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principles as mere cultural prejudices—most notably the Dred Scott Court, which ruled that they
applied only to white men, not to all humanity.434
The United States repudiated that falsehood long ago. “The equality declared by our
fathers in 1776,” said Charles Sumner in a courtroom argument challenging school segregation
Great Charter of every human being drawing vital breath upon this soil, whatever
may be his condition, and whoever may be his parents. He may be poor, weak,
humble, or black,—he may be of Caucasian, Jewish, Indian, or Ethiopian race . . .
but before the Constitution . . . all these distinctions disappear. He is not poor,
weak, humble, or black; nor is he Caucasian, Jew, Indian, or Ethiopian . . . he is a
MAN, the equal of all his fellow men.435
In vanquishing slavery and ratifying the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments,436 the
United States renewed its commitment to the principle that all people are entitled to equal
treatment as individuals before the law—a principle Martin Luther King later called the
“promissory note” of the American Dream.437 It is simply not true that being citizens on a par
equal.’”); “WILLIAM PENN” [JEREMIAH EVARTS], No. XXII, in ESSAYS ON THE PRESENT CRISIS IN THE CONDITION
OF THE AMERICAN INDIANS 89–90 (1829) (“[The Cherokee] are to be made outlaws on the land of their fathers . . .
[under] a government which sprung into existence with the declaration ‘that all men are created equal . . . .’”).
434 Dred Scott v. Sandford, 60 U.S. 393, 407–11 (1856). The Dred Scott Court claimed that “[n]o one supposed” at
the time of the Declaration of Independence, “that any Indian . . . was capable of enjoying, the privileges of an
American citizen,” id. at 420, although it did observe that Indians —“altogether unlike” black Americans—could be
made citizens. Id. at 403–04. Still, it was “necessary, for their sake as well as our own, to regard [Indians] as in a
state of pupilage.” Id. at 404.
435 Charles Sumner, Equality Before the Law (1849), in 3 CHARLES SUMNER: HIS COMPLETE WORKS 51, 65–66
436 The Thirteenth Amendment directly applies to Indian tribes. Vann v. Kempthorne, 534 F.3d 741, 747 (D.C. Cir.
2008). Although the Fourteenth does not, see Santa Clara Pueblo v Martinez, 436 U.S. 49, 56 (1978), the Indian
Civil Rights Act forbids tribes from denying to any person within their jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws
or due process of law. 25 U.S.C. § 1302( 8) (2012).
437 Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have A Dream (1963), in A TESTAMENT OF HOPE: THE ESSENTIAL WRITINGS AND
SPEECHES OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. 217 (James M. Washington, ed.,1986).