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Mississippi Officially Ratifies 13th Amendment (1865), Banning Slavery

February 18, 2013 by Brett Wilkins in Racism & Discrimination with 0 Comments

mississippi 13th amendment

Mississippi has become the last state to officially ratify the 13th Amendment, the constitutional provision declaring that “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.”

In other words, slavery is now officially abolished in Mississippi.

The Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports that Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated biopic “Lincoln,” which chronicles the political battle to pass the 13th Amendment, played a major role in this unusual and long overdue historical moment.

Last November, University of Mississippi Medical Center neurobiology professor Dr. Ranjan Batra saw “Lincoln.” Batra was curious to learn how the states implemented the amendment and did a little online digging.

Congress approved the 13th Amendment in January 1864. By December of the following year, the measure reached the three-quarters threshold for ratification when Georgia became the 27th state to approve it. Among the holdouts, it took some states much longer than others to ratify the amendment. New Jersey, for example, did so in 1866. But Delaware did not ratify until 1901. Kentucky waited more than a century, failing to approve the amendment until 1976.

Shockingly, Mississippi did not ratify the 13th Amendment until 1995. Even more shockingly, Dr. Batra found, the state never officially ratified the measure because of a ‘clerical error’ of historic proportions. It turns out that Mississippi never notified the US Archivist, a necessary step for the amendment to be properly ratified.

Dr. Batra shared his findings with Ken Sullivan, an anatomical material specialist for the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s body donation program. Sullivan then contacted the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register and confirmed that Mississippi had yet to officially ratify the amendment. He learned what paperwork was necessary to complete the ratification. Then he took his wife to see “Lincoln.”

“People stood up and applauded at the end of it,” Sullivan told the Clarion-Ledger. “That’s the first time I ever saw an audience do that.” Seeing the film spurred Sullivan to take action to ensure that Mississippi finally ratified the amendment.

“I felt very connected to the history,” he told the paper.

Sullivan then located the 1995 Senate resolution, which had been introduced by state Sen. Hillman Frazier, (D-Jackson), who was shocked and angered to learn Mississippi was the only state that had never ratified the 13th Amendment. The final paragraph of the bill mentioned that the secretary of state was required to notify the Office of the Federal Register. It is not known why this was never done.

“What an amendment to have an error in filing,” Dick Molpus, who was secretary of state for Mississippi in 1995, told the Clarion-Ledger. “Thanks to Ken Sullivan for being a good citizen in bringing this oversight to light, so it can be corrected.”

After seeing “Lincoln,” Sullivan contacted the office of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who then filed the paperwork necessary to make ratification official.

On February 7, Federal Register Director Charles A. Barth informed Hosemann that he had received the resolution. “With this action, the State of Mississippi has ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” Barth’s response stated.

“It was long overdue,” Hosemann told the Clarion-Ledger.

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