Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution



The Thirteenth Amendment (Amendment XIII) to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment was passed by the Senate on April 8, 1864, by the House of Representatives on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states on December 6, 1865, and proclaimed on December 18. It was the first of the three Reconstruction Amendments adopted following the
American Civil War The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 26, 1865; also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States. It was fought between the Union (American Civil War), Union ("the North") and t ...
. President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, effective on January 1, 1863, declared that the enslaved in Confederate-controlled areas were free. When they escaped to Union lines or federal forces (including now-former slaves) advanced south, emancipation occurred without any compensation to the former owners. Texas was the last Confederate territory reached by the Union army. On June 19, 1865— Juneteenth—U.S. Army general Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to proclaim the war had ended and so had slavery (in the Confederate states). In the slave-owning areas controlled by Union forces on January 1, 1863, state action was used to abolish slavery. The exceptions were New Jersey,
Kentucky Kentucky ( , ), officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States and one of the states of the Upper South. It borders Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio to ...
and Delaware, where all forms of forced labor were finally ended by the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865. In contrast to the other Reconstruction Amendments, the Thirteenth Amendment has rarely been cited in case law, but it has been used to strike down peonage and some race-based discrimination as "badges and incidents of slavery". The Thirteenth Amendment has also been invoked to empower Congress to make laws against modern forms of slavery, such as sex trafficking. Since 1776, the Union had divided into states that allowed slavery and states that prohibited it. Slavery was implicitly recognized in the original Constitution in provisions such as Article I, Section 2, Clause 3, commonly known as the Three-Fifths Compromise, which provided that three-fifths of each state's enslaved population (“other persons”) was to be added to its free population for the purposes of apportioning seats in the United States House of Representatives, its number of Electoral votes, and direct taxes among the states. Article IV, Section 2, provided that slaves held under the laws of one state, who escaped to another state, did not become free, but remained slaves. Though three million Confederate slaves were in fact eventually freed as a result of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, their postwar status was uncertain. To ensure that abolition was beyond legal challenge, an amendment to the Constitution to that effect was initiated. On April 8, 1864, the Senate passed an amendment to abolish slavery. After one unsuccessful vote and extensive legislative maneuvering by the Lincoln administration, the House followed suit on January 31, 1865. The measure was swiftly ratified by nearly all Northern states, along with a sufficient number of border states (slave states not part of the Confederacy) up to the assassination of President Lincoln. However, the approval came via his successor, President Andrew Johnson, who encouraged the "reconstructed" Southern states of Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia to agree, which brought the count to 27 states, leading to its adoption before the end of 1865. Though the Amendment abolished slavery throughout the United States, some black Americans, particularly in the South, were subjected to other forms of involuntary labor, such as under the Black Codes, white supremacist violence, and selective enforcement of statutes, as well as other disabilities.


Slavery in the United States

Slavery existed and was legal in the United States of America upon its founding in 1776. It was established by European colonization in all of the original thirteen American colonies of British America. Prior to the Thirteenth Amendment, the United States Constitution did not expressly use the words ''slave'' or ''slavery'' but included several provisions about unfree persons. The Three-Fifths Compromise, Article I, Section 2, Clause3 of the Constitution, allocated Congressional representation based "on the whole Number of free Persons" and "three-fifths of all other Persons". This clause was a compromise between Southern politicians who wished for enslaved African-Americans to be counted as 'persons' for congressional representation and Northern politicians rejecting these out of concern of too much power for the South, because representation in the new Congress would be based on population in contrast to the one-vote-for-one-state principle in the earlier Continental Congress. Under the Fugitive Slave Clause, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 3, "No person held to Service or Labour in one State" would be freed by escaping to another. Article I, Section 9, Clause 1 allowed Congress to pass legislation outlawing the " Importation of Persons", which would not be passed until 1808. However, for purposes of the Fifth Amendment—which states that "No person shall... be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"—slaves were understood as property. Although abolitionists used the Fifth Amendment to argue against slavery, it became part of the legal basis in '' Dred Scott v. Sandford'' (1857) for treating slaves as property. Stimulated by the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence, between 1777 and 1804 every Northern state provided for the immediate or gradual abolition of slavery. Most of the slaves who were emancipated by such legislation were household servants. No Southern state did so, and the enslaved population of the South continued to grow, peaking at almost four million in 1861. An abolitionist movement headed by such figures as William Lloyd Garrison grew in strength in the North, calling for the end of slavery nationwide and exacerbating tensions between North and South. The American Colonization Society, an alliance between abolitionists who felt the races should be kept separated and slaveholders who feared the presence of freed blacks would encourage slave rebellions, called for the emigration of both free blacks and slaves to Africa, where they would establish independent colonies. Its views were endorsed by politicians such as Henry Clay, who feared that the American abolitionist movement would provoke a civil war. Foner, 2010, pp. 20–22 Proposals to eliminate slavery by constitutional amendment were introduced by Representative Arthur Livermore in 1818 and by John Quincy Adams in 1839, but failed to gain significant traction. As the country continued to expand, the issue of slavery in its new territories became the dominant national issue. The Southern position was that slaves were property and therefore could be moved to the territories like all other forms of property. Goodwin, 2005, p. 123 The 1820 Missouri Compromise provided for the admission of Missouri as a slave state and Maine as a free state, preserving the Senate's equality between the regions. In 1846, the Wilmot Proviso was introduced to a war appropriations bill to ban slavery in all territories acquired in the Mexican–American War; the Proviso repeatedly passed the House, but not the Senate. The Compromise of 1850 temporarily defused the issue by admitting California as a free state, instituting a stronger Fugitive Slave Act, banning the slave trade in Washington, D.C., and allowing New Mexico and Utah self-determination on the slavery issue. Foner, 2010, p. 59 Despite the compromise, tensions between North and South continued to rise over the subsequent decade, inflamed by, amongst other things, the publication of the 1852 anti-slavery novel '' Uncle Tom's Cabin''; fighting between pro-slavery and abolitionist forces in Kansas, beginning in 1854; the 1857 ''Dred Scott'' decision, which struck down provisions of the Compromise of 1850; abolitionist John Brown's 1859 attempt to start a slave revolt at Harpers Ferry and the 1860 election of slavery critic Abraham Lincoln to the presidency. The Southern states seceded from the Union in the months following Lincoln's election, forming the
Confederate States of America The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States or the Confederacy was an List of historical unrecognized states and dependencies, unrecognized Secession in the United States, breakaway republic in the ...
, and beginning the
American Civil War The American Civil War (April 12, 1861 – May 26, 1865; also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States. It was fought between the Union (American Civil War), Union ("the North") and t ...

