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Department of History

2018 Reconstruction Symposium


Thursday, April 19-20th, 2018
Symposium: Reconstruction’s Legacy: The History and Contemporary Significance of the Fourteenth Amendment:
Presented with Historic Columbia
The symposium marks the culmination of the History Center’s two year-long series, America’s Reconstruction Era and Its Legacies: Explorations in Race, Democracy, Citizenship and Rights. 

The Fourteenth Amendment was enacted in 1868 in the wake of the Civil War to secure the freedom of formerly enslaved African Americans by guaranteeing basic rights of citizenship and equality before the law. It was the cornerstone of Reconstruction, became the foundation of the Civil Rights Movement, and has been central to the expansion of full constitutional rights and protections for all American citizens. Leading scholars and historians will participate in the symposium, which will consider the rich history surrounding the Fourteenth Amendment and provide a public forum for discussing the amendment’s contemporary meaning and significance.

The symposium will include a tribute to W.E.B. Du Bois, who was born in 1868 and died on the eve of the 1963 March on Washington. On Friday, April 20, David Levering Lewis will deliver a keynote address, reflecting on the 150th anniversary of Du Bois’s birth and the significance of his history in the decades long struggle of African Americans to secure the guarantees of legal equality and citizenship. Professor Lewis has written a two-volume biography of W.E.B. Du Bois; each was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for biography.

The full schedule for the symposium follows, along with brief biographies of the participants.

Welcome and Keynote 

Thursday, April 19 | 6 – 8 p.m. | Chappelle Auditorium at Allen University

The symposium will open on Thursday evening, April 19, at Allen University’s Chappelle Auditorium with a keynote address by Randall Kennedy on the history of the 14th Amendment.

Dr. Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School, is a prominent legal scholar, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Dr. Kennedy’s father and uncle, residents of the Waverly Neighborhood, were often in the audience when Marshall spoke at Chappelle, making this a fitting homecoming.


Friday, April 20 | 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. | South Carolina State Museum

After a continental breakfast and book signing from 9 - 10 a.m., the Friday morning panel "The 14th Amendment: From Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Act" will be moderated by Randall Kennedy. Participants include:

  • Margaret Burnhamprofessor of law at Northeastern University and director of the Civil Rights Restorative Justice Program. Professor Burnham has written about the limits of the 1964 Civil Rights Act in securing the rights of the criminally accused and in protecting civil rights activists from state-sanctioned violence.
  • Richard Gergel S. District Judge Judge.Judge Gergel has written a biography of Judge J. Waties Waring, federal district court judge whose rulings expanded the application of the 14th amendment in key civil rights cases in South Carolina.
  • Patricia SullivanD., professor of History at the University of South Carolina.Dr. Sullivan has written about Charles Houston and the uses of the 14th Amendment in organizing the legal challenge that culminated in Brown v. Board of Education and provided the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement.
  • Michael VorenbergD., professor of History at Brown University.Dr.Vorenberg is a leading historian of the 14th Amendment.

During lunch at noon, David Levering Lewis will deliver a keynote address at lunch on W.E.B. Du Bois, reflecting on the 150th anniversary of Du Bois’s birth and the significance of Du Bois’s history in the decades-long struggle of African Americans to secure the guarantees of legal equality and citizenship.

The Friday afternoon panel "The Significance of the 14th Amendment to the Rights of American Citizens and Legal Equality" will be moderated by Blair L.M. Kelley, Ph.D. Participants include:

  • Deb Ellisfounder and consultant, End the Pay Gap. Ellis is former adjunct professor focused on sex discrimination and the law at NYU School of Law, and has served as staff attorney at the ACLU Women's Rights Project and legal director at NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund.
  • Nekki Shuttpartner, Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, Columbia, SC. Shutt is an attorney specializing in gender, sexuality, disability, race and the law. She has played an active role in the LGBT movement for civil rights.
  • Lewis Steelsenior counsel, Outten & Golden LLP, New York, NY. Steel began his work as a civil rights lawyer in 1963 when he joined Robert L. Carter's legal team at the NAACP. He has worked on a broad range of cases involving discrimination in employment, education, housing, and criminal justice.

The symposium keynote lecture on Thursday is free. The price for Friday (including panel discussions, keynote luncheon and walking tour) is $40/person. Tickets on sale now. To learn more, email,


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