Tag Archive for 'Abraham Lincoln'

On This Day: The Thirteenth Amendment

On December 6, 1865—147 years ago today—the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery in the United States.

It had been a long time coming. Nearly three years earlier, in January 1863, President Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in the rebellious states. (Lincoln had also issued a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation several months earlier, on September 22, 1862.) Before the end of the Civil War in 1865, Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to formally abolish slavery. It would take months, though, before the Amendment was ratified—and President Lincoln, who had fought tirelessly for the Amendment, was assassinated before he could see it ratified.

On December 6, 1865, the amendment finally received the necessary number of state ratifications. Consisting of two sections, the Amendment read as follows:

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 the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

The Amendment was one of three Reconstruction Era Constitutional amendments. Nineteen months later, the Fourteenth Amendment would be ratified, extending the liberties of the Bill of Rights to former slaves. And, in 1870, the Fifteenth Amendment would grant African American men the right to vote. To learn more about the three Reconstruction Amendments, check out this summary from the United States Senate’s website. The Our Documents initiative also provides summaries and the full text of all three amendments: Thirteenth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and Fifteenth Amendment.

To learn more about the Thirteenth Amendment, and to view a digitized copy, check out this page from the National Archives.

For a chronological list and summary of Reconstruction Era policies, check out this page from the Digital History collection. For a comprehensive list of civil rights legislation, check out this page from Black Americans in Congress, hosted by the United States House of Representatives’ website.

To learn more about the Thirteenth Amendment, check out Alexander Tsesis’ The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History (NYU Press 2004), and his edited volume, The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment (Columbia University Press 2010).

To learn more about the abolition of slavery, check out Michael Vorenberg’s Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Cambridge University Press 2001).

The recently released movie, Lincoln, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day Lewis as President Lincoln, was co-written by the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and focuses on Lincoln’s drive to pass the Thirteenth Amendment.  To learn more about President Lincoln’s work toward emancipation, check out Harold Holzer and Sara Vaughn Gabbard’s edited volume, Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment (Southern Illinois University Press 2007). For more on the Emancipation Proclamation, check out William A. Blair and Karen Fisher Younger’s edited volume, Lincoln’s Proclamation: Emancipation Reconsidered (UNC Press 2009).

On This Day: The Springfield Riot

On August 14, 1908—104 years ago today—Springfield, Illinois dissolved into intensive mob violence that by the following night would leave at least seven individuals dead and many businesses and homes destroyed.

Racial tensions flared in Springfield when a white woman falsely accused a African American man of rape. Law enforcement moved this man—as well as another African American man accused of killing a white railroad engineer—out of town before an angry white mob could touch them.

When the members of the white mob realized the prisoners were gone, they began a full-scale riot, moving through Springfield burning businesses and homes owned by African Americans. Springfield was an ironic site for a race riot; it was the hometown of President Abraham Lincoln—the man who freed the slaves. White rioters allegedly shouted, “Lincoln freed you, now we’ll show you where you belong!”

Fearing for their lives, roughly 3,000 African Americans fled the city. Illinois Governor Charles S. Deneen called in the National Guard, but it took until late on August 15 for the violence to die down. Troops began to leave the city on August 19.

In the end, two African Americans were lynched and five whites were killed. More than forty African American families were displaced after their homes were burnt.

The violence shocked the nation, demonstrating that discrimination and violence against African Americans was not confined to the South. Six months later, prominent civil rights leaders came together to found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Ultimately, the African American man accused of murdering a white railroad engineer was found guilty and hanged. The other prisoner, who had been accused of raping a white woman, was freed after the woman confessed that she had lied.

Although mob leaders were arrested for rioting, only one was ever convicted—and he was only sentenced to thirty days in jail. One woman, Kate Howard, who was indicted for multiple charges in connection with the riot, committed suicide.

More than a century later, two large bronze commemorative sculptures were unveiled in Union Square Park in downtown Springfield.

To learn more, and to see a photograph of militia camps during the riots, check out this page from the Library of Congress. The University of Illinois at Springfield also hosts this website, which provides audio clips of oral histories with survivors.

Click here to listen to an NPR story from the hundredth anniversary of the riot.

A detailed summary can be found through the Northern Illinois University Library.

To learn more, check out Roberta Senechal de la Roche’s In Lincoln’s Shadow: The 1908 Race Riot in Springfield, Illinois (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008).

To learn more about postbellum racial violence, check out Kidada Williams’ They Left Great Marks on Me: African American Testimonies of Racial Violence from Emancipation to World War I (NYU Press, 2012).