An interesting bit of revisionist history occurred on Fox News Tuesday afternoon. A guest on The Ingraham Angle said the U.S. Constitution’s original three-fifths compromise was actually written in order to give “humanhood to black people.”
For her part, host Laura Ingraham mostly stayed out of the fray. The comments were made during a discussion between civil rights attorney Leo Terrell and former wrestler Kevin Jackson. Ingraham was complaining about Spike Lee‘s recent criticism of President Donald Trump at the Cannes Film Festival.
While cataloguing a series of ressentiments in Lee’s anti-Trump comments, Ingraham said, “Let me tell you about the thing I think was most outrageous. When he said America was built on slavery and basically the subjugation of the native people…” To which Terrell replied, “Let me just simply say this, Laura, since I love history and government. When this constitution was created, me, because I was black, I was considered three-fifths of a human being.”
Apparently not much of a history buff himself, Jackson interjects and says, “That’s just nonsense.”
Terrell continues, noting:
So, [Spike Lee’s] absolutely right about the historical shame of blacks being considered property when this country was created on the so-called allegation of “liberty.” Blacks were not free when this country was created. That’s a fact.
Jackson interjects again, to call Terrell “ignorant” and accuse him of making, “Yet another ignorant comment.” Eventually the talk devolves into some shouting and Ingraham rights the ship. Jackson finally offers his ahistorical understanding of the issue. He says:
First of all the Three-Fifths Compromise was essentially what this particular gentleman doesn’t understand was it was to give humanhood to black people. Spike Lee learned that and it was an embarrassment to him.
Law&Crime remains agnostic as to what Spike Lee might have learned or when he might have learned it here. Suffice to say, Jackson is not an historian and his comments about the three-fifths compromise are not accepted among any known historians. As W.E.B. DuBois noted in his seminal text, Black Reconstruction in America: 1860-1880:
Into the hands of the slaveholders the political power of the South was concentrated, by their social prestige, by property ownership and also by their extraordinary rule of the counting of all or at least three-fifths of the Negroes as part of the basis of representation in the legislature. It is singular how this “three-fifths” compromise was used, not only to degrade Negroes in theory, but in practice to disfranchise the white South. Nearly all of the Southern states began with recognizing the white population as the basis of representation; they afterward favored the black belt by direct legislation or by counting three-fifths of the slave population, and then finally by counting the whole black population; or they established, as in Virginia and South Carolina, a “mixed” basis of representation, based on white population and property; that is, on land and slaves.
[image via screengrab/Fox News]