How The Bill of Rights originally saw Black people in America

“Who talks most about freedom and equality? Is it not those who hold The Bill of Rights in one hand and a whip for affrighted slaves in the other?” ―Alexander Hamilton

The Bill of Rights is the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It originally was a list of protections for White Americans to enjoy. However, since at the time most Black people in America were considered to be property and not citizens or full human beings, for most Black people in Americans The Bill of Rights was a bill of wrongs—a price most Black people were required to pay in full.

Here is my attempt to reveal the truth of how the Bill of Rights applied to Black people at the time of its writing and during the times of slavery. (Of course, many of these abuses continued after emancipation and were supported by Jim Crow laws that weren’t struck down until the 1960s.)

First Amendment for White Americans:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

First Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Blacks will be prohibited from the free exercise of religion, especially the religion of their homeland. They shall not be allowed to learn to read any religious material, especially the Bible. They shall not be allowed to gather for worship without a white person present to monitor and control the meeting. Blacks shall not be allowed any freedom to speak any of their own ideas, feelings, or opinions; but shall be required to say whatever those whites exercising authority over them shall demand. Blacks will not be allowed to learn to read or write and therefore should have no freedom of the press. If Blacks try to assemble on their own, they will be forcibly dispersed. Blacks will have no right to petition the Government or any other institution or individuals for a redress of grievances.”

Second Amendment for White Americans:
“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Second Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Defenseless Blacks being necessary to the security of slavery, Blacks are not to be seen as people and therefore have no rights to any arms whatsoever. In fact, weapons of all kinds are to be kept away from them at all costs. They are to be in and to remain in a totally defenseless state.”

Third Amendment for White Americans:
“No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”

Third Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“If ever necessary, soldiers shall do whatever they are commanded to do in order to forcibly keep Blacks in perpetual bondage, servitude, and subservience.”

Fourth Amendment for White Americans:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Fourth Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Since Blacks aren’t officially people and their persons (in most cases) belong to a White owner, they have no right to be secure in anything. Their houses, and effects and even their bodies, are all solely the property of their master and can be violated at any time. They have no papers since they are not allowed to learn to read or write. Warrants are completely unnecessary and there is no need for probable cause. In fact, their blackness itself is probable cause they have already done something wrong, just by existing. They can be forcibly searched and seized at any time and in any place.”

Fifth Amendment for White Americans:
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury and except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Fifth Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Blacks being personal property, not properly persons, shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime (whether real or imagined) without any knowledge of a Grand Jury, regardless of the case. Their master may abuse, torture, rape, and even kill them (whether they have committed a crime or not). They may be put in jeopardy of life or limb as many times as their master may desire. They will always be required (and forced if they refuse) to witness against themselves and against one another. They have no access to any due process of law. Since most Blacks are private property (and have already been deprived of life, liberty, and property), they cannot be taken from their master for public use (like building the U.S. Capitol) without just compensation paid to their master.”

Sixth Amendment for White Americans:
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his
defense.”

Sixth Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Since most Blacks are property, they have no more right to a public trial than livestock. There is no need to waste the time of a jury. Besides, Blacks are not allowed to testify in a trial anyway. There is also no need for Counsel because there is no allowable defense for their insubordinate and rebellious behavior.”

Seventh Amendment for White Americans:
“In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to he rules of the common law.”

Seventh Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“As property, Blacks have no right to common law or trial by jury, no matter what is done to them. The courts of the United States are not available to them.”

Eighth Amendment for White Americans.
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”

Eighth Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Blacks can be held in lifelong bondage (and their generations after them) and their master can demand any excessive price he wants for them and turn down any price . He is allowed to inflict as many cruel and unusual punishments upon them as he desires . . . even to the point of death.”

Ninth Amendment for White Americans:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

Ninth Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Although Whites may claim other rights that are not listed in the Constitution, Blacks aren’t considered to be people and therefore aren’t allowed to claim any rights, whether listed in the Constitution or not.”

Tenth Amendment for White Americans:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Tenth Amendment as originally applied to most Black people:
“Since Blacks are not mentioned in the Constitution (except for the disguised mention in the 3/5 clause, where they are counted as 3/5 of a person, solely to increase the representation in Congress of the states where they are being held in slavery), the state Blacks live in and the people of that state, may do anything they desire to their Black population.”

–An excerpt from my book, Off the RACE Track–From Color-Blind to Color-Kind.

Here’s what Rev. Larry Britton, pastor in the Church of God in Christ, wrote about it: “Steve Simms’ book, Off the Race Track, is thoroughly informative and creative in its approach to sharing many of the details of the African American experience. The profound insights, regarding some of the salient facts of the African American experience, are awe-inspiring. (Especially since he is Caucasian.) As a 66 year old African American man I have lived through legal segregation; participated in the 1960’s protests; and been victimized by Jim Crow laws, and job and social discrimination all my life. It is powerful to attest to the truths detailed in this book. The Bill of Rights section is profound.”

About Steve Simms

I like to look and think outside the box. In college I encountered Jesus Christ and I have been passionate about trying to get to know Him better ever since. My wife and I co-lead a non-traditional expression of the body of Christ in Nashville based on open participation and Spirit-led sharing. We long to see the power and passion of the first Christ-followers come to life in our time. I have written a book about our experiences called, "Beyond Church: An Invitation To Experience The Lost Word Of The Bible--Ekklesia" that is available in Kindle & paperback @ http://amzn.to/2nCr5dP
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2 Responses to How The Bill of Rights originally saw Black people in America

  1. Pingback: It’s time for Critical/Embrace Theory | Free Gas For Your Think Tank (A blog to jog your mind and unclog your heart . . .)

  2. Pingback: The CET approach to history — criticize the bad, embrace the good | Free Gas For Your Think Tank (A blog to jog your mind and unclog your heart . . .)

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