Proposal and ratification

Crafting the amendment

Acting under presidential war powers, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, 1862, with effect on January 1, 1863, which proclaimed the freedom of slaves in the ten states that were still in rebellion. In his State of the Union message to Congress on December 1, 1862, Lincoln also presented a plan for "gradual emancipation and deportation" of slaves. This plan envisioned three amendments to the Constitution. The first would have required the states to abolish slavery by January 1, 1900. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation then proceeded immediately freeing slaves in January 1863 but did not affect the status of slaves in the border states that had remained loyal to the Union. McPherson, 1988, p. 558 By December 1863, Lincoln again used his war powers and issued a " Proclamation for Amnesty and Reconstruction", which offered Southern states a chance to peacefully rejoin the Union if they immediately abolished slavery and collected loyalty oaths from 10% of their voting population. Southern states did not readily accept the deal, and the status of slavery remained uncertain. In the final years of the Civil War, Union lawmakers debated various proposals for Reconstruction. Some of these called for a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery nationally and permanently. On December 14, 1863, a bill proposing such an amendment was introduced by Representative James Mitchell Ashley of Ohio. Representative James F. Wilson of Iowa soon followed with a similar proposal. On January 11, 1864, Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri submitted a
joint resolution In the United States Congress, a joint resolution is a legislative measure that requires passage by the United States Senate, Senate and the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives and is presented to the President for thei ...
for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. The
Senate Judiciary Committee The United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, informally the Senate Judiciary Committee, is a Standing committee (United States Congress), standing committee of 22 U.S. senators whose role is to oversee the United States Department of Ju ...
, chaired by
Lyman Trumbull Lyman Trumbull (October 12, 1813 – June 25, 1896) was a lawyer, judge, and United States Senator The United States Senate is the Upper house, upper chamber of the United States Congress, with the United States House of Representati ...

Lyman Trumbull
of Illinois, became involved in merging different proposals for an amendment.
Radical Republicans The Radical Republicans (later also known as "Stalwarts (politics), Stalwarts") were a faction within the History of the Republican Party (United States), Republican Party, originating from the party's History of the Republican Party (United Sta ...
led by Massachusetts Senator
Charles Sumner Charles Sumner (January 6, 1811March 11, 1874) was an American statesman and United States Senator from Massachusetts. As an academic lawyer and a powerful orator, Sumner was the leader of the anti-slavery forces in the state and a leader of th ...

Charles Sumner
and Pennsylvania Representative
Thaddeus Stevens Thaddeus Stevens (April 4, 1792August 11, 1868) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Pennsylvania, one of the leaders of the Radical Republican faction of the History of the United States Republican Party, Republican Pa ...

Thaddeus Stevens
sought a more expansive version of the amendment. On February 8, 1864, Sumner submitted a constitutional amendment stating:
All persons are equal before the law, so that no person can hold another as a slave; and the Congress shall have power to make all laws necessary and proper to carry this declaration into effect everywhere in the United States.
Sumner tried to have his amendment sent to his committee, rather than the Trumbull-controlled Judiciary Committee, but the Senate refused. On February 10, the Senate Judiciary Committee presented the Senate with an amendment proposal based on drafts of Ashley, Wilson and Henderson. The Committee's version used text from the
Northwest Ordinance The Northwest Ordinance (formally An Ordinance for the Government of the Territory of the United States, North-West of the River Ohio and also known as the Ordinance of 1787), enacted July 13, 1787, was an organic act of the Congress of the Con ...
of 1787, which stipulates, "There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said
territory A territory is an area of land, sea, or space, particularly belonging or connected to a country, person, or animal. In international relations, international politics, a territory is usually either the total area from which a state may extr ...

, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted."Pdf.
/ref> Though using Henderson's proposed amendment as the basis for its new draft, the Judiciary Committee removed language that would have allowed a constitutional amendment to be adopted with only a majority vote in each House of Congress and ratification by two-thirds of the states (instead of two-thirds and three-fourths, respectively).

Passage by Congress

The Senate passed the amendment on April 8, 1864, by a vote of 38 to 6; two Democrats, of Maryland and James Nesmith of Oregon voted for the amendment. However, just over two months later on June 15, the House failed to do so, with 93 in favor and 65 against, thirteen votes short of the two-thirds vote needed for passage; the vote split largely along party lines, with Republicans supporting and Democrats opposing. Goodwin, 2005, p. 686 In the 1864 presidential race, former
Free Soil Party The Free Soil Party was a short-lived coalition political party in the United States active from 1848 to 1854, when it merged into the Republican Party (United States), Republican Party. The party was largely focused on the Single-issue politics ...

Free Soil Party
candidate threatened a third-party run opposing Lincoln, this time on a platform endorsing an anti-slavery amendment. The Republican Party platform had, as yet, failed to include a similar plank, though Lincoln endorsed the amendment in a letter accepting his nomination. Goodwin, 2005, pp. 624–25 Foner, 2010, p. 299 Frémont withdrew from the race on September 22, 1864, and endorsed Lincoln. Goodwin, 2005, p. 639 With no Southern states represented, few members of Congress pushed moral and religious arguments in favor of slavery. Democrats who opposed the amendment generally made arguments based on
federalism Federalism is a combined or compound mode of government that combines a general government (the central or "federal" government) with regional governments ( provincial, state, cantonal, territorial, or other sub-unit governments) in a singl ...

