The 13th Amendment: The Path to Ending Slavery

On January 31st of 1865 the US House of Representatives passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to officially abolish and prohibit slavery or involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. It was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864 and its passage by the House meant it was ready to pass on to the states for ratification.

Illinois, Rhode Island, Michigan, Maryland, , New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Missouri, Maine, Kansas, and Massachusetts all ratified the amendment during the first week of February of 1865 but it was not until Georgia ratified it on December 6, 1865 that the ratification process was complete. The last state to officially ratify the Thirteenth Amendment was Kentucky on March 18, 1976 after rejecting it on February 24, 1865.

An earlier proposed 13th Amendment voted on before the Civil War would have forbidden the adoption any constitutional amendment that would have abolished or restricted slavery, or permitted the Congress to do so. This proposal, known as the Corwin Amendment, was an unsuccessful attempt to convince the Southern states not to secede from the Union.

You can find articles like this one as well as other news and opinion about the issues of the time in Accessible Archives searchable enormous collection of African American newspapers.

The Christian Recorder embodied secular as well as religious material, and included good coverage of the black regiments together with the major incidents of the Civil War. The four-page weekly contained such departments as Religious Intelligence, Domestic News, General Items, Foreign News, Obituaries, Marriages, Notices and Advertisements. It also included the normal complement of prose and poetry found in the newspapers of the day.




We have the pleasure of chronicling in this issue of our paper, for the benefit of our readers, the thrilling and joyous intelligence that on the last day of January, 1865, the House of Representatives of the United States voted to amend the Constitution, so as to cause it to read as follows:

“Article XIII, 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. Sec. 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

This was carried by a vote of 119 for the amendment, to 56 in opposition to it. Thus is has passed by a two-third vote. The Constitution of the United States is now amended beyond doubt.

The Lord be praised for his great work of reformation in the hearts of the American people. We know that this welcome news will gladden the hearts of all patriots and true lovers of God and humanity, freedom and liberty. We hope that our Legislatures will act wisely in the premises. Once more may the old State House Bell ring forth, as in days of yore, proclaiming Liberty throughout the land – proclaiming that the martyrs of to-day have not cast their lives away in vain. A wild hum of joy comes to our ears on the dancing breeze as the bondman’s shackles fall, and we can almost hear the glad cry gushing like a fountain from his heart – “O God, we thank thee.”

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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