Thirteenth Amendment

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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.

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution were approved by Congress and ratified by the states after the U.S. CIVIL WAR. Known collectively as the Civil War Amendments, they were designed to protect individual rights. The Thirteenth Amendment forbids INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE or SLAVERY, except where the condition is imposed on an individual as punishment for a crime.

For many decades, however, the goals of the Civil War Amendments were frustrated. Due perhaps to the waning public support for postwar Reconstruction and the nation's lack of sensitivity to individual rights, the U.S. Supreme Court severely curtailed the application of the amendments. The Supreme Court thwarted the amendments in two ways: by restrictively interpreting the substantive provisions of the amendments and by rigidly confining Congress's enforcement power.

Congress enacted a number of statutes to enforce the provisions of the Civil War Amendments, but by the end of the nineteenth century, most of those statutes had been overturned by the courts, repealed, or nullified by subsequent legislation. For example, Congress enacted the CIVIL RIGHTS ACT of 1875 (18 Stat. 336), which provided that all persons should have full and equal enjoyment of public inns, parks, theaters, and other places of amusement, regardless of race or color. Although some federal courts upheld the constitutionality of the act, many courts struck it down. These decisions were then appealed together to the U.S. Supreme Court and became known as the CIVIL RIGHTS CASES, 109 U.S. 3, 3 S. Ct. 18, 27 L. Ed. 835 (1883). The cases involved theaters in New York and California that would not seat African Americans, a hotel in Missouri and a restaurant in Kansas that would not serve African Americans, and a train in Tennessee that would not allow an African American woman in the "ladies" car.

The Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875 by an 8?1 vote, holding that Congress had exceeded its authority to enforce the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Court held that private discrimination against African Americans did not violate the Thirteenth Amendment's ban on slavery. Following this decision, several northern and western states began enacting their own bans on discrimination in public places. But many other states did the opposite: they began codifying racial SEGREGATION and discrimination in laws that became known as the JIM CROW LAWS.

In 1896, the U.S. Supreme...

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