states' rights In United States, American politics of the United States, political discourse, states' rights are political powers held for the state governments of the United States, state governments rather than the federal government of the United States, fe ...
. Some argued that the proposed change so violated the spirit of the Constitution it would not be a valid "amendment" but would instead constitute "revolution". Representative White, among other opponents, warned that the amendment would lead to full citizenship for blacks.Colbert, "Liberating the Thirteenth Amendment" (1995), pp. 10–11. Republicans portrayed slavery as uncivilized and argued for abolition as a necessary step in national progress. Amendment supporters also argued that the slave system had negative effects on white people. These included the lower wages resulting from competition with
forced labor Forced labour, or unfree labour, is any work relation, especially in modern history, modern or Early Modern period, early modern history, in which people are employed against their will with the threat of poverty, destitution, detention (imp ...
, as well as repression of abolitionist whites in the South. Advocates said ending slavery would restore the
First Amendment First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill, ...
and other constitutional rights violated by censorship and intimidation in slave states. White, Northern Republicans and some Democrats became excited about an abolition amendment, holding meetings and issuing resolutions. Many blacks though, particularly in the South, focused more on land ownership and education as the key to liberation.Trelease, ''White Terror'' (1971), p. xvii. "Negroes wanted the same freedom that white men enjoyed, with equal prerogatives and opportunities. The educated black minority emphasized civil and political rights more than the masses, who called most of all for land and schools. In an agrarian society, the only kind most of them knew, landownership was associated with freedom, respectability, and the good life. It was almost universally desired by Southern blacks, as it was by landless peasants the world over. Give us our land and we can take care of ourselves, said a group of South Carolina Negroes to a Northern journalist in 1865; without land the old masters can hire us or starve us as they please." As slavery began to seem politically untenable, an array of Northern Democrats successively announced their support for the amendment, including Representative James Brooks, Senator , and the powerful New York
political machine In the politics of Representative democracy, representative democracies, a political machine is a party organization that recruits its members by the use of tangible incentives (such as money or political jobs) and that is characterized by a hig ...
known as
Tammany Hall Tammany Hall, also known as the Society of St. Tammany, the Sons of St. Tammany, or the Columbian Order, was a New York City political organization founded in 1786 and incorporated on May 12, 1789 as the Tammany Society. It became the main loc ...
. President Lincoln had had concerns that the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 might be reversed or found invalid by the judiciary after the war. He saw constitutional amendment as a more permanent solution. Foner, 2010, pp. 312–14 Donald, 1996, p. 396 He had remained outwardly neutral on the amendment because he considered it politically too dangerous. Nonetheless, Lincoln's 1864 election platform resolved to abolish slavery by constitutional amendment. After winning reelection in the election of 1864, Lincoln made the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment his top legislative priority. He began with his efforts in Congress during its " lame duck" session, in which many members of Congress had already seen their successors elected; most would be concerned about unemployment and lack of income, and none needed to fear the electoral consequences of cooperation. Goodwin, 2005, pp. 686–87 Popular support for the amendment mounted and Lincoln urged Congress on in his December 6, 1864 State of the Union Address: "there is only a question of ''time'' as to when the proposed amendment will go to the States for their action. And as it is to so go, at all events, may we not agree that the sooner the better?" Lincoln instructed Secretary of State William H. Seward, Representative John B. Alley and others to procure votes by any means necessary, and they promised government posts and campaign contributions to outgoing Democrats willing to switch sides. Foner, 2010, pp. 312–13 Goodwin, 2005, p. 687 Seward had a large fund for direct bribes. Ashley, who reintroduced the measure into the House, also lobbied several Democrats to vote in favor of the measure. Goodwin, 2005, pp. 687–689 Representative Thaddeus Stevens later commented that "the greatest measure of the nineteenth century was passed by corruption aided and abetted by the purest man in America"; however, Lincoln's precise role in making deals for votes remains unknown. Donald, 1996, p. 554 Republicans in Congress claimed a mandate for abolition, having gained in the elections for
Senate A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house An upper house is one of two Debate chamber, chambers of a bicameralism, bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house.''Bicameralism'' (1997) by George Tseb ...
House A house is a single-unit residential building. It may range in complexity from a rudimentary hut to a complex structure of wood, masonry, concrete or other material, outfitted with plumbing, electrical, and heating, ventilation, and air condit ...
. The 1864 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, Representative George H. Pendleton, led opposition to the measure. Goodwin, 2005, p. 688 Republicans toned down their language of radical equality in order to broaden the amendment's coalition of supporters. In order to reassure critics worried that the amendment would tear apart the social fabric, some Republicans explicitly promised the amendment would leave patriarchy intact. In mid-January 1865, Speaker of the House
Schuyler Colfax Schuyler Colfax Jr. (; March 23, 1823 – January 13, 1885) was an American journalist, businessman, and politician who served as the 17th vice president of the United States from 1869 to 1873, and prior to that as the 25th Speaker of the United ...

Schuyler Colfax
estimated the amendment to be five votes short of passage. Ashley postponed the vote. At this point, Lincoln intensified his push for the amendment, making direct emotional appeals to particular members of Congress. On January 31, 1865, the House called another vote on the amendment, with neither side being certain of the outcome. With a total of 183 House members ( one seat was vacant after
Reuben Fenton Reuben Eaton Fenton (July 4, 1819August 25, 1885) was an American merchant and politician from New York (state), New York. In the mid-19th Century, he served as a United States House of Representatives , U.S. Representative, a United States Sen ...
was elected governor), 122 would have to vote "aye" to secure passage of the resolution; however, eight Democrats abstained, reducing the number to 117. Every Republican (84), Independent Republican (2), and Unconditional Unionist (16) supported the measure, as well as fourteen Democrats, almost all of them lame ducks, and three Unionists. The amendment finally passed by a vote of 119 to 56, narrowly reaching the required two-thirds majority. Foner, 2010, p. 313 The House exploded into celebration, with some members openly weeping. Foner, 2010, p. 314 Black onlookers, who had only been allowed to attend Congressional sessions since the previous year, cheered from the galleries. McPherson, 1988, p. 840 While the Constitution does not provide the President any formal role in the amendment process, the joint resolution was sent to Lincoln for his signature. Under the usual signatures of the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, President Lincoln wrote the word "Approved" and added his signature to the joint resolution on February 1, 1865. On February 7, Congress passed a resolution affirming that the Presidential signature was unnecessary. The Thirteenth Amendment is the only ratified amendment signed by a President, although
James Buchanan James Buchanan Jr. ( ; April 23, 1791June 1, 1868) was an American lawyer, diplomat and politician who served as the 15th president of the United States from 1857 to 1861. He previously served as United States Secretary of State, secretary of ...

James Buchanan
had signed the that the 36th Congress had adopted and sent to the states in March 1861.

