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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Mississippi Ratifies 13th Amendment In Response To Movie 'Lincoln'

Zion Samuel |
February 18, 2013 | 9:51 p.m. PST


This is the Mississippi capitol, where the amendment against slavery was ratified on February 7, 2013. (Ken Land, Creative Commons)
This is the Mississippi capitol, where the amendment against slavery was ratified on February 7, 2013. (Ken Land, Creative Commons)

Slavery has been abolished.

While that shouldn't be news to anyone in the United States, the 13th amendment that ended centuries of enslavement in this country was only just ratified in the often-infamous state of Mississippi - as recently as Februrary 7, 2013.

The 13th amendment, which needed a two-thirds vote in three-fifths of the 36 existing states, became part of the Consitution in December of 1865, without a favorable vote from the contemporary Mississippi legislature.

Roughly 148 years later, inspired by the Oscar-nominated film 'Lincoln,' two Mississippi residents began looking into Mississippi's response to the propsed amendment and discovered that their home state had never actually filed the paperwork to ratify this long-accepted amendment. But while the late arrival of Mississippi legislative records to the mores of the 21st century are alarming at a glance, this story, though an interesting blurb on the historical position of several southern states, is more an example of the history of bureaucratic procedure blocking progress in this country than a true indication of current racial issues in Mississippi.

At best, this moment in Mississippi's history can be optimistically interpreted as an example of the theoretical (and underutilized) power of pop culture to impact change in social and political areans, as well as an example of civic duty. Sometimes, inspired by pop culture, citizen awareness and interest can take the place of apathy.

But while the social culture of southern states like Missippi have been scrutinized well into this century for their continuing racial divides in the current social culture, this story is anecdotal at worst and should not be treated as an indictment of Mississippi's cultural development up until now. While racial issues in this country, and particularly in the south, still need to be addressed, there are more valid examples of current events that necessitate exploration into the cultural viewpoint on race in southern states. One example is the very recent, and continually apalling, racial slur-infused protests that broke out on the campus of Ole Miss in response to President Obama's re-election this past November. While the efforts of those two Mississippi residents to right a wrong deserve some attention, the recent ratification of the 13th amendment shouldn't be blown out of proportion and taken as an indicator of either Mississippi's progress or its faults.


Reach Contributor Zion Samuel here.



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