13th Amendment Passes

January 31, 2022

On January 13, 1865, the United States Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which formally abolished slavery. It also ends involuntary servitude, except in the form of criminal punishment. 

Twenty-seven states ratified the amendment upon its passing, which constituted a majority of the then thirty-six states in the union. Ratification by these twenty-seven states took place on December 6, 1865, and the proclamation occurred just under two weeks later on December 18th. The 13th Amendment was the first of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Amendments to pass.

Prior to the passing of the 13th Amendment, President Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation known as the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln’s proclamation was issued on September 22, 1862, and declared all enslaved persons in Confederate states free effective January 1, 1863.

Despite the intentions of this executive order, however, enslaved Americans were not immediately or uniformly released from the horrors of slavery and involuntary servitude. In fact, many remained enslaved even after the end of the Civil War and the passing of the 13th Amendment. This was largely the case in Confederate states, where they were denied the knowledge of their own freedom.

Additionally, as previously mentioned, the amendment did not universally abolish slavery; it was abolished except in the form of criminal punishment. Mainstream public discourse has largely overlooked this aspect of the amendment. However, its impact on the United States as a whole and Black Americans, in particular, is a topic being more widely assessed, discussed, and addressed. 

A great example of this is the documentary “13th,” a groundbreaking documentary film by award-winning director Ava DuVernay.


  1. Trebor Retsbew

    It is fine to pass any Amendment or law if you are going to enforce it, which the Federal Government did not do until the Civil Rights act was forced on the South in 1964 1965, and still it is not being actually enforced to this day, worda on paper mean nothing if not protected by the law enforcement agencies in this USA

  2. Marc Kohler

    Again, like so much of American history, much of this report is accurate only in a very limited way. Slavery for enslaved people in the South never stopped, and it is a lie to say it did. Sharecropping, Jim Crow laws, over three thousand lynchings, and much more created a consant and unstoppable holocaust for enslaved people. Today, Americans get cars, clothes, electronics, and thousands of other things made by slaves from all over the world, and we love it. We love the prices that slavery overseas creates for us. When it worse, is that under President Clinton, whole industries deserted American workers, and set up factories all over the world, just to keep their profits as high as possible, and ignoring the fact that today 30% of Americans earn $17,500/year according to TIME magazine “Facts” issue.

  3. Rick Gordon

    January 31st is the significant date regarding the end of legal slavery in the U.S. – much more significant than Juneteenth – which celebrates the end of slavery in Texas.

  4. Richard Brock

    Mr. Blake—
    The Emancipation Proclamation did not free any slaves in Lincoln’s Union/Federal states of Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware and Missouri. To wit, General U.S. Grant and his wife Julia did not free their slaves until December 1865.

    Also the E.P. did not free slaves in the Confederate areas of New Orleans and southern Louisiana, Norfolk VA and the far eastern counties of Virginia or the counties of West Virginia or Tennessee. Why? Beause Lincoln said he would only free slaves in the areas of rebellion and those just mentioned were under his Federal army control thus they were no longer in rebellion.

    Please note Lincoln’s First EP issued in September 1862 warned the Confederates: if you don’t end the war and return to the Union by 12/21/1862, I will free your slaves. In other words, come back to my blessed Union and you can keep your slaves.

  5. Ray Wilkerson

    Your information in the text of the message is incorrect. The 13th Amendment was passed in the House of Representatives on January 31, 1865 – not January 13th. You have the date correct in the heading but not on the first line of the message text.


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