Ratification by the states

On February 1, 1865, when the proposed amendment was submitted to the states for ratification, there were 36 states in the U.S., including those that had been in rebellion; at least 27 states had to ratify the amendment for it to come into force. By the end of February, 18 states had ratified the amendment. Among them were the ex-Confederate states of Virginia and Louisiana, where ratifications were submitted by Reconstruction governments. These, along with subsequent ratifications from Arkansas and Tennessee raised the issues of how many seceded states had legally valid legislatures; and if there were fewer legislatures than states, if Article V required ratification by three-fourths of the states or three-fourths of the legally valid state legislatures. President Lincoln in his last speech, on April 11, 1865, called the question about whether the Southern states were in or out of the Union a "pernicious abstraction". He declared they were not "in their proper practical relation with the Union"; whence everyone's object should be to restore that relation. Lincoln was assassinated three days later. With Congress out of session, the new President, Andrew Johnson, began a period known as "Presidential Reconstruction", in which he personally oversaw the creation of new state governments throughout the South. He oversaw the convening of state political conventions populated by delegates whom he deemed to be loyal. Three leading issues came before the conventions: secession itself, the abolition of slavery, and the Confederate war debt. Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina held conventions in 1865, while Texas' convention did not organize until March 1866. Johnson hoped to prevent deliberation over whether to re-admit the Southern states by accomplishing full ratification before Congress reconvened in December. He believed he could silence those who wished to deny the Southern states their place in the Union by pointing to how essential their assent had been to the successful ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. Direct negotiations between state governments and the Johnson administration ensued. As the summer wore on, administration officials began giving assurances of the measure's limited scope with their demands for ratification. Johnson himself suggested directly to the governors of Mississippi and North Carolina that they could proactively control the allocation of rights to freedmen. Though Johnson obviously expected the freed people to enjoy at least some civil rights, including, as he specified, the right to testify in court, he wanted state lawmakers to know that the power to confer such rights would remain with the states.Vorenberg (2001), ''Final Freedom'', p. 229. When South Carolina provisional governor objected to the scope of the amendment's enforcement clause, Secretary of State Seward responded by telegraph that in fact the second clause "is really restraining in its effect, instead of enlarging the powers of Congress". Politicians throughout the South were concerned that Congress might cite the amendment's enforcement powers as a way to authorize black suffrage. When South Carolina ratified the Amendment in November 1865, it issued its own interpretive declaration that "any attempt by Congress toward legislating upon the political status of former slaves, or their civil relations, would be contrary to the Constitution of the United States." Alabama and Louisiana also declared that their ratification did not imply federal power to legislate on the status of former slaves. During the first week of December, North Carolina and Georgia gave the amendment the final votes needed for it to become part of the Constitution. The first 27 states to ratify the Amendment were: # Illinois: February 1, 1865 # Rhode Island: February 2, 1865 # Michigan: February 3, 1865 # Maryland: February 3, 1865 # New York: February 3, 1865 # Pennsylvania: February 3, 1865 # West Virginia: February 3, 1865 # Missouri: February 6, 1865 # Maine: February 7, 1865 # Kansas: February 7, 1865 # Massachusetts: February 7, 1865 # Virginia: February 9, 1865 # Ohio: February 10, 1865 # Indiana: February 13, 1865 # Nevada: February 16, 1865 # Louisiana: February 17, 1865 # Minnesota: February 23, 1865 # Wisconsin: February 24, 1865 # Vermont: March 9, 1865 # Tennessee: April 7, 1865 # Arkansas: April 14, 1865 # Connecticut: May 4, 1865 # New Hampshire: July 1, 1865 # South Carolina: November 13, 1865 # Alabama: December 2, 1865 # North Carolina: December 4, 1865 # Georgia: December 6, 1865 Having been ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states (27 of the 36 states, including those that had been in rebellion), Secretary of State Seward, on December 18, 1865, certified that the Thirteenth Amendment had become valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the Constitution. Included on the enrolled list of ratifying states were the three ex-Confederate states that had given their assent, but with strings attached. Seward accepted their affirmative votes and brushed aside their interpretive declarations without comment, challenge or acknowledgment.Vorenberg (2001), ''Final Freedom'', p. 232. The Thirteenth Amendment was subsequently ratified by the other states, as follows:


Freeing slaves

The immediate impact of the amendment was to make the entire pre-war system of
chattel slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave—someone forbidden to quit one's service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as property. Slavery typically involves slaves being made to perf ...
in the U.S. illegal. The impact of the abolition of slavery was felt quickly. When the Thirteenth Amendment became operational, the scope of Lincoln's 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was widened to include the entire nation. Although the majority of Kentucky's slaves had been emancipated, 65,000–100,000 people remained to be legally freed when the amendment went into effect on December 18. In Delaware, where a large number of slaves had escaped during the war, nine hundred people became legally free.Forehand, "Striking Resemblance" (1996), p. 82. With slavery abolished, the Fugitive Slave Clause remained in place but became largely moot.

Native American territory

Despite being rendered unconstitutional, slavery continued in areas under the jurisdiction of Native American tribes beyond ratification. The federal government negotiated new treaties with the "
Five Civilized Tribes The term Five Civilized Tribes was applied by European Americans in the colonial history of the United States, colonial and early federal period in the history of the United States to the five major Native Americans in the United States, Native ...
" in 1866, in which they agreed to end slavery.

Electoral changes

The Three-Fifths Compromise in the original Constitution counted, for purposes of allocating taxes and seats in the House of Representatives, all "free persons", three-fifths of "other persons" (i.e.,
slave Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave—someone forbidden to quit one's service for an enslaver, and who is treated by the enslaver as property. Slavery typically involves slaves being made to perf ...

s) and excluded untaxed Native Americans. The freeing of all slaves made the three-fifths clause moot. Compared to the pre-war system, it also had the effect of increasing the political power of former slave-holding states by increasing their share of seats in the House of Representatives, and consequently their share in the (where the number of a state's electoral votes, under
Article II of the United States Constitution Article often refers to: * Article (grammar), a grammatical element used to indicate definiteness or indefiniteness * Article (publishing), a piece of nonfictional prose that is an independent part of a publication Article may also refer to: G ...
, is tied to the size of its congressional delegation). Even as the Thirteenth Amendment was working its way through the ratification process, Republicans in Congress grew increasingly concerned about the potential for there to be a large increase in the congressional representation of the Democratic-dominated Southern states. Because the full population of freed slaves would be counted rather than three-fifths, the Southern states would dramatically increase their power in the population-based House of Representatives. Republicans hoped to offset this advantage by attracting and protecting votes of the newly enfranchised black population. They would eventually attempt to address this issue in section 2 of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Political and economic change in the South

