From the 3/5 ‘Compromise’ to the 2020 Census: African Americans and the Myriad Realities of Being Counted

“They (incarcerated people) are a dream constituency. You don’t have to build them any roads, or schools, or develop any new infrastructure to support them….and they can’t vote you out.” – Andrew Virgen, Director of Census Operations and Engagement, State of Minnesota

Incarcerated people are counted in the facilities in which they are imprisoned, not in the communities that the majority of people will return to. This means that concentrated centers of wealth are built, on the backs of the incarcerated, across small Minnesota towns that fight to build and maintain prisons. Lino Lakes, Moose Lakes, Duluth, Sandstone, real people, real towns, real people, real power, concentrated, every ten years, until the next Census.

From the Constitutional Convention of 1787 the mandate is given for a count of United States citizens to take place every ten years. The number of House of Representatives seats in Congress would be determined based on that count. The dilemma? How to count the enslaved black people of the South who numbered so many while the Northern States, smaller and fewer in number wanted equal representation. The ‘answer’ – the 3/5 Compromise. Human-beings, Black people, black human-beings, counted, as persons and property.

The result of the debate set forth in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution was a compromise, incorporating ideas of both property and person: Population would be calculated by adding “the whole Number of free persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed,” plus “three fifths of all other Persons.” Those “other Persons,” of course, were slaves.

Join me in studio with Kelsey Dawson Walton, Hennepin County Engagement Division Manager and Hennepin County Census Engagement Lead; Andrew Virden, Director of Census Operations and Engagement with the state of Minnesota; Jolie Wood, with Ramsey County she is a Policy Analyst and Ramsey County Census Lead; and Bihie, local community organizer and Director of the Somali Education and Social Advocacy Center and Hennepin County Census Engagement Partner  as we rap about the myths and realities of being counted for black people.

Published by Urban Agenda Media Group

I am Principal and Consultant at Lissa L. Jones, a boutique consulting firm specializing in coaching and training for greater equity and inclusion. I'm also the Content Creator and Radio Personality for ‘Urban Agenda’ on KMOJ Radio, Minnesota’s oldest Black radio station. My favorite role is that of Host of the podcast, ‘Black Market Reads’, a podcast of the Givens Foundation for African American Literature!

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