How we got here
Slavery in America occurred throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, where Africans were taken from their home and forced into servitude in the United States. Neither the Declaration of Independence (1776) nor the Constitution (1789) mentioned slavery, and several founding fathers actually owned enslaved workers themselves. By the time of the Civil War, in 1861, millions of people were still enslaved in 15 southern and border states. The next year, in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln strategized that freeing enslaved people in the south could help the Union to win the Civil War.
By 1863, Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that, “all persons held as slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” However, the Emancipation Proclamation did not truly put an end to slavery as it applied solely to the 11 Confederate states then in conflict with the Union, and Lincoln knew there would need to be an amendment to the constitution in order for slavery to be abolished.
On April 8, 1864, the 13th amendment passed the Senate and on January 31, 1865, it passed the House. Through a Joint Resolution of Congress, which requires approval from both chambers, Lincoln agreed to the proposed amendment on February 1, 1865. On December 6, 1865, with support from the necessary number of states, slavery in the United States was formally abolished. Section 1 of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution decrees, “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.” Section 2 states “Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
What it means to us
We Are an Anti-Racist World believes that the wording in the 13th Amendment allows for individuals to still be treated as slaves when they are convicted of crimes, and that Congress has the power to enforce laws that could serve to maintain or close that loophole. WAaAW believes there should be no ambiguity when it comes to all people, including convicted individuals, being free from forced labor and servitude.
Together, we can change policies and procedures, including the wording of the 13th Amendment, to ones that instead promote compassion, equality, and peace over indifference, inequality, and conflict so that we may all live to see a more just society.
Where we go from here
In an effort to do what we can to make positive change, WAaAW is reaching out to lawmakers across the country with a request for support for the movement to revise the 13th Amendment.