In my last post I introduced the idea of “black originalism.” Before delving more into some of the materials I am looking at, I want highlight what are likely to be some key points that frame the project. Some of these might be described as methodological, others normative. But in either event from what I have looked at so far, I think these provide a bit of the framework for the project (subject to ongoing revisions, of course!).
First, Black Originalism as a project should prioritize the Reconstruction Amendments and their implementation. A common theme of black writers and speakers from the 1860s is that the antebellum United States—not just the South, but the entire country—contained important parallels to British America, with the Civil War being a second Revolution. As activist and lawyer John Rock said, “the John Brown of the second Revolution is but the Crispus Attucks of the first.” Reconstruction was a second founding, and should be treated as such. This will be a markedly different view than is usually taken by originalists, who tend to privilege the founding and see Reconstruction as a restoration to a more correct (more perfect?) constitution without slavery.