The 13th Amendment completed what tent cities and the Emancipation Proclamation set in motion. On December 6, 1865, the U.S. government abolished slavery by amending the Constitution to state, "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."
Dr. Martin Luther King said that American chattel slavery from 1619 until 1865 was an undoubtedly ugly, horrific, traumatic, oppressive, bigoted institution which has evolved to include BIPOC as well as some of our middle class and poor White American brothers ans sisters. This nation and the entire world was literally and figuratively built on the backs of hundreds of years of free labor.
After the Civil War, which was the bloodiest war in our nation's history and cost the country as many as 750,000 lives in combat, the Emancipation Proclamation effectively freed over 3 million enslaved men, women, and children from forced plantation bondage. Following that, the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1865 to end the institution of slavery as we knew it. Slavery appeared to be done once and for all, but that amendment, which is still very much the law of the land today, as essential, historic, and groundbreaking as it was, has a poison pill, a trapdoor, an escape clause embedded in its core. With these three words, "except as punishment," the 13th Amendment fell far short of offering our nation a full, complete and true ban on the practice of slavery. Instead, the institution shape-shifted and morphed in peculiar ways — still primarily on black backs, but inside of less offensive systems and structures while adding individuals of different races which made it a much more complicated target.
Forty-seven words. The entire 13th Amendment, one of the most well-known of our entire Constitution, is just 47 words long. It could literally fit on a Post-it note. Yet, about a third of those words aren't about ending slavery, but are shockingly about how and when slavery could receive a wink and a nod to continue. Before the 13th Amendment was ratified, scores of publications and speeches the world over were published by abolitionists describing the horrors of slavery and why the institution must die.
The colonial history, the legacy of enslavement, racial subordination and segregation, racial terrorism and racial inequality in the U.S remains a serious challenge as there has been no real commitment to reparations and to the truth and reconciliation for the American Descendants of Slavery. Yesterday’s convict leasing, debtor’s prison, and lynching reinforced a narrative of racial difference and a legacy of racial inequality and terror that is readily apparent in our criminal justice system today. A system that disparately impacts our youth! Mass incarceration, racially biased capital punishment, excessive sentencing, disproportionate sentencing of racial minorities, and police abuse of Black Americans reveal problems in our society that were shaped by the terror era yet prevail even today. Such behavior profoundly impacted race relations and shaped the contemporary geographic, political, social, and economic conditions of Black Americans & The American Descendants of Slavery. All of our youth deserve a better future, and we must ask your assistance and support to secure it!