Three-Fifths Compromise

« The Lakou

The Three-Fifths Compromise agreed upon during the 1787 United States Constitutional Convention, is a stark reminder of the deeply entrenched system of racial oppression that was present at the founding of the United States.

In a decolonized context, it’s important to understand this compromise as a mechanism that further dehumanized enslaved Africans, reducing them to fractions of a person for the benefit of political representation and taxation. This compromise was not about recognizing the humanity of enslaved people, but about enhancing the political power of the slaveholding states.

The Southern states, whose economies were heavily reliant on the labor of enslaved Africans, wanted to count these individuals as part of their population to gain more seats in the House of Representatives. The Northern states, on the other hand, were opposed to this as it would give the South more political power.

The compromise of counting each enslaved person as three-fifths of a person was a political maneuver designed to appease both sides. However, it’s crucial to remember that this agreement further entrenched systemic racism and the commodification of Black bodies within the foundational document of the United States.

The Three-Fifths Compromise was later superseded by the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, which granted full personhood to formerly enslaved individuals. However, the legacy of such compromises continues to impact racial dynamics in the United States today.

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