Will Smith hosts "Amend: The Fight for America," a new documentary. Cr. Saeed Adyani/NETFLIX©2021

Amend: The Fight for America

Will Smith hosts “Amend: The Fight for America,” a new documentary. Cr. Saeed Adyani/NETFLIX©2021

Will Smith hosts this look at the evolving, often lethal, fight for equal rights in America through the lens of the US Constitution’s 14th Amendment.

Amend: The Fight for America is a new documentary series from Netflix that covers the history of civil rights in America. Woven throughout the series, Mahershala Ali, Randall Park, Samira Wiley, and Pedro Pascal speak in the voices of historical figures. Directors Kenny Leon and Reinaldo Marcus Green masterfully highlight America’s consistent divergence from the grand promise of liberty and equal protection for all persons.

The United States was founded in 1776, but the America we live in today, according to the series, was born in 1868, with the ratification of the 14th amendment in the wake of the Civil War. Originally intended to grant citizenship to the formerly enslaved, the 14th amendment, by promising all citizens “equal protection of the law,” offered a path toward equality for African Americans, women, and LGBTQ people. According to host Will Smith, the amendment is “the center of the promise of America.”

In Amend, historians and legal scholars dive deep into the years-long fight to confer citizenship to Black Americans during and after the Civil War. Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment specifically included “formerly enslaved people” in the citizenship definition and included an equal protection clause that provided all citizens “equal protection under the law.” The Civil Rights Act of 1875 (which was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1883) protected all citizens from discrimination in public accommodations and facilities.

Amend artfully and unapologetically eviscerates the popular mythology that the deep moral conscience of this country forced sweeping civil rights advancements over the past four centuries. With a level of candor both refreshing and rare, the series reveals the inconvenient truth that those advances were actually realized as a result of painstaking, tireless resistance.

The series also offers viewers a much needed interpretation of current events. For example, Bree Newsome Bass, the North Carolina activist who took down the confederate flag in front of the South Carolina state capitol is interviewed. Her actions took place ten days after a white supremacist killed eight Black parishioners and senator and senior pastor Clementa Pinckney at Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. Her bold actions refute the argument that confederate flags are harmless monuments to southern heritage.

Artfully combining the feel of both a documentary and a high-end theatrical production with soulful monologues, revealing interviews, and stirring visual montages, Amend sheds light on the true history of America through soul stirring oratorical renditions of civil rights heroes like Frederick Douglass, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Angela Davis. By digging deeper, Amend leans into the truth of America’s hypocrisy on its most sacred ideals of liberty and equality.

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