End Constitutional Exceptions for Slavery

Target: Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senate Majority Leader

Goal: Prohibit all forms of forced servitude.

Juneteenth commemorates the moments when the last slaves in America were formally emancipated. Few Americans may be aware, however, that loopholes in several states’ constitutions still legally permit some forms of slavery. These loopholes have been used since the late 19th century to justify continuing discriminatory practices.

The 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was supposed to abolish slavery, but certain disputed language in the amendment was subsequently adopted by many states. The text in question reads, “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.” The so-called slavery clause has been the subject of much debate.

A few states have since modified their constitutions to strike the exception part and prohibit slavery under any circumstance. Tennessee, the latest state to take on the clause, will soon leave the matter to voters in a state referendum. About nine other states, however, still have not made the needed changes. Last year, an Abolition Amendment was introduced in Congress that would have clarified and strengthened the 13th Amendment at the federal level, but this important legislation has yet to be passed.

Sign the petition below to demand America’s leaders ensure that sanctioned slavery remains in the dark past once and for all.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Senator Schumer,

Loopholes in the 13th Amendment enabled state legislatures to continue covert forms of slavery for decades, using racist policies like the Black Codes as ammunition. Even today, a fifth of U.S. states have yet to abolish any and all forms of slavery in their state constitutions. Other states have left this matter of fundamental human rights to a vote.

In the 21st century, slavery should not be a matter of muddled language and referendums. It merits unequivocal condemnation. This chamber marked last Juneteenth by introducing the Abolition Amendment that would remove the “slavery as punishment” clause from the 13th Amendment. Honor this Juneteenth by finally marking the passage of this liberty-affirming legislation.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Pixabay


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