Three-Fifths Compromise: Black History Month, Part 9

  1. Watch and listen to the 60-Second Civics video below. If you'd like, you can also read along using the script that appears below the quiz. Or you can turn on the video's subtitles and read while watching the video.
  2. Take the Daily Civics Quiz. If you get the question wrong, watch the video again or read the script and try again.
Episode Description:
The Three-Fifths Compromise counted enslaved people for purposes of representation, not to protect the interests of the enslaved people, but to advance the interests of the slaveholders. Here's how it happened: the Framers of the Constitution agreed that there should be proportional representation in the House of Representatives, but disagreed on whether to count enslaved people for purposes of representation. Southern states held many enslaved people in bondage, but Northern states held few. The two sides came to a compromise: they would count three out of every five enslaved people, hence the term "Three-Fifths Compromise." Sadly, this would remain in the Constitution until the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868.

Script for Three-Fifths Compromise: Black History Month, Part 9

60-Second Civics, Episode 4251: February 9, 2021

Three-Fifths Compromise: Black History Month, Part 9




At the Philadelphia Convention in 1787, the Framers of the Constitution reached a compromise that called for proportional representation based on population in the House of Representatives.


This meant that the larger the state's population was, the more representatives it would have in Congress.


But there was a problem: the Southern states wanted enslaved African Americans counted for purposes of representation.


Northerners countered that if enslaved people were counted for purposes of representation, those representatives would simply serve the slaveholders' interests, not the interests of the enslaved people.


In the end, the delegates reached a compromise. 


The entire population of the United States would be counted every 10 years.


They would count enslaved people for purposes of representation, but only three-fifths, hence the name "Three-Fifths Compromise." 


This was found in Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, but was later removed by the Fourteenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1868.


This has been 60-Second Civics, where civic education only takes a minute. 


60-Second Civics is a podcast of the Center for Civic Education. 


My name is Mark Gage.



Copyright Center for Civic Education. 

Listen to more Black History Month podcasts.

CCE LogoThis site is brought to you by the Center for Civic Education. The Center's mission is to promote an enlightened and responsible citizenry committed to democratic principles and actively engaged in the practice of democracy. The Center has reached more than 30 million students and their teachers since 1965. Learn more.

Center for Civic Education

5115 Douglas Fir Road, Suite J
Calabasas, CA 91302

  Phone: (818) 591-9321


  Media Inquiries:


© Center for Civic Education