JFK+50 CELEBRATES THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we pay tribute to the Constitution of the United States of America which was signed in Philadelphia by members of the Constitutional Convention 225 years ago, September 17, 1787.*
*The Constitution was ratified & became the supreme law of the land on June 21, 1788.
“Constitution Day”, established by Congress in 2004, recognizes this event.
It was previously known as “Citizenship Day”, a day of celebration advocated in 1939 by newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst.
In 1953, the Senate passed a resolution establishing September 17-23 as “Constitution Week”.
Tennessee did not become the 16th state until 1796, but a future Tennessean, William Blount (pronounced BLUNT) was a signer of the U.S. Constitution for the state of North Carolina.
Blount, born in North Carolina in 1749, was appointed Governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River by President Washington in 1790.
Blount moved the capital of the territory to KNOXVILLE where he built his home, BLOUNT MANSION, on the banks of the Tennessee River in 1792.
Later elected to the US Senate, Blount was impeached by the House of Representatives, then served in the Tennessee State Legislature.
William Blount died in Knoxville in 1800 & is buried in our city.
JFK & THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
In his State of the Union address to Congress on January 11, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said:
“The Constitution makes us not rivals for power but partners for progress. We are all trustees for the American people, custodians of the American heritage.”
And in his report to the American people on June 11, 1963, JFK said:
“(Americans of color) have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan** said at the turn of the century.”
“We are confronted primarily with a moral issue (civil rights). It is as old as the scriptures & as clear as the American Constitution. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights & equal opportunities.”
**John Marshall Harlan (1833-1911) was the only associate judge on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1883 & 1896 to deliver a dissenting opinion to the majority decision that national anti-discrimination laws were unconstitutional & state segregation laws were constitutional.
In the Plessy v. Ferguson decision of 1896, Justice Harlan wrote:
“The white race deems itself to be…dominant…but (in) the view of the constitution….there is…no superior, dominant ruling class of citizens. Our constitution is color-blind, & neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, ALL CITIZENS ARE EQUAL BEFORE THE LAW.”
John Marshall Harlan
United States Supreme Court
Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston
Library of Congress Image
CONSTITUTION BOWL FOR SALE AT JFK LIBRARY
The JFK Library Online Store pays tribute to the U.S. Constitution by offering for sale crystal bowls etched with the Preamble.
The bowls, made in the Revere style, are available in 2 sizes.
The small bowl is $116. The large bowl in $160.