This Article explores how the great black abolitionist Frederick Douglass was both a constitutional actor and a constitutional theorist. Unlike most constitutional actors, Douglass was not a judge, lawyer, professor, or an elected official. Nevertheless, throughout much of his life, Douglass shaped the Constitution through his actions. He was also shaped by the Constitution as he went from being a fugitive slave – and thus an “object” of the Constitution – to being a free citizen and an appointed officeholder. He became a constitutional theorist who brought his theories into action through his speeches, writings, and activities as an abolitionist, as an antislavery activist, and then as a spokesman for African Americans during the Civil War. This Article provides insights into antebellum constitutional thought and the background to the Fourteenth Amendment. This Article also explores our understanding of the Constitution and its relationship to slavery through the lens of Frederick Douglass.
Frederick Douglass’s Constitution: From Garrisonian Abolitionist to Lincoln Republican,
81 Mo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/mlr/vol81/iss1/17