Southern culture remained deeply racist, and those blacks who remained faced a dangerous situation. J. J. Gries reported to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction: "There is a kind of innate feeling, a lingering hope among many in the South that slavery will be regalvanized in some shape or other. They tried by their laws to make a worse slavery than there was before, for the freedman has not the protection which the master from interest gave him before."J. J. Gries to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction, quoted in Du Bois, ''Black Reconstruction'' (1935), p. 140. W. E. B. Du Bois wrote in 1935:
Slavery was not abolished even after the Thirteenth Amendment. There were four million freedmen and most of them on the same plantation, doing the same work they did before emancipation, except as their work had been interrupted and changed by the upheaval of war. Moreover, they were getting about the same wages and apparently were going to be subject to slave codes modified only in name. There were among them thousands of fugitives in the camps of the soldiers or on the streets of the cities, homeless, sick, and impoverished. They had been freed practically with no land nor money, and, save in exceptional cases, without legal status, and without protection.
Official emancipation did not substantially alter the economic situation of most blacks who remained in the south. As the amendment still permitted labor as punishment for convicted criminals, Southern states responded with what historian called "an array of interlocking laws essentially intended to criminalize black life". These laws, passed or updated after emancipation, were known as Black Codes.Stromberg, "A Plain Folk Perspective" (2002), p. 111. Mississippi was the first state to pass such codes, with an 1865 law titled "An Act to confer Civil Rights on Freedmen".Novak, ''Wheel of Servitude'' (1978), p. 2. The Mississippi law required black workers to contract with white farmers by January1 of each year or face punishment for vagrancy. Blacks could be sentenced to forced labor for crimes including petty theft, using obscene language, or selling cotton after sunset. States passed new, strict
vagrancy Vagrancy is the condition of homelessness without regular employment or income. Vagrants (also known as bums, vagabonds, rogues, tramps or drifters) usually live in poverty and support themselves by begging, waste picker, scavenging, petty t ...
laws that were selectively enforced against blacks without white protectors. The labor of these convicts was then sold to farms, factories,
lumber camp A logging camp (or lumber camp) is a transitory work site used in the logging industry. Before the second half of the 20th century, these camps were the primary place where lumberjack Lumberjacks are mostly North American workers in the loggi ...
s, quarries, and mines. After its ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in November 1865, the South Carolina legislature immediately began to legislate Black Codes. The Black Codes created a separate set of laws, punishments, and acceptable behaviors for anyone with more than one black great-grandparent. Under these Codes, Blacks could only work as farmers or servants and had few Constitutional rights. Restrictions on black land ownership threatened to make economic subservience permanent. Some states mandated indefinitely long periods of child "apprenticeship". Some laws did not target blacks specifically, but instead affected farm workers, most of whom were black. At the same time, many states passed laws to actively prevent blacks from acquiring property.

Congressional and executive enforcement

As its first enforcement legislation, Congress passed the
Civil Rights Act of 1866 The Civil Rights Act of 1866 (, enacted April 9, 1866, reenacted 1870) was the first United States federal law to define citizenship and affirm that all citizens are equally protected by the law. It was mainly intended, in the wake of the Amer ...
, guaranteeing black Americans citizenship and equal protection of the law, though not the right to vote. The amendment was also used as authorizing several Freedmen's Bureau bills. President Andrew Johnson vetoed these bills, but Congress overrode his vetoes to pass the Civil Rights Act and the Second Freedmen's Bureau Bill. Proponents of the Act, including Trumbull and Wilson, argued that Section2 of the Thirteenth Amendment authorized the federal government to legislate civil rights for the States. Others disagreed, maintaining that inequality conditions were distinct from slavery. Seeking more substantial justification, and fearing that future opponents would again seek to overturn the legislation, Congress and the states added additional protections to the Constitution: the Fourteenth Amendment (1868) defining citizenship and mandating equal protection under the law, and the Fifteenth Amendment (1870) banning racial voting restrictions. The
Freedmen's Bureau The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, usually referred to as simply the Freedmen's Bureau, was an agency of early Reconstruction era of the United States, Reconstruction, assisting freedmen in the South. It was established on M ...
enforced the amendment locally, providing a degree of support for people subject to the Black Codes. Reciprocally, the Thirteenth Amendment established the Bureau's legal basis to operate in Kentucky. The Civil Rights Act circumvented racism in local jurisdictions by allowing blacks access to the federal courts. The
Enforcement Acts The Enforcement Acts were three bills that were passed by the United States Congress between 1870 and 1871. They were criminal codes that protected African Americans’ right to vote, to hold office, to serve on juries, and receive Equal Protecti ...
of 1870–1871 and the
Civil Rights Act of 1875 The Civil Rights Act of 1875, sometimes called the Enforcement Act or the Force Act, was a United States federal law enacted during the Reconstruction era in response to civil rights violations against African Americans. The bill was passed by ...
, in combating the violence and intimidation of white supremacy, were also part of the effort to end slave conditions for Southern blacks.Tsesis, ''The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom'' (2004), p. 66–67. However, the effect of these laws waned as political will diminished and the federal government lost authority in the South, particularly after the
Compromise of 1877 The Compromise of 1877, also known as the Wormley Agreement or the Bargain of 1877, was an unwritten deal, informally arranged among members of the United States Congress, to settle the intensely disputed 1876 United States presidential election ...
Reconstruction Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a late 20th century Soviet Union ...
in exchange for a Republican presidency.

Peonage law

Southern business owners sought to reproduce the profitable arrangement of slavery with a system called peonage, in which disproportionately black workers were entrapped by loans and compelled to work indefinitely due to the resulting debt. Peonage continued well through Reconstruction and ensnared a large proportion of black workers in the South. These workers remained destitute and persecuted, forced to work dangerous jobs and further confined legally by the racist
Jim Crow laws The Jim Crow laws were U.S. state, state and local laws enforcing Racial segregation in the United States, racial segregation in the Southern United States. Other areas of the United States were affected by formal and informal policies of ...

