The 14th Amendment : Throughline Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 14th is a big one. It's shaped all of our lives, whether we realize it or not: Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Bush v. Gore, plus other Supreme Court cases that legalized same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, access to birth control — they've all been built on the back of the 14th.

The amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and it's packed full of lofty phrases like due process, equal protection, and liberty. But what do those words really guarantee us?

Today on the show: how the 14th Amendment has remade America – and how America has remade the 14th.

Clarification: A previous version of this episode did not make clear that the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection and due process to all people in the United States, regardless of citizenship.

The 14th Amendment

The 14th Amendment

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1243870144/1244015410" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
The US Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C. in February, 2024.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

Of all the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, the 14th is a big one. It's shaped all of our lives, whether we realize it or not: Roe v. Wade, Brown v. Board of Education, Bush v. Gore, plus other Supreme Court cases that legalized same-sex marriage, interracial marriage, access to birth control — they've all been built on the back of the 14th.

The amendment was ratified after the Civil War, and it's packed full of lofty phrases like due process, equal protection, and liberty. But what do those words really guarantee us?

Today on the show: how the 14th Amendment has remade America – and how America has remade the 14th.


Guests:

Kenneth Mack,
the Lawrence D. Biele Professor of Law and Affiliate Professor of History at Harvard University.

Vernon Burton,
the Judge Matthew J. Perry Distinguished Professor of History at Clemson University.


To access bonus episodes and listen to Throughline sponsor-free, subscribe to Throughline+ via Apple Podcasts or at plus.npr.org/throughline.

Clarification: A previous version of this episode did not make clear that the 14th amendment guarantees equal protection and due process to all people in the United States, regardless of citizenship.