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Thirteenth Amendment Abolishes Slavery

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On January 31, 1865 Congress passed and on February 1st President Abraham Lincoln approved the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which officially abolished slavery throughout the United States once it was ratified by three quarters of state legislatures. Ratification was completed December 6, 1865.

President Lincoln and members of his party were concerned that the Emancipation Proclamation would be seen as a temporary war measure, since it was based entirely on the President's war powers. Furthermore, the Emancipation Proclamation had not freed slaves in the border states and did not abolish slavery. A Constitutional amendment would ensure the end of slavery nationwide. The 13th Amendment declared:

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.
View primary source documents related to its passage at the Library of Congress Web Guide about the 13th Amendment and learn more about the 13th Amendment and emancipation in the United States at your Milwaukee Public Library.

The 13th Amendment, along with the 14th and 15th, is one of the trio of Reconstruction Amendments that greatly expanded the civil rights of Americans. Stay tuned this week to learn more about the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution.


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