This season, More Perfect is taking its camera lens off the Supreme Court and zooming in on the words of the people: the 27 amendments that We The People have made to our Constitution. We're taking on these 27 amendments both in song and in story. This episode is best listened to alongside 27: The Most Perfect Album, an entire album (an ALBUM!) and digital experience of original music and art inspired by the 27 Amendments. Think of these episodes as the audio liner notes.
Amendments 13, 14, and 15 are collectively known as the Reconstruction Amendments: they were passed as instructions to rebuild the country after Civil War. They addressed slavery, citizenship, equality and voting rights for black people. This week, the More Perfect team explores the legacy of the amendments beyond the Civil War — the ways the promises of these amendments changed the country and the ways they've fallen short.
First, More Perfect Executive Producer Suzie Lechtenberg and Legal Editor Elie Mystal explore the loophole in the 13th Amendment's slavery ban that's being used in a strange context: college football. We share songs about the 13th Amendment from Kash Doll and Bette Smith. Then, producer Julia Longoria shares a conversation with her roommate Alia Almeida exploring their relationship to the amendments.
Inspired by the 14th's Amendment's grant of equal protection and citizenship rights, Sarah Kay's poem tells the story of her grandmother, a U.S. citizen who was interned during World War II in a Japanese American Internment camp. Despite the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, the Supreme Court upheld the internment of U.S. citizens based solely on their Japanese heritage in a case called Korematsu v. United States. In 2018, the Supreme Court said Korematsu was "wrong the day it was decided." The Court went on to uphold President Trump's controversial travel ban in Trump v. Hawaii. "Korematsu has nothing to do with this case," wrote the majority. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sotomayor accused the majority of "redeploying the same dangerous logic underlying Korematsu" when they upheld the ban.