Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

Abolitionist imagery focused on atrocities against slaves. (Photo of Gordon, 1863.)
Abraham Lincoln
Representative James Mitchell Ashley proposed an amendment abolishing slavery in 1863.
Celebration erupts after the Thirteenth Amendment is passed by the House of Representatives.
Amendment XIII in the National Archives, bearing the signature of Abraham Lincoln
John Marshall Harlan became known as "The Great Dissenter" for his minority opinions favoring powerful Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Thirteenth Amendment (Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.

- Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution

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Civil Rights Act of 1875

United States federal law enacted during the Reconstruction era in response to civil rights violations against African Americans.

Constitution of the United States

The Court also held that the Thirteenth Amendment was meant to eliminate "the badge of slavery," but not to prohibit racial discrimination in public accommodations.

Racial segregation

Systematic separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life.

African-American man drinking from a "Colored" water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, July 1939.
Land apportionment in Rhodesia in 1965
"Nur für deutsche Fahrgäste" ("Only for German passengers") on the tram number 8 in German-occupied Kraków, Poland.
Women behind the barbed wire fence of the Lwów Ghetto in occupied Poland. Spring 1942
"Apartheid": sign on Durban beach in English, Afrikaans and Zulu, 1989
Colored Sailors room in World War I
"We Cater to White Trade Only" sign on a restaurant window in Lancaster, Ohio, in 1938. In 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested and spent a night in jail for attempting to eat at a white-only restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida
White tenants seeking to prevent Blacks from moving into the housing project erected this sign. Detroit, 1942
Rosa Parks being fingerprinted after being arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white person.
A barrier gate at Bil'in, West Bank, 2006
University of Michigan students arrested for protesting segregation in Ann Arbor; April 19, 1960.

After the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in America, racial discrimination became regulated by the so-called Jim Crow laws, which mandated strict segregation of the races.

American Civil War

Civil war in the United States between the Union (states that remained loyal to the federal union, or "the North") and the Confederacy (states that voted to secede, or "the South").

Clockwise from top: Battle of Gettysburg

Union Captain John Tidball's artillery

Confederate prisoners

ironclad USS Atlanta (1861)

Ruins of Richmond, Virginia

Battle of Franklin
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, aroused public opinion about the evils of slavery. According to legend, when Lincoln was introduced to her at the White House, his first words were, "So this is the little lady who started this Great War."
Frederick Douglass, a former slave, was a leading abolitionist
Marais des Cygnes massacre of anti-slavery Kansans, May 19, 1858
Mathew Brady, Portrait of Abraham Lincoln, 1860
The first published imprint of secession, a broadside issued by the Charleston Mercury, December 20, 1860
Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America (1861–1865)
Bombardment of the Fort by the Confederates
Rioters attacking a building during the New York anti-draft riots of 1863
Clashes on the rivers were melees of ironclads, cottonclads, gunboats and rams, complicated by naval mines and fire rafts.
Battle between the USS Monitor and USS Merrimack (1855)
General Scott's "Anaconda Plan" 1861. Tightening naval blockade, forcing rebels out of Missouri along the Mississippi River, Kentucky Unionists sit on the fence, idled cotton industry illustrated in Georgia.
Gunline of nine Union ironclads. South Atlantic Blockading Squadron off Charleston. Continuous blockade of all major ports was sustained by North's overwhelming war production.
A December 1861 cartoon in Punch magazine in London ridicules American aggressiveness in the Trent Affair. John Bull, at right, warns Uncle Sam, "You do what's right, my son, or I'll blow you out of the water."
County map of Civil War battles by theater and year
Robert E. Lee
"Stonewall" Jackson got his nickname at Bull Run.
George B. McClellan
The Battle of Antietam, the Civil War's deadliest one-day fight.
Confederate dead overrun at Marye's Heights, reoccupied next day May 4, 1863
Pickett's Charge
Ulysses S. Grant
Albert Sidney Johnston died at Shiloh
By 1863, the Union controlled large portions of the Western Theater, especially areas surrounding the Mississippi River
The Battle of Chickamauga, the highest two-day losses
Nathaniel Lyon secured St. Louis docks and arsenal, led Union forces to expel Missouri Confederate forces and government.
New Orleans captured
William Tecumseh Sherman
These dead soldiers—from Ewell's May 1864 attack at Spotsylvania—delayed Grant's advance on Richmond in the Overland Campaign.
Philip Sheridan
Map of Confederate territory losses year by year
Burying Union dead on the Antietam battlefield, 1862
Through the supervision of the Freedmen's Bureau, northern teachers traveled into the South to provide education and training for the newly freed population.
Beginning in 1961 the U.S. Post Office released commemorative stamps for five famous battles, each issued on the 100th anniversary of the respective battle.
The Battle of Fort Sumter, as depicted by Currier and Ives.

Slaves in the border states and those located in some former Confederate territory occupied before the Emancipation Proclamation were freed by state action or (on December 6, 1865) by the Thirteenth Amendment.

James Nesmith

American politician and lawyer from Oregon.

The James Nesmith House near Rickreall
Hon. James W. Nesmith
James W. Nesmith

While in the Senate, he and Reverdy Johnson were the only Democrats in that chamber to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution to abolish slavery.

Enforcement Acts

The Enforcement Acts were three bills that were passed by the United States Congress between 1870 and 1871.

In 1868, this committee of representatives prosecuted President Andrew Johnson in his impeachment trial, but the Senate did not convict him.

In Hodges v. United States (1906) the Court addressed a possible Thirteenth Amendment rationale for the Enforcement Acts, and found that the federal government did not have the authority to punish a group of men for interfering with Black workers through whitecapping.

Civil Rights Cases

Joseph P. Bradley authored the opinion of the court.
John Marshall Harlan, became known as the "Great Dissenter" for his fiery dissent in Civil Rights Cases and other early civil rights cases.

The Civil Rights Cases, 109 U.S. 3 (1883), were a group of five landmark cases in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments did not empower Congress to outlaw racial discrimination by private individuals.

Forty acres and a mule

Part of Special Field Orders No. 15, a wartime order proclaimed by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman on January 16, 1865, during the American Civil War, to allot land to some freed families, in plots of land no larger than 40 acre.

Gullah slaves had farmed the Sea Islands for several generations.
15th Amendment, or the Darkey's millennium - 40 acres of land and a mule, from Robert N. Dennis collection of stereoscopic views.

On January 31, 1865, the House of Representatives approved the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery and involuntary servitude except in the case of punishment.

Congressional power of enforcement

Included in a number of amendments to the United States Constitution.

Page one of the officially engrossed copy of the Constitution signed by delegates. A print run of 500 copies of the final version preceded this copy.

The language "The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation" is used, with slight variations, in Amendments XIII, XIV, XV, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, and XXVI.

Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co.

Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., 392 U.S. 409 (1968), is a landmark United States Supreme Court case, which held that Congress could regulate the sale of private property to prevent racial discrimination: " bars all racial discrimination, private as well as public, in the sale or rental of property, and that the statute, thus construed, is a valid exercise of the power of Congress to enforce the Thirteenth Amendment."

Selective Draft Law Cases

United States Supreme Court decision which upheld the Selective Service Act of 1917, and more generally, upheld conscription in the United States.

The Supreme Court upheld that conscription did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition of involuntary servitude, or the First Amendment's protection of freedom of conscience.