Jim Crow laws
that governed the South. Peonage differed from chattel slavery because it was not strictly hereditary and did not allow the sale of people in exactly the same fashion. However, a person's debt—and by extension a person—could still be sold, and the system resembled antebellum slavery in many ways. Slavery in New Mexico also continued ''de facto'' in the form of peonage, which became a Spanish colonial tradition to work around the prohibition of hereditary slavery by the
New Laws The New Laws (Spanish language, Spanish: ''Leyes Nuevas''), also known as the New Laws of the Indies for the Good Treatment and Preservation of the Indians (Spanish language, Spanish: ''Leyes y ordenanzas nuevamente hechas por su Majestad para la ...
of 1542. Though this practice was rendered unconstitutional by the Thirteenth Amendment, enforcement was lax. The Peonage Act of 1867 specifically mentioned New Mexico and increased enforcement by banning nationwide "the holding of any person to service or labor under the system known as peonage", specifically banning "the voluntary or involuntary service or labor of any persons as peons, in liquidation of any debt or obligation, or otherwise." In 1939, the Department of Justice created the Civil Rights Section, which focused primarily on
First Amendment First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: *World record A world record is usually the best global and most important performance that is ever recorded and officially verified in a specific skill, ...
labor rights Labor rights or workers' rights are both legal rights and human rights relating to labor relations between workers and employers. These rights are codified in national and international labor and employment law. In general, these rights i ...
. The increasing scrutiny of
totalitarianism Totalitarianism is a form of government and a political system that prohibits all opposition parties, outlaws individual and group opposition to the state and its claims, and exercises an extremely high if not complete degree of control and reg ...

in the lead-up to World War II brought increased attention to issues of slavery and involuntary servitude, abroad and at home. The U.S. sought to counter foreign propaganda and increase its credibility on the race issue by combatting the Southern peonage system. Under the leadership of Attorney General
Francis Biddle Francis Beverley Biddle (May 9, 1886 – October 4, 1968) was an American lawyer and judge who was the United States Attorney General during World War II. He also served as the primary American judge during the postwar Nuremberg Trials as well a ...

Francis Biddle
, the Civil Rights Section invoked the constitutional amendments and legislation of the Reconstruction Era as the basis for its actions. In 1947, the DOJ successfully prosecuted Elizabeth Ingalls for keeping domestic servant Dora L. Jones in conditions of slavery. The court found that Jones "was a person wholly subject to the will of defendant; that she was one who had no freedom of action and whose person and services were wholly under the control of defendant and who was in a state of enforced compulsory service to the defendant." The Thirteenth Amendment enjoyed a swell of attention during this period, but from '' Brown v. Board of Education'' (1954) until ''Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co.'' (1968) it was again eclipsed by the Fourteenth Amendment.

Penal labor exemption

The Thirteenth Amendment exempts penal labor from its prohibition of forced labor. This allows prisoners who have been convicted of crimes (not those merely awaiting trial) to be required to perform labor or else face punishment while in custody. Few records of the committee's deliberations during the drafting of the Thirteenth Amendment survive, and the debate that followed both in Congress and in the state legislatures featured almost no discussion of this provision. It was apparently considered noncontroversial at the time, or at least legislators gave it little thought. The drafters based the amendment's phrasing on the Northwest Ordinance, Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which features an identical exception. Thomas Jefferson authored an early version of that ordinance's anti-slavery clause, including the exception of punishment for a crime, and also sought to prohibit slavery in general after 1800. Jefferson was an admirer of the works of Italian criminologist Cesare Beccaria. Beccaria's ''On Crimes and Punishments'' suggested that the death penalty should be abolished and replaced with a lifetime of enslavement for the worst criminals; Jefferson likely included the clause due to his agreement with Beccaria. Beccaria, while attempting to reduce "legal barbarism" of the 1700s, considered forced labor one of the few harsh punishments acceptable; for example, he advocated slave labor as a just punishment for robbery, so that the thief's labor could be used to pay recompense to their victims and to society. Penal "hard labor" has ancient origins, and was adopted early in American history (as in Europe) often as a substitute for capital or corporal punishment. Various commentators have accused states of abusing this provision to re-establish systems similar to slavery, or of otherwise exploiting such labor in a manner unfair to local labor. The Black Codes in the South criminalized "
vagrancy Vagrancy is the condition of homelessness without regular employment or income. Vagrants (also known as bums, vagabonds, rogues, tramps or drifters) usually live in poverty and support themselves by begging, waste picker, scavenging, petty t ...
", which was largely enforced against freed slaves. Later, convict lease programs in the South allowed local plantations to rent inexpensive prisoner labor. While many of these programs have been phased out (leasing of convicts was forbidden by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1941), prison labor continues in the U.S. under a variety of justifications. Prison labor programs vary widely; some are uncompensated prison maintenance tasks, some are for local government maintenance tasks, some are for local businesses, and others are closer to internships. Modern rationales for prison labor programs often include reduction of recidivism and re-acclimation to society; the idea is that such labor programs will make it easier for the prisoner upon release to find gainful employment rather than relapse to criminality. However, this topic is not well-studied, and much of the work offered is so menial as to be unlikely to improve employment prospects. As of 2017, most prison labor programs do compensate prisoners, but generally with very low wages. What wages they do earn are often heavily Garnishment, garnished, with as much as 80% of a prisoner's paycheck withheld in the harshest cases. In 2018, artist and entertainer Kanye West advocated for repealing the Thirteenth Amendment's exception for penal labor in a meeting with President Donald Trump, calling the exception a "trap door". In late 2020, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Representative Lacy Clay, William Lacy Clay (D-MO) introduced a resolution to create a new amendment to close this loophole.

Judicial interpretation

In contrast to the other "Reconstruction Amendments", the Thirteenth Amendment was rarely cited in later case law. As historian Amy Dru Stanley summarizes, "beyond a handful of landmark rulings striking down debt peonage, flagrant involuntary servitude, and some instances of race-based violence and discrimination, the Thirteenth Amendment has never been a potent source of rights claims."

