Constitution Day 2020 | Gratz College

Constitution Day 2020

Gratz College is excited to celebrate Constitution Day on Thursday, September 17, 2020. This year we are highlighting President Dr. Paul Finkelman's talk with the National Park Service titled "The Underground Railroad and the Constitution". We invite you to join in the discussion Friday, September 18 at 1:00pm EDT, please register at the link below. Dr. Finkelman has also penned an article on the topic titled "The Constitution and the Underground Railroad: How a System of Government Dedicated to Liberty Protected Slavery". Click the title to read the full article. 

We also invite you to check out some choice titles from our digital library on the Constitution. That list can be found here on the Tuttleman Library page. Books can be accessed online with your library login.




The US Constitution protected slavery in many ways.  One clause, known, as the Fugitive Slave Clause, allowed slaveowners to recover freedom seekers who escaped to other states. At the Constitutional Convention no one knew how this clause would operate, and no one would have predicted that it would be one of the most divisive parts of the Constitution. The clause led to two federal statutes (1793 and 1850), which made it a crime to assist people who escaped bondage. The laws were designed to both help slaveowners recover their “property” and also to prevent people in the North from aiding them. In the end the laws, especially the 1850 law, probably strengthened the Underground Railroad, by making northerners more aware of the way slavery threatened liberty everywhere in the United States. The laws led to numerous conflicts between ordinary people and the federal government, and also between northern state leaders and the national government. This discussion will examine these issues.

Dr. Paul Finkelman is a noted constitutional scholar and the author of numerous books and slavery and the constitutions. The US Supreme Court has cited him in 5 decisions on civil rights civil liberties. A Ph.D. historian, he is currently the president of Gratz College in greater Philadelphia. 


Advance registration is required. Click here to register.


This event is sponsored by Gratz College and the National Park Service, National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.