SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) – All of the amendments represent important milestones in our history. But few mark as historical a change in American society as the 13th Amendment, which finally and officially abolished slavery.
Coming nearly three years after the Emancipation Proclamation and delivering on the promise Lincoln made in it, the 13th Amendment is the first of three post-Civil War amendments that started to establish civil rights for African Americans. And it also validated the claims of freedom for all men in the still new country.
"It's really hard to make the case that there's an amendment to the Constitution as important as the 13th,'' said Georgia Southern University political science professor Dr. TK Novotny. "This after all is what 600,000 people lost their lives for. It was a long process of coming about. It took Congress almost a year during the war itself to debate the 13th Amendment, of course to abolish slavery and all forms of indentured servitude. So, of course, it was a monumental, epic part of our history.''
Prior to the war and in an attempt to keep the South from seceding, Congress passed a 13th Amendment that actually guaranteed slavery. But in a calculated move, that one was never sent to the states for ratification.
It wasn't until after the war that the states voted on a 13th Amendment that ended slavery.