Ordinary people have played a part in constitutional history. A student was crucial in adding the 27th Amendment. At The Atlantic, Adam Clark Estes writes:
A middle-aged recent immigrant from India recently set into motion a series of events that eventually led to Mississippi finally retifying the Constitutional amendment banning slavery. The rousing finale of the movie Lincoln served as inspiration. It sounds like a joke, but it's true. And even though it's been nearly 150 years since that fateful day in the Capitol in 1864, Mississippi's becoming the final state to officially ratify the Thirteenth Amendment serves as the final punctuation mark on a dark chapter in American history.
The circumstances for Dr. Ranjan Batra almost inadvertently inserting herself into Mississippi state history are accidental at best. After seeing Lincoln in theaters last November, he went home and did a little bit of Internet research only to discover the Mississippi never got around to actually ratifying the amendement. The state did vote to ratify the amendment back in 1995, nearly 20 years after Kentucky, the second-to-last state to ratify the amendment, held its vote. However, through an apparent clerical error, Mississippi never officially notified the United States Archivist of the ratification, meaning that they've officially been on the side of slavery for a century-and-a-half. (That sounds kind of sensational when you put it like that, but heck, you'd think the state would double check on an issue as big as this.) Batra and his friend Ken Sullivan reported the mistake up the chain of command, and this month, Mississippi finally sent in the paperwork to complete its belated ratification of the Thirteen Amendment.
Inside Higher Ed reports:
Emory University President James Wagner has infuriated many on his campus and scholars elsewhere by using the president's letter in the new issue of Emory Magazine to say that the "three-fifths compromise" of the U.S. Constitution was a model for how people who disagree can work together for "a common goal."
Following an explosion of social media criticism Saturday as word of Wagner's letter spread, he released an apology. "To those hurt or confused by my clumsiness and insensitivity, please forgive me," he wrote. (The apology currently appears on top of the original letter on Emory's website, linked to in the previous paragraph.)
The three-fifths compromise expanded the political clout of the slave states by codifying that black slaves counted for purposes of allocating seats in the House of Representatives as 60 percent of a white person (even though the slave states gave black people 0 percent of the voting or other rights of white people). To many African Americans, the three-fifths compromise is among the more blatant events in which the founders of the United States explicitly denied the humanity of black people.