This Day in History

Dec. 18, 1865: Ratification of 13th Amendment

Time Periods: Reconstruction Period: 1865 - 1876
Themes: African American, Democracy & Citizenship, Racism & Racial Identity, Slavery
Thirteenth Amendment | Zinn Education Project

Source: The Library of Congress.

On Dec. 18, 1865, following its ratification by the requisite three-quarters of the states earlier in the month, the 13th Amendment was formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that

neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Secretary of State William H. Seward, in a proclamation, declared the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to have been adopted.

A War to Free the Slaves?‘ is a lesson that helps students examine excerpts from Lincoln’s first inaugural address, the rarely mentioned original Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that Lincoln promised to support, and the Emancipation Proclamation to explore some of the myths about the Civil War. 

Read the article “Rethinkin’ Lincoln on the 150th Birthday of the Emancipation Proclamation,” by Bill Bigelow from the Zinn Education Project If We Knew Our History series. 

Did the 13th Amendment actually abolish slavery? Read the thread of tweets by Melinda Anderson below.