Former U.S. Prosecutor Barbara McQuade Reflects on How Constitution Advances Issues of Inequality

McQuade says we build on prior litigation, amendments and lawsuits, and while we have slowly evolved to where we are today, “we’re not there yet.”

The WDET Book Club is reading the U.S. Constitution this summer in an attempt to understand the origins of our country’s modern-day discourse and polarization. Attorney and Law Professor Barb McQuade shapes the conversation to help us understand the document that serves as the basis of our democracy.  

“It is extremely important to understand where we’ve been if we want to understand where we want to go.” –Barb McQuade, University of Michigan Law School  

Listen: Former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barb McQuade on the values and discrepancies of the U.S. Constitution.



Barb McQuade is a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. She says in this moment in our country, studying the U.S. Constitution is necessary because, “It is extremely important to understand where we’ve been if we want to understand where we want to go.” McQuade says the Constitution has been a wonderful tool for advancing issues of inequality through litigation, amendments and lawsuits. “We build on all of those prior decisions to reach where we are … all of those things have slowly evolved to where we are today, but we’re only moving toward a perfect union. We’re not there yet.” 

McQuade says one of the great contradictions of our Constitution is the assumption at the time of its creation that none of the rights it granted would apply to women or people of color. “There is baked into the Constitution [the idea] that all men are created equal who are white and have property. I think that’s what’s so interesting about things like the 1619 Project.” She says it’s crucial to look back and inspect our framework through a modern lens. “There’s been lots of criticism around critical race theory and looking back at unpleasant parts of our history, but I think it’s really important.” 

Join WDET in reading the Constitution.

This summer, we invite you to get involved as we explore our nation’s founding document. 

Sign up to get your free pocket Constitution

Join the conversation in the WDET Book Club Facebook Group

View related coverage »

Learn More »

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date

WDET is here to keep you informed on essential information, news and resources related to COVID-19.

This is a stressful, insecure time for many. So it’s more important than ever for you, our listeners and readers, who are able to donate to keep supporting WDET’s mission. Please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.
  • Nora Rhein
    Nora Rhein works with the production team on "Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson" on 101.9 WDET. She's very proud to be a public radio nerd.