Civil Rights in America

Ken Masugi, The Claremont Institute
November 9, 2002

During this seminar, we will discuss the nature of civil rights in the American founding and its evolution during and after the Civil War. The seminar will focus primarily on Japanese Internment during World War II and the civil rights movement of the second-half of the 20th Century.

Ken Masugi is Director of the Center for Local Government at the Claremont Institute. Prior to joining the Claremont Institute, he served as Senior Coordinator of Academic Affairs at the State Council of Higher Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He has also taught at Princeton University, the United States Air Force Academy, Ashland University, the University of California at Irvine, Harvey Mudd College, and the James Madison College at Michigan State University. Before teaching, he was a Special Assistant to two successive directors of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Clarence Thomas and Evan Kemp. Dr. Masugi’s publishing accomplishments include editing Interpreting Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and co-editing Japanese-American Internment, The American Founding, The Supreme Court and American Constitutionalism. He continues to work on Reconstituting American Citizenship, a critique of multiculturalism’s attack on the American political tradition.

Session One

Focus: This is far too much reading, but it is a modest introduction to a vast subject. Aristotle and Montesquieu remind us of how classical and modern philosophy dealt with the issue of race. Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and Addison’s Cato (strongly recommended additional readings) are powerful reminders of how deeply the western tradition had reflected on race and ethnicity long before our multiculturalism. The Declaration and Constitution reflect the heights of western civilization. Consider Christianity as well, here. Is Tocqueville’s pessimism consistent with the Founding documents, Lincoln, and the three black authors we encounter here’Douglass, Washington, and DuBois?

Reading:

  • Aristotle, The Politics, Carnes Lord, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984), Book 1, Chapter 6, pp. 41-43.
  • Montesquieu, Spirit of the Laws, Anne Cohler, Basis Miller, Harold Stone, eds., (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1989), Part 3, Chapter 5, p. 250.
  • Declaration of Independence
  • George Washington, Letter to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport
  • Article IV of the Constitution
  • 5th, 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution
  • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Harvey C. Mansfield, Delba Winthrop, eds. (University of Chicago Press, 2000), pp. 302-307, 326-348.
  • Frederick Douglass, “An Address to the Colored People of the United States”, September 29, 1848, from Howard Brotz, ed., African-American Social and Political Thought, 1850-1920 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1992), pp. 208-213.
  • Frederick Douglass, “The Nation’s Problem” (excerpted), April 16, 1889, from Howard Brotz, ed., African-American Social and Political Thought, 1850-1920 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 1992), pp. 311-320.
  • Frederick Douglass, “Oration in Memory of Abraham Lincoln”
  • Booker T. Washington, Selected Readings from Three Negro Classics (Mass Market Paperback, 1976), pp. 33-40; 50, 145-157, 181-183.
  • W.E.B. DuBois, Selected Readings from Three Negro Classics (Mass Market Paperback, 1976), pp. 213-222, 268-284, 329, 333-334.

Session Two

Focus: Having seen the range of views about race and ethnicity in America, what sense can we make of how civil rights laws have treated minorities, especially black Americans? What elements of the readings for our first session should be reflected in our laws? What has actually happened? How does affirmative action fit our past, and our increasingly multicultural future?

Reading:

  • Plessy v. Ferguson from Ralph Rossum and G. Alan Tarr, eds., American Constitutional Law (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995) pp. 384-386.
  • Brown v. Board of Education from Ralph Rossum and G. Alan Tarr, eds., American Constitutional Law (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995) pp. 386-389.
  • Korematsu v. U.S., from Ralph Rossum and G. Alan Tarr, eds., American Constitutional Law (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995).
  • Clarence Thomas, Concurrence to Adarand v. Pena
  • Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character (HarperPerennial, 1998), Introduction, pp. 1-55.
  • Richard Rodriguez, Days of Obligation: An Argument with My Mexican Father (Penguin, 1992), pp. 48-79, 158-174.

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