Call Goes Out to Recognize African-Americans as ‘100 Percent Whole’ Human Beings

CM King

CITY HALL — Seniors and youngsters came by the bus loads to City Hall on April 18th to join New York City Council Member Andy King with union and community leaders to call on the City Council to pass a resolution that calls upon Congress to negate the language in the three-fifths clause, which is still in the U.S. Constitution.


In addition, on the Steps of City Hall, they called for New York City to recognize March 5th as “Three-Fifths Clause Awareness Day.”


“It is completely and utterly unacceptable that the ” three-fifths clause” still remains to be etched into the Constitution, never to be removed, and its only present value is that it serves as a reminder of our nation’s dark past in the areas of race relations and political representation as it pertains to African-Americans, and other enslaved people at the time of its inception,” said King, author of  both legislations (Res. 1000 & Res. 1001), which is in the City Council Committee on Civil Rights.


“We need to rid ourselves of the remaining vestiges of inequality in this nation in order to have true social progress, and if we cannot get rid of it, then we need to find some other way to make it unequivocally clear that all people in our nation are to be regarded as complete equals,” said King.


In U.S. history, the three-fifths clause (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the U.S. Constitution of 1787) was demanded by Southern supporters of slavery as a way of increasing their congressional representation and political power. They wanted slaves to be counted as full persons but settled on three-fifths. People of African descent would have had no real rights either way.


The three-fifths clause was enforced until the post-Civil War 13th Amendment freed all enslaved people in the United States, the 14th amendment gave them full citizenship, and the 15th Amendment granted black people the right to vote.


However, the “three-fifth clause” language was never removed from the Constitution.


Congress Members Yvette D. Clarke and Gregory Meeks have joined King in the push to negate the language in the three-fifths clause.


“While the United States of America is a great nation founded on the admirable principles of justice and liberty, it is also a nation with a protracted and painful history of the enslavement of African-Americans, racial bigotry, hatred and discrimination,” stated Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (NY-09).  ” There is no doubt that we have, as a nation, made great progress in addressing and rectifying the wrongs of its tumultuous history, but many social ills and issues related to our troubled past remain. One such example is the enduring language of a “three-fifths” clause in the United States constitution. I commend and I stand in solidarity with New York City Council Member Andy King and my colleague, Congressman Gregory Meeks to amend the language as it pertains to African-Americans, and establish March 5th as “Three Fifth Clause Awareness Day” in the City of New York. I look forward to continuing the dialogue around this issue as we pursue justice, equity and fairness on behalf of African-Americans, people of African descent and other historically marginalized communities.”

“I congratulate Council Member Andy King for introducing New York City Council legislation that would recognize March 5th as an annual ‘Three-Fifth Clause Awareness Day.’  Although a majority of the delegates to the constitutional convention in 1787 deemed such a compromise as necessary to establishing the United States of America and its system of government, history recognizes Three Fifths Clause was one of the worst of many foundational compromises with slavery.  Awareness of our history — the good, the bad, the ugly — can help us summon the courage and wisdom and unity to make the descendants of slaves whole, which is a precondition for making America whole,”  stated  Rep. Gregory Meeks, (NY-06).


“It was an offensive clause. How humiliating it is to count a man as three fifths of another? But this is a part of our U.S. history that helped shape some racist behaviors, such as Jim Crow. More people need to be made aware of the Three-Fifth Clause, that it still exists in the U.S. Constitution and let’s do something about it!” said Dr. Hazel N. Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference.


Speakers and attendees at the press conference included, Dr. Dukes, Shaun Francois I, President Local 372; Rev. Lamont Granby, 47th Precinct Clergy Council, Bronx;  100-year-old Sarah Turner, Michelle Akyempong, Vice President of Legislation and Political Action; and representatives from the office of Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, State Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie, the National Action Network, the Civil Service Employee Association, Coalition of Black Trade Unions, Eastchester R.A.I.N. Senior Center, Community Board 12, Bronx and NYCHA Tenant Association of Gun Hill Houses.

In addition, more than 100 students attended from Bronx schools Cornerstone Academy for Social Action (CASA Middle School), PS 112 and the Global School for Environmental Research (Middle School).

Following the press conference a hearing was held before the Committee on Civil Rights, chaired by Council Member Darlene Mealy. Testifying at the hearing were, Tamika Mallory, Justice League NYC;  Bertha Lewis, president of Black Institute,  Lewis Goldstein, Committee for Effective Leadership; and Michelle J. Alleyne of Distinguished Women of September 11th.


Council Member Daniel Dromm, a member of the Committee on Civil Rights, said he would like to see the language totally removed from the U.S. Constitution.


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