Reframing the Constitution

Tue. Jan 25, 2022 7:00pm - 8:00pm EST
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Event Description

Two scholars of constitutional law debate our continuing struggle to realize a more perfect union.

In The People's ConstitutionWilfred Codrington and John Kowal, present an alternative history to our founding document and a vital guide to our national charter. They introduce all of the constitution's framers: not just the Framers but "the visionaries and gadflies whose passion and perseverance helped ensure that our national charter could change with the times through periodic infusions of popular input." That history, they argue, "has been, for the most part, an inspiring story of progressive legal change, driven by powerful social movements and an evolving array of civil society organizations." But in our fractured, hyper-partisan politics of today, are we still able to amend the Constitution?

Presented as part of The Polonsky Exhibition of The New York Public Library's Treasures, which showcases some of the most extraordinary items from the 56 million in our collections. Among them is one of the 14 handwritten copies of the Bill of Rights that George Washington requested be produced for Congress and each of the 13 states. The event will begin with a short curator talk on the history of the library's copy. 

This event is produced in partnership with the Brennan Center for Justice.

Brennan Center for Justice logo

This program will be streamed live on the NYPL event page.

A live transcript will be provided. ASL interpretation is available upon request. Please submit your request at least two weeks in advance by emailing A pre-filled Gmail template is available by clicking hereAny media will be accompanied by alt text to reference before the program or by audio description.

Wilfred Codrington is an assistant professor of law at Brooklyn Law School and a Brennan Center fellow. His work focuses on constitutional law, election law, and public policy. He is a frequent commentator on issues such as voting and elections, constitutional reform, antidiscrimination, and the rule of law. Professor Codrington has authored reports, scholarly articles, and opinion pieces in outlets such as The AtlanticAmerican ProspectColumbia Law Review ForumSlateThe HillU.S. News & World Report, and Ms. magazine. He is the co-author of The People's Constitution

John Kowal is the Brennan Center's vice president for programs, responsible for guiding the organization's Democracy, Justice, and Liberty & National Security Programs. He also manages the Brennan Center's Fellows Program. Kowal's areas of expertise include constitutional reform and judicial independence. He authored the 2016 report Judicial Selection in the 21st Century and an essay entitled "The Improbable Victory of Marriage Equality," published in the Brennan Center volume, Legal Change: Lessons from America's Social Movements. He is also the co-author of The People's Constitution.

Caroline Fredrickson served as the President of the American Constitution Society from 2009-2019, where she helped grow ACS, which now has thousands of members throughout the nation. She was a spokesperson for ACS on issues such as civil and human rights, judicial nominations, labor law, congressional oversight, and separation of powers, among others. Fredrickson regularly contributes opinion pieces to The New York TimesThe Washington Post, and other news outlets. She is also the author of Under The Bus: How Working Women Are Being Run OverThe Democracy Fix: How to Win the Fight for Fair Rules, Fair Courts, and Fair Elections, and most recently, The AOC Way.


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LIVE from NYPL is made possible by the continuing generosity of Celeste Bartos, Mahnaz Ispahani Bartos and Adam Bartos, the Margaret and Herman Sokol Public Education Endowment Fund, and the support of Library patrons and friends.

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Wilfred Codrington © Spencer Heyfron

John Kowal © Spencer Heyfron

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