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The Bill of Rights

A Film and Interactive Game.

We all know that the Constitution guarantees every American certain basic rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to assembly, the right to a jury trial are just some of the rights explicitly protected by our Constitution. But these freedoms weren’t in the original version of the Constitution. In fact, many of the framers of the Constitution were dead set against including them in the document.

James Madison, who would become the fourth President of the United States, was the document’s primary author. Called the “Father of the Constitution,” Madison didn’t think we needed a Bill of Rights and the document that emerged from the Convention in 1787 reflected his conviction. He believed the Constitution as it was written already spelled out what the Federal Government could do – and, he believed, if it wasn’t in that document, it wasn’t any of the Federal Government’s business. No further protection was necessary.

Others among the Founders, such as Virginia delegate George Mason, vigorously disagreed. They weren’t so sure that the new government would be any better than the British had been. A long and bloody war to win independence had only recently ended, after all, and Mason wanted to ensure that the new government could not erase the freedoms they’d fought hard to secure. He declared that he would rather “chop off my right hand” than support a Constitution that did not include a Bill of Rights.

So, just a few years after the original Constitution was written, a new political battle ensued, pitting the Founding Fathers against one another and threatening the ratification of the document over which they’d wrestled so hard and long to create. The Federalists, including Madison, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, feared that if some rights were listed, others not explicitly enumerated would be left vulnerable. On the other side, the Anti-federalists, including Mason, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry, were adamant that the Constitution must guarantee certain fundamental rights that no government could take away. They believed that not listing rights risked there not being any rights.

Both a film and video game, “The Bill of Rights” tells the story of a struggle that nearly tore the country apart before it had really even been established. But out of their compromise came one of our nation’s most central documents and the foundation for some of our most celebrated freedoms.

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Further Reading

Read the Bill of Rights and See the Original Document at the National Archives

Learn more about James Madison

 

Credits

Producer, Writer and Narrator, Robe Imbriano
Field Producer, Carla Denly
Associate Producers, Thomas Beckner and Gregory Blanc
Editor, Marc Tidalgo
Graphics Animators, Victoria Nece, Hiroaki Sasa and Tristian Goik
Photography, Edward Marritz
Senior Production Associate, Charles Farrell
Production Associate, Andy Ogden
Supervising Producer, Christina Lowery
Sound, Mark Mandler
Music, Ben Decter
Additional Photography, Mark Stoddard and Thomas Beckner
Production Accountants, Mara Connolly and Andrea Yellen
Intern, Brian Taylor
Assistant to the Executive Producer, Lauren Mitte
Senior Producer, Kayce Freed Jennings
Executive Producer, Tom Yellin

Korematsu and Civil Liberties

About the Film

On May 30, 1942, Fred Korematsu was arrested on a streetcorner in San Leandro, California. He knew he was breaking federal law – he had even undergone plastic surgery to avoid detection. His crime? Fred Korematsu was Japanese-American.

During World War II, 120,000 people in the United States were placed in internment camps. They weren’t soldiers captured on battlefields – all of them were civilians and most were American citizens. But they were also all of Japanese descent and that alone made them suspect.

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In February of 1942, just months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an executive order allowing the military to evacuate all people Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the United States. A short time later, Congress made it law.

Korematsu and Civil Liberties tells the story of one man’s 40 year struggle for justice and the consequences a nation faces when weighing national security, politics, and its Constitutional obligations.The internment “was not necessary,” Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer says in the film. “I think it is universally acknowledged that that was an error.”

Image Gallery

Further Reading

Read the Supreme Court’s decision in Korematsu v. United States

Read documents and view images related to the Japanese-American Internment

View photographs by Ansel Adams of the Manzanar camp 

Learn more about Pearl Harbor

Learn more about the Interment Camp sites

Credits

Producer, Writer and Narrator, Robe Imbriano
Field Producer, Carla Denly
Associate Producer, Sandra McDaniel
Editor, Marc Tidalgo
Graphics Animators, Victoria Nece and Hiroaki Sasa
Camera, Dave Dellaria, Brett Wiley and Edward Marritz
Production Associate, Gregory Blanc
Research, María E. Matasar-Padilla
Supervising Producer, Christina Lowery
Sound, Dave Baum, Brian Buckley and Mark Mandler
Music, Ben Decter and Gavin Allen
Additional Camera, Tony Forma and Daryl Patterson
Additional Sound, Jeff Edrich
Senior Producer, Kayce Freed Jennings
Executive Producer, Tom Yellin