Black slaves and their descendants

''United States v. Rhodes'' (1866), one of the first Thirteenth Amendment cases, tested the constitutionality of provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that granted blacks redress in the federal courts. Kentucky law prohibited blacks from testifying against whites—an arrangement which compromised the ability of Nancy Talbot ("a citizen of the United States of the African race") to reach justice against a white person accused of robbing her. After Talbot attempted to try the case in federal court, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled this federal option unconstitutional. Noah Swayne (a Supreme Court justice sitting on the Kentucky Circuit Court) overturned the Kentucky decision, holding that without the material enforcement provided by the Civil Rights Act, slavery would not truly be abolished. With ''In Re Turner'' (1867), Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase ordered freedom for Elizabeth Turner, a former slave in Maryland who became indentured to her former master. In ''Blyew v. United States'', (1872) the Supreme Court heard another Civil Rights Act case relating to federal courts in Kentucky. John Blyew and George Kennard were white men visiting the cabin of a black family, the Fosters. Blyew apparently became angry with sixteen-year-old Richard Foster and hit him twice in the head with an ax. Blyew and Kennard killed Richard's parents, Sallie and Jack Foster, and his blind grandmother, Lucy Armstrong. They severely wounded the Fosters' two young daughters. Kentucky courts would not allow the Foster children to testify against Blyew and Kennard. Federal courts, authorized by the Civil Rights Act, found Blyew and Kennard guilty of murder. The Supreme Court ruled that the Foster children did not have standing in federal courts because only living people could take advantage of the Act. In doing so, the Courts effectively ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment did not permit a federal remedy in murder cases. Swayne and Joseph P. Bradley dissented, maintaining that in order to have meaningful effects, the Thirteenth Amendment would have to address systemic racial oppression. The ''Blyew'' case set a precedent in state and federal courts that led to the erosion of Congress's Thirteenth Amendment powers. The Supreme Court continued along this path in the ''Slaughter-House Cases'' (1873), which upheld a state-sanctioned monopoly of white butchers. In ''United States v. Cruikshank'' (1876), the Court ignored Thirteenth Amendment dicta from a circuit court decision to exonerate perpetrators of the Colfax massacre and invalidate the Enforcement Act of 1870. The Thirteenth Amendment is not solely a ban on chattel slavery; it also covers a much broader array of labor arrangements and social deprivations.Maria L. Ontiveros, Professor of Law, University of San Francisco School of Law, and Joshua R. Drexler, J.D. Candidate, May 2008, University of San Francisco School of Law (July 21, 2008), ''The Thirteenth Amendment and Access to Education for Children of Undocumented Workers: A New Look at Plyler v. Doe; Publisher: University of San Francisco Law Review, Volume 42, Spring 2008, Pages 1045–1076; here page 1058-1059. The article was developed from a working paper prepared for the roundtable, "The Education of All Our Children: The 25th Anniversary of Plyler v. Doe", sponsored by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity & Diversity (University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law), held on May 7, 2007.
As the U.S. Supreme Court explicated in the Slaughter-House Cases with respect to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fifteenth Amendment, and the Thirteenth Amendment in particular:
Undoubtedly while negro slavery alone was in the mind of the Congress which proposed the thirteenth article, it forbids any other kind of slavery, now or hereafter. If Mexican peonage or the Chinese coolie labor system shall develop slavery of the Mexican or Chinese race within our territory, this amendment may safely be trusted to make it void. And so if other rights are assailed by the States which properly and necessarily fall within the protection of these articles, that protection will apply, though the party interested may not be of African descent. But what we do say, and what we wish to be understood is, that in any fair and just construction of any section or phrase of these amendments, it is necessary to look to the purpose which we have said was the pervading spirit of them all, the evil which they were designed to remedy, and the process of continued addition to the Constitution, until that purpose was supposed to be accomplished, as far as constitutional law can accomplish it.
In the ''Civil Rights Cases'' (1883), the Supreme Court reviewed five consolidated cases dealing with the
Civil Rights Act of 1875 The Civil Rights Act of 1875, sometimes called the Enforcement Act or the Force Act, was a United States federal law enacted during the Reconstruction era in response to civil rights violations against African Americans. The bill was passed by ...
, which outlawed racial discrimination at "inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement". The Court ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment did not ban most forms of racial discrimination by non-government actors. In the majority decision, Bradley wrote (again in non-binding dicta) that the Thirteenth Amendment empowered Congress to attack "badges and incidents of slavery". However, he distinguished between "fundamental rights" of citizenship, protected by the Thirteenth Amendment, and the "social rights of men and races in the community". The majority opinion held that "it would be running the slavery argument into the ground to make it apply to every act of discrimination which a person may see fit to make as to guests he will entertain, or as to the people he will take into his coach or cab or car; or admit to his concert or theatre, or deal with in other matters of intercourse or business." In his solitary dissent, John Marshall Harlan (a Kentucky lawyer who changed his mind about civil rights law after witnessing organized racist violence) argued that "such discrimination practiced by corporations and individuals in the exercise of their public or quasi-public functions is a badge of servitude, the imposition of which congress may prevent under its power." The Court in the ''Civil Rights Cases'' also held that appropriate legislation under the amendment could go beyond nullifying state laws establishing or upholding slavery, because the amendment "has a reflex character also, establishing and decreeing universal civil and political freedom throughout the United States" and thus Congress was empowered "to pass all laws necessary and proper for abolishing all badges and incidents of slavery in the United States." The Court stated about the amendment's scope:
This amendment, as well as the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Fourteenth, is undoubtedly self-executing, without any ancillary legislation, so far as its terms are applicable to any existing state of circumstances. By its own unaided force and effect, it abolished slavery and established universal freedom. Still, legislation may be necessary and proper to meet all the various cases and circumstances to be affected by it, and to prescribe proper modes of redress for its violation in letter or spirit. And such legislation may be primary and direct in its character, for the amendment is not a mere prohibition of State laws establishing or upholding slavery, but an absolute declaration that slavery or involuntary servitude shall not exist in any part of the United States.
Attorneys in ''Plessy v. Ferguson'' (1896) argued that racial segregation involved "observances of a servile character coincident with the incidents of slavery", in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment. In their brief to the Supreme Court, Plessy's lawyers wrote that "distinction of race and caste" was inherently unconstitutional. The Supreme Court rejected this reasoning and upheld state laws enforcing segregation under the "separate but equal" doctrine. In the (7–1) majority decision, the Court found that "a statute which implies merely a legal distinction between the white and colored races—a distinction which is founded on the color of the two races and which must always exist so long as white men are distinguished from the other race by color—has no tendency to destroy the legal equality of the two races, or reestablish a state of involuntary servitude." Harlan dissented, writing: "The thin disguise of 'equal' accommodations for passengers in railroad coaches will not mislead anyone, nor, atone for the wrong this day done." In ''Hodges v. United States'' (1906), the Court struck down a federal statute providing for the punishment of two or more people who "conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States". A group of white men in Arkansas conspired to violently prevent eight black workers from performing their jobs at a lumber mill; the group was convicted by a federal grand jury. The Supreme Court ruled that the federal statute, which outlawed conspiracies to deprive citizens of their liberty, was not authorized by the Thirteenth Amendment. It held that "no mere personal assault or trespass or appropriation operates to reduce the individual to a condition of slavery." Harlan dissented, maintaining his opinion that the Thirteenth Amendment should protect freedom beyond "physical restraint". ''Corrigan v. Buckley'' (1922) reaffirmed the interpretation from ''Hodges'', finding that the amendment does not apply to restrictive covenants. Enforcement of federal civil rights law in the South created numerous peonage cases, which slowly traveled up through the judiciary. The Supreme Court ruled in ''Clyatt v. United States'' (1905) that peonage was involuntary servitude. It held that although employers sometimes described their workers' entry into contract as voluntary, the servitude of peonage was always (by definition) involuntary. In ''Bailey v. Alabama'' the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding that the Thirteenth Amendment is not solely a ban on chattel slavery, it also covers a much broader array of labor arrangements and social deprivations. In addition to the aforesaid the Court also ruled on Congress enforcement power under the Thirteenth Amendment. The Court said:
The plain intention [of the amendment] was to abolish slavery of whatever name and form and all its badges and incidents; to render impossible any state of bondage; to make labor free, by prohibiting that control by which the personal service of one man is disposed of or coerced for another's benefit, which is the essence of involuntary servitude. While the Amendment was self-executing, so far as its terms were applicable to any existing condition, Congress was authorized to secure its complete enforcement by appropriate legislation.

