The Netflix Version of the 14th Amendment

Amend: The Fight for America Episode 1

Netflix (2021)

Film Review

This Netflix series provides good information about the 14th Amendment to the conception and it’s role in defining the qualification for being a US citizen and in stating explicitly that a US citizen can’t be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. However I’m not convinced there is sufficient educational content to justify dragging it out to six episodes.

I was also troubled to see the heavy reliance on the Supreme Court (a legal process only open to people who can afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees) required for many Americans to enjoy basic rights supposedly guaranteed under the Constitution. This narrow focus on reform by court decree also fails to address the more important question: why no one looks to Congress to enact social justice legislation. The answer, in my view, is that members of the House and Senate are so tightly controlled by corporate lobbies (who fund their election campaigns) that they can’t.

Episode One focuses mostly on the work of Frederick Douglass in campaigning first to end slavery and then to have African Americans recognized as citizens via the 14th Amendment. The latter was ratified in three years after the Civil War ended in 1868.

The most interesting part of this episode concerns a meeting Douglass and other Black leaders had with Lincoln during the Civil War. At this meeting President Lincoln asserted that Blacks would never be the equal of Whites and tried to persuade Douglass to start a colony in Central America.

The 14th Amendment would overturn the Supreme Court’s 1856 Dred Scott decision. In it, the SCOTUS declared that the Constitution never intended either freed or enslaved Africans to be US citizens.