Quoting Frederick Douglass, historian David W. Blight strikes a cautionary note in an essay celebrating passage of the Fourteenth Amendment:
“But slavery is not honestly dead ... it did not die honestly,” he said. Douglass’s words apply to the current racial and constitutional condition. “Had [slavery’s] death come of moral conviction instead of political and military necessity; had it come in obedience to the enlightenment of the American people; had it come at the call of the humanity ... of the slaveholder, as well as the rest of our fellow citizens, slavery might be looked upon as honestly dead.” The former slave was reminding his country that slavery died in all-out war, crushed by military might and the changed minds of some, but not of many others. It had died only against tremendous, bloody resistance. But this warning delivered at the peak of Reconstruction’s triumph fits as well our current historical moment.... full essay
Blight's essay is part of The Second Founding, an Atlantic Digital forum on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments in connection with the 150th Anniversary of the Reconstruction Era.