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February 03, 2021

Will Smith explores what it means to be a U.S. citizen in new Netflix series 'Amend'

The six-part show digs deep into the 14th Amendment, using celebrities to bring historical voices to life

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Will Smith "Amend" Netflix/YouTube

Philly native Will Smith is the host of the new Netflix show 'Amend: The Fight for America,' a docuseries discussing the history of the 14th amendment.

A new Netflix docuseries hosted by Will Smith will explore the 14th Amendment — the portion of the U.S. Constitution that promises "liberty and equal protection for all persons."

"Amend: The Fight for America" will premiere Feb. 17 on the streaming service. The six-part series will use the 14th Amendment to consider what a 'United States' really means, according to Netflix. 

The amendment was adopted in 1868 during the Reconstruction Era that followed the Civil War, guaranteeing equal rights to African Americans and the slaves emancipated during the war. 

"We are living in unprecedented days as a society, as a country, and as a human family," Smith posted to Instagram. "I believe that the cultivation of personal and historical understanding is the imperative spark igniting the flames of desperately needed compassion and healing.

"As Americans, we endeavor to form a more perfect union that truly established justice and equality for all. I believe a deeper understanding of the 14th Amendment is a critical jumping off point."

The docuseries will use historical footage and contemporary testimonies to tie history to the present day. 

Writings by 14th Amendment advocates like Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ruth Bader Ginsburg and foes like Andrew Johnson will be read by long list of household names. 

The trailer for "Amend" features Samuel L. Jackson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Laverne Cox,  Mahershala Ali, Lena Waithe, Joshua Jackson and Pedro Pascal. 

Contemporary thinkers and historians will share their insights on the 14th Amendment and its impact on various subjects, including citizenship. The amendment marked the first time the Constitution defined citizens as "all persons born or naturalized in the United States."

"Amend" also will connect constitutional history to current issues like racial justice and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Smith is no stranger to these topics, speaking out more frequently since Donald Trump's presidency began. 

Last year, he discussed police brutality on social media in the wake of the George Floyd killing. He also said police officers called him racial slurs while he was growing up in Philadelphia during Mayor Rizzo's tenure in office. Rizzo's statue in Center Center was one of several monuments removed nationwide in response to the racial justice protests last summer. 

"I understand what it's like, you know, to be in those circumstances with the police, to feel like you've been occupied," Smith told NBC at the time. "It's an occupying force. White kids were happy when the cops showed up. And my heart always started pounding."

Smith and "The Nightly Show" host Larry Wilmore are the executive producers for "Amend," which was not previously announced in Netflix's list of new titles for February. 

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