13th Amendment

Library of Congress, Rare Book & Special Collections Division, Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

Amendment XIII of the United States Constitution

Section 1.

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.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

 

Ratified December 6, 1865.

Key Concepts

13th Amendment

The 13th Amendment not only abolished slavery, but involuntary servitude in the United States and included a provision granting Congress the power to enforce it by “appropriate legislation.” This provision paved the way for passage of civil rights legislation beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that would guarantee birthright citizenship and “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property,” well before ratification of the 14th Amendment. Yet, there was an exception “as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” This exception for convicts led to exploitation of prison labor and mass incarceration

Legacy of 13th Amendment

The 13th Amendment not only abolished slavery, but involuntary servitude in the United States and included a provision granting Congress the power it by “appropriate legislation.” This provision paved the way for passage of civil rights legislation beginning with the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that would guarantee birthright citizenship and “full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property,” well before ratification of the 14th Amendment. Yet, there was an exception “as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” This exception for convicts led to exploitation of prison labor and mass incarceration.

Relevant Cases or Laws

Anti-Peonage Act of 1867

Barred peonage in the United States as legislation passed to enforce the 13th Amendment. Often referred to as “debt slavery,” peonage involved an employer forcing a worker to provide labor without compensation to pay off debt. Learn More

Bailey v. Alabama (1911)

The Supreme Court held an Alabama statute unconstitutional because it violated the Anti-Peonage Act, when it allowed debt to constitute fraud to be punished as a crime with use of prima facie evidence (based on first impression – considered correct until proven otherwise) to convict, and convicts were subject to hard labor. Learn More

References and Resources

Teaching Tools, Lesson Plans, & Activities

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