Professor Victor Bolden, Dennis Parker
Explores whether federal or state constitutional principles can make any useful contribution to the minority poor in their struggle for a better life. The first third of the course is devoted to historical analysis and examines the role that federal constitutional principles have played in two social struggles: (1) the Contracts Clause and Due Process Clause, as they bore upon the efforts of workers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to secure minimally adequate working conditions; and (2) the Thirteenth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause, as they affected the ability of black citizens from 1865 through 1940 to achieve equal rights. The second third turns to the modern development of Equal Protection principles, examining, first, their elaboration and refinement from 1945 to the present in selected cases involving racial minorities, and second, their largely unsuccessful extension to cases involving the poor and economically powerless. Armed with historical and analytical tools, we consider in the last third whether new constitutional challenges might be developed to aid the poor in obtaining adequate education, housing, health care, or employment. Current litigation efforts are reviewed.