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Thirteenth Amendment

The Thirteenth Amendment made slavery illegal in the United States. It was adopted as part of the Constitution on December 6, 1865.

From the Constitution

Here is the text of the Thirteenth Amendment from the 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."


Slavery had been a part of the Early British Colonies as well as the early United States. The fight to end slavery in the United States took several years and finally ended with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.


The fight to end slavery in the United States began in the late 1700s. People who wanted to end slavery were called abolitionists because they wanted to "abolish" slavery. Rhode Island was the first state to abolish slavery in 1776, followed by Vermont in 1777, Pennsylvania in 1780, and many other northern states soon after.

North vs. South

By 1820, the northern states were largely against slavery, while the southern states wanted to keep slavery. The southern states had become largely dependent on enslaved labor. A large percentage of the southern population (over 50% in some states) were enslaved.

Missouri Compromise

In 1820, Congress passed the Missouri Compromise. This law allowed Missouri to be admitted as a slave-state, but, at the same time, admitted Maine as a free state.

Abraham Lincoln

In 1860, Republican and anti-slavery candidate Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. The southern states were afraid he would abolish slavery. They decided to secede from the United States and form their own country called the Confederate States of America. This started the Civil War.

Emancipation Proclamation

During the Civil War, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. This freed the enslaved in the Confederate States that were not under Union control. Although it did not immediately free all of the enslaved, it set the groundwork for the Thirteenth Amendment.


The Thirteenth amendment was presented to the states for ratification on February 15, 1865. On December 6, 1865 the state of Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the amendment. This was enough (three-fourths) of the states for the amendment to become a part of the Constitution.

Interesting Facts about the Thirteenth Amendment
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