13th Amendment marked the end of slavery 155 years ago Sunday

University of Georgia leaders say they want to know more about the school’s history concerning slavery and are committing $100,000 for faculty to submit research proposals.

This week, legislators sought to make changes to the amendment that still leaves room for some forms of slavery

The lingering societal symptoms from slavery have increasingly become the subject of debate and, in some cases, legislation this year, which marks the 155th anniversary since the 13th Amendment abolished slavery.

The Constitution, in its 13th Amendment, put an end to slavery in America. Many have heralded June 19, 1865, Juneteenth, as the end to slavery, since Texas and other parts of the South were officially informed of the Emancipation Proclamation’s call for slavery’s end near that date. However, it was not until Georgia ratified the amendment on Dec. 6, 1865, that the requisite three-quarters of the states had delivered widespread freedom to Black Americans.

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The United States changed course on its hundreds of years of slavery on Dec. 6, 1865. Still, there are telltale signs beyond that date and in present-day scenarios that the legal change did not erase the remnants of the systemic racism and class issues in the U.S.

On the 155th anniversary of the amendment, this is a look back at some developments and facts about the amendment some may not know:

The Basics

What the amendment says:

Section 1: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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Credit: Via archives.org

What happened after the amendment was passed?

Despite the amendment terminating slavery, discriminatory methods were still observed. The post-Reconstruction period was marked by Black Codes and Jim Crow Laws, which further kept Black people beholden to their former owners. The Black Codes were measures practiced in Confederate states that were intended to direct the culture and behavior of Blacks.

State-sanctioned labor practices such as convict leasing were also observed. These laws and compliances still forced swaths of Black Americans into involuntary labor for years. After the amendment’s passage, the United States Congress passed the first civil rights bill, the Civil Rights Act of 1866. That bill abolished the Black Codes.

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What’s happened with the 13th Amendment today?

A joint resolution, titled the Abolition Amendment, was introduced by Democrats in the House and Senate on Wednesday. It seeks to remove language in the ratification that calls for slavery as “punishment,” which allows members of prison populations to be used as cheap and free labor.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction,” Section 1 of the amendment states.

Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, one of the Democrats leading the effort to amend the Constitution, put the change in the context of the overall campaign for justice.

“As we take on the long and difficult challenge of rooting out systemic racism in our nation, ending the slavery loophole in the 13th Amendment is [a] critical step in that challenge,” Merkley said in a statement.

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