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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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1788: Race, Gender and Property—the U.S. Constitution

1788: U.S. Constitution is ratified: Slaves are defined as three-fifths of a human being.  "Persons" without property can't vote.  (Mississippi is the first state to allow women to own property, in 1839). [User created media]

2003: Partial Birth Abortion Act is signed into law, resulting in a fine or imprisonment of anyone performing a late-term abortion.

Actions for Self-Determination:
  • 14th or 15th Century: Iroquois Confederacy is formed. The U.S. Constitution draws heavily from the constitution of the Iroquois nations. (note: different sources cite different times for initiation of the Confederacy).
  • 1804: Haiti wins independence from colonial France, the only nation to gain nationhood through slave revolt.  General Toussaint L’Ouverture, who was formerly enslaved and is self-educated, becomes one of the principal leaders of the revolution. After being promised his freedom, he is captured and imprisoned in France, where he dies in prison.
  • 1841-42: The Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island organizes 12,000 working class people who couldn’t vote or serve in militias to form their own People’s Convention. A new constitution organized by the convention did not require property ownership for voting and was voted for by 14,000 state residents (a clear majority in Rhode Island).
Discussion Questions:
  • What demographic of people is responsible for both the Constitution and the Partial Birth Abortion Act?
  • Why was owning property required for white men to vote?
  • Reflect on voting today. Who can and can't vote? What percentage of the country votes and what demographic?
  • Discuss modern representations of Haiti. What relationship do these have to Haiti's history as the first free Black nation in the Americas?

Additional Resources:

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