WASHINGTON — Tennessee GOP Representative Justin Lafferty ranted in defense of the deeply racist three-fifths compromise, arguing that somehow the troubling deal hastened the end of slavery, when in reality it gave slaveholding states more power. Perhaps most ironically, Lafferty’s comments came as lawmakers debated restricting the way public schools should teach about racism and slavery — lessons it seems like GOP legislators could use.
“It’s deeply disturbing that elected officials with power over our children’s education would seek to minimize the horror of slavery,” said Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. “Unfortunately, this is hardly an isolated incident. Republican lawmakers defending slavery has become a trend in state legislatures and GOP leadership will do nothing to stop it. The rot goes all the way down and Republicans are building a bench of insurrectionists, conspiracy theorists, and slavery defenders.”
Lafferty joins a group of Republican state legislators with the dubious distinction of defending slavery or related institutions this year:
- Louisiana GOP Representative Ray Garofalo said Louisiana schools needed to teach “the good of slavery.”
- Representative Ron Hanks, a Colorado Republican (and insurrectionist), made a joke about lynching before saying the three-fifths compromise was not about “impugning anyone’s humanity”
- In April, Oklahoma Republican Representative Jim Olsen compared attempts to end abortion to the fight to end slavery, insinuating that having an abortion was worse than slavery because “it deals with innocent, unborn life.”
- In March, four Republican Tennessee senators voted against removing slavery as punishment from the state constitution.
- North Dakota GOP Representative Terry Jones said Black Americans were “glad their ancestors were brought here as slaves.”