Many people contend the Constitution is a pro-slavery document in light of the three-fifths clause which states:
“Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included in this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons …” (Article 1, Section 2.3)
As a graduate of a historical black university, I was taught the Founding Fathers gave us slavery in the Constitution because of the three-fifths clause—declaring blacks were three-fifths of a person. It was Douglass who provided clarity on this issue and turned my thinking right-side up. In a speech delivered in Glasgow, Scotland, March 26, 1860, Douglass explained the true meaning of the three-fifths clause:
Thus, the three-fifths clause was written for the sole purpose of limiting the congressional representation of the slave states. According to the Constitution, for every 30,000 residents in a state, that state would receive one representative to Congress. The slave states wanted to count each slave as one vote. Rejecting their demand, the Northern states argued that no slave would be counted as a vote as long as that person was a slave.
A compromise was reached in that 50,000 slaves rather than 30,000 slaves would equal one congressional representative. In other words, the three-fifths compromise denied the slave states additional pro-slavery representation in Congress