotted the near-barren wasteland, making it difficult to spot any opposing figures immediately. Too many vantage points and hiding places– this was a suicide run, but he didn’t dare say so now. Somehow, the small group of neutrals he was with had managed to cross through warzones relatively safely in search of the safezone located not too terribly far from where they were now. The real problems was getting through the last few barriers without any major conflict. Usually both sides reluctantly respected the neutrals, but as of late they were regaining their hostile attitude towards them. 'Waste of resources’, as the humans put it, and 'waste of manpower’, as the inhumans put it. 

In all honesty, the hybrid remained uncertain of where his loyalty lay in terms of whose side he would take if forced to. Neither army was making wise or agreeable decisions, and so many horror stories about what happened to those with mixed blood or those classified as 'unknown’ sent chills down his spine. Besides, he would rather stay with those he had forged a relationship– or, as his suppressed nature chose to put it, 'attachment’ –with. Remaining by their side through all of this was his only goal as of late. There couldn’t be anything simpler than that during times like this. Besides, he highly doubted he would let himself go against what his instinct or emotions pointed towards, especially when they went hand-in-hand for once. 

Cautiously, he rose from the low crouch he’d positioned himself in, raising his arm to signal he’d found nobody lurking in the mist or any other prominent dangers. Through the chilled air, he could make out the hazy silhouettes of the rest of the group approaching. A deep hum of unrest rumbled from his throat; something felt terribly off. His nerves had been standing on end ever since the expedition began, but now his suspicions were quickly rising as the day wore into night. There had to be a hidden reason for this sudden transition in positioning, something the appointed temporary leaders weren’t telling the few others beneath their command. 

“This just isn’t adding up,” he muttered beneath his breath, tightening the strap on his former hunting mask, relaxing his posture only slightly when a familiar figure break through the heavy mist. Out of habit, he kept a careful eye on them until he was certain no danger had followed behind, then fell back in step with the rest. 

The system of capital and private profit smashed in 1873, and all property and investment were in danger; labor was on the edge of starvation, and democracy and universal suffrage could function only through revolution. But a new savior appeared. Already Industry had been undergoing a process of integration, alliance, and imperial domination. Instead of lawless freebooters, there were appearing a few strong purposeful kings with vast power of finance and technique in their hands. They promised law and order; they promised safe income on a sure property base with neither speculative bubbles nor criminal aggression. In other words, a new Empire of Industry was offering to displace capitalistic anarchy and form a dictatorship of capital to guide and repress universal suffrage.
The conquest of the new industry in the ranks of labor was quick and certain. The growth of the National Labor Union into a labor party along Marxist lines, which had been developing from the close of the war, began to become petty bourgeois. It began to fight for capital and interest and the right of the upper class of labor to share in the exploitation of common labor. The Negro as a common laborer belonged, therefore, not in but beneath the white American labor movement.

Craft and race unions spread. The better-paid skilled and intelligent American labor formed itself into closed guilds and, in combination with capitalist guild-masters, extorted fair wages which could be raised by negotiation. Foreign-born and Negro labor was left outside and tried several times, but in vain, to start a class-conscious labor movement. Skilled labor proceeded to share in the exploitation of the reservoir of low-paid common labor, and no strikes nor violence by over-crowded competing beggars for subsistence could move the industrial machine so long as engineers and skilled labor kept it going. To be sure the skilled labor guilds and capital had bitter disputes and even open fighting, but they fought to share profit from labor and not to eliminate profit.

Big business … then offered terms to the nation. Profiteering, graft and theft had run wild in the North under the extreme individualism of the post-war industry. Northern business had protected its monopoly by high tariff, profit from investments in railroad and government bonds, and new ventures. It had held onto its political power by the Fourteenth Amendment and Reconstruction Acts. But its domination and advance were threatened by loss of all moral standards, cut-throat competition; political revolt threatened, which might result in lowering the tariff, attacking the banking and money system, and strengthening government control of business freedom. One way to forestall this was to effect inner control and coordination by centralizing the control of the power of capital, regaining the confidence of investors by sure and steady income, and driving from power the irregular banditti and highwaymen of industry.

Fortunately for them, the panic of 1873 checked the reform movement of 1872, and delivered the country into the power of the great financiers without seriously breaking the power of capital. Reform became liberal, attacking theft and graft, and calling for freedom of the South from military control. Thus, the radical revolution of controlling capital and forcing recognition of the rights of labor by government control was lost sight of. Labor war ensued in the North, and serfdom was established in the South.
—  W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America