14th amendment


Past Programs: The 14th Amendment in American Life and Imagination

Exploring the Fourteenth Amendment concepts of equality, citizenship, and liberty


Lizz Sinclair
Director of Programs
(207) 773-5051


Archived Program

Past Programs: The 14th Amendment in American Life and Imagination

Exploring the concepts of equality, citizenship, and liberty

14th amendment cartoon

Andrew Johnson holds a leaking kettle, labeled “The Reconstructed South”, towards a woman representing liberty and Columbia, carrying a baby representing the newly approved 14th Constitutional Amendment. From the Library of Congress.

The constitutional amendments adopted in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, known as the “Reconstruction Amendments,” have been called the basis of America’s second founding, a “broad and sure foundation” providing equality for all before the law. Through the Reconstruction period and beyond, these amendments have fundamentally shaped our ideas of citizenship, equality, and liberty.

The 14th Amendment in particular (passed thanks in large part to Maine’s own William Pitt Fessenden) laid the groundwork for many of our most valued—and debated—rights. Some of the Supreme Court’s most famous and influential cases have hinged on its interpretation, such as Plessy v. Ferguson (18 May 1896), Brown v. Board of Education (17 May 1954), Loving v. Virginia (12 Jun 1967), and Obergefell v. Hodges (26 June 2015). The 14th Amendment expresses ideals that are at the very heart of our democracy, and our understanding of it reflects what we value most highly as Americans.

In 2016, the 150th anniversary of the passage of the 14th Amendment, the MHC is presenting statewide programming to explore the amendment’s history, evolution, and contemporary significance. Events will include a public forum, speaker series, panel discussions, facilitated reading and discussion groups for the general public and for special audiences, curricular materials, and a grants program supporting community organizations such as libraries, historical societies, cultural nonprofits, and schools.

Funded by:


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Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.