Juneteenth Symposium to illuminate the legacy of Reconstruction Amendments

June 13, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission will host its annual Juneteenth Symposium on June 13, in observance of the Juneteenth holiday. This year’s theme is “The Reconstruction Amendments – The Road to Freedom and Civil Rights”. The symposium will take place at the New York State Judicial Institute from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. and will also be live-streamed.

The keynote address will be delivered by Hon. Rowan D. Wilson, Chief Judge of the New York State Courts and Hon. Shira A. Scheindlin, retired Federal Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. They will explore the historical impact of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fourth Amendments respectively.

“The Reconstruction Amendments codified the aspirational goal of conferring rights that were previously denied to enslaved people,” said Hon. Shirley Troutman, judge of the Court of Appeals, who is helping to organize the event. “However, as citizens of this great nation we must all remain vigilant to ensure that we fulfill the promises contained in the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments. In no other way can we as a nation live up to the creed that we were founded upon, which is to persistently work to form a more perfect union.”

Two dynamic panel discussions moderated by Hon. Jeffrey K. Oing and Hon. Troy K. Webber will dive into the themes of race, citizenship, and voting rights, framed around the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.

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The Program Committee for the symposium includes esteemed Hon. Joanne D. Quiñones, Judge of the Court of Claims and Acting Justice of the Supreme Court of Kings County, and Paul Kenny, Esq., Chief Clerk, Appellate Term, Second Department. Both Quiñones and Kenny also serve as Co-Chairs of the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission Program Committee.

Two panel discussions, focusing on race, citizenship, and the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Fifteenth Amendment’s legacy and the current struggle for voting rights, will feature a lineup of esteemed state judges and community leaders.

The symposium will also include video remarks from New York State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and voting reforms.

The Juneteenth Holiday marks the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, while the Reconstruction Amendments (13th, 14th, and 15th) extended constitutionally guaranteed principles of liberty and equality to African Americans, offering them rights previously denied due to enslavement and race.

The 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, often referred to as the Reconstruction Amendments, are key components of the U.S. Constitution that established rights for African Americans after the Civil War.

Ratified in 1865, the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude throughout the United States, with the exception of punishment for a crime. The 14th Amendment followed in 1868, granting citizenship to all individuals born or naturalized in the United States, including former enslaved people, and providing equal protection under the law to all citizens. The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, forbade the government from denying a citizen the right to vote based on race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

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