''Jones'' and beyond

Legal histories cite ''Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co.'' (1968) as a turning point of Thirteen Amendment jurisprudence. The Supreme Court confirmed in ''Jones'' that Congress may act "rationally" to prevent private actors from imposing "badges and incidents of servitude".Tsesis, ''The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom'' (2004), p. 3. "After Reconstruction, however, a series of Supreme Court decisions substantially diminished the amendment's significance in achieving genuine liberation. The Court did not revisit the amendment's meaning until 1968, during the heyday of the Civil Rights Movement. In ''Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer'', the Court found that the Thirteenth Amendment not only ended unrecompensed, forced labor but that its second section also empowered Congress to develop legislation that is 'rationally' related to ending any remaining 'badges and incidents of servitude'." The Joneses were a black couple in St. Louis County, Missouri, who sued a real estate company for refusing to sell them a house. The Court held:
Congress has the power under the Thirteenth Amendment rationally to determine what are the badges and the incidents of slavery, and the authority to translate that determination into effective legislation. ... this Court recognized long ago that, whatever else they may have encompassed, the badges and incidents of slavery—its "burdens and disabilities"—included restraints upon "those fundamental rights which are the essence of civil freedom, namely, the same right ... to inherit, purchase, lease, sell and convey property, as is enjoyed by white citizens." Civil Rights Cases, 109 U. S. 3, 109 U. S. 22.
Just as the Black Codes, enacted after the Civil War to restrict the free exercise of those rights, were substitutes for the slave system, so the exclusion of Negroes from white communities became a substitute for the Black Codes. And when racial discrimination herds men into ghettos and makes their ability to buy property turn on the color of their skin, then it too is a relic of slavery.
Negro citizens, North and South, who saw in the Thirteenth Amendment a promise of freedom—freedom to "go and come at pleasure" and to "buy and sell when they please"—would be left with "a mere paper guarantee" if Congress were powerless to assure that a dollar in the hands of a Negro will purchase the same thing as a dollar in the hands of a white man. At the very least, the freedom that Congress is empowered to secure under the Thirteenth Amendment includes the freedom to buy whatever a white man can buy, the right to live wherever a white man can live. If Congress cannot say that being a free man means at least this much, then the Thirteenth Amendment made a promise the Nation cannot keep.
The Court in ''Jones'' reopened the issue of linking racism in contemporary society to the history of slavery in the United States. The ''Jones'' precedent has been used to justify Congressional action to protect migrant workers and target sex trafficking. The direct enforcement power found in the Thirteenth Amendment contrasts with that of the Fourteenth, which allows only responses to institutional discrimination of state actors.

Other cases of involuntary servitude

The Supreme Court has taken an especially narrow view of involuntary servitude claims made by people not descended from black (African) slaves. In ''Robertson v. Baldwin'' (1897), a group of merchant seamen challenged federal statutes which criminalized a seaman's failure to complete their contractual term of service. The Court ruled that seamen's contracts had been considered unique from time immemorial, and that "the amendment was not intended to introduce any novel doctrine with respect to certain descriptions of service which have always been treated as exceptional." In this case, as in numerous "badges and incidents" cases, Justice Harlan authored a dissent favoring broader Thirteenth Amendment protections. In ''Selective Draft Law Cases'', the Supreme Court ruled that the Conscription in the United States, military draft was not "involuntary servitude". In ''United States v. Kozminski'', the Supreme Court ruled that the Thirteenth Amendment did not prohibit compulsion of servitude through psychological coercion. ''Kozminski'' defined involuntary servitude for purposes of criminal prosecution as "a condition of servitude in which the victim is forced to work for the defendant by the use or threat of physical restraint or physical injury or by the use or threat of coercion through law or the legal process. This definition encompasses cases in which the defendant holds the victim in servitude by placing him or her in fear of such physical restraint or injury or legal coercion." The United States courts of appeals, U.S. Courts of Appeals, in ''Immediato v. Rye Neck School District'', ''Herndon v. Chapel Hill'', and ''Steirer v. Bethlehem School District'', have ruled that the use of community service as a high school graduation requirement did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment.

Prior proposed Thirteenth Amendments

During the six decades following the 1804 ratification of the Twelfth Amendment two proposals to amend the Constitution were adopted by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. Neither has been ratified by the number of states necessary to become part of the Constitution. Each is referred to as ''Article Thirteen'', as was the successful Thirteenth Amendment, in the
joint resolution In the United States Congress, a joint resolution is a legislative measure that requires passage by the United States Senate, Senate and the United States House of Representatives, House of Representatives and is presented to the President for thei ...
passed by Congress. * The Titles of Nobility Amendment (pending before the states since May 1, 1810) would, if ratified, strip Citizenship in the United States, citizenship from any United States citizen who accepts a title of nobility or honor from a foreign country without the consent of Congress. * The (pending before the states since March 2, 1861) would, if ratified, Entrenched clause, shield "domestic institutions" of the states (in 1861 this was a common euphemism for slavery) from the Article Five of the United States Constitution, constitutional amendment process and from abolition or interference by Congress. Foner, 2010, p. 158

See also

* 13th (film), ''13th'', a 2016 documentary on the Thirteenth Amendment * ''Lincoln (film), Lincoln'', 2012 film * Crittenden Compromise * History of unfree labor in the United States * List of amendments to the United States Constitution * Marriage of enslaved people (United States) * National Freedom Day * Slave Trade Acts * Slavery Abolition Act 1833 in the United Kingdom * United States labor law




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