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The history you don’t know about the three-fifths compromise

02:11

It is Black Heritage Month, so here is a quick but important history lesson on the three-fifths compromise from Professor Imani Perry's incredible new book, "South To America: A Journey Below the Mason-Dixon Line to Understand the Soul of a Nation.” The three-fifths compromise is, of course, the language once-enshrined in the Constitution, stating that each enslaved person counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of taxation and representation in Congress. That is the part you probably remember from 10th grade American History. But here's the part you did not learn in school, from Perry’s new book: “The enslaved, [the three-fifths clause] explains, were property and people both. The logic that followed was insincere: as people they must have some form of representation. But of course the three-fifths clause was not representation of the enslaved at all. This is what it doesn’t say: we believe in amplifying the representation of those who have dominion over other souls, and this is why those individuals must count for more in our government. It is not the case, as some argue, that the clause was a term of art meaning that Black people counted for three-fifths of a person. They did not count at all. Rather slaveholders were made larger people by virtue of holding others as slaves."