On this day 156 years ago, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified. This was the brainchild of Abraham Lincoln, and it completely ended slavery in the United States, eight months after Robert E. Lee’s surrender. That’s right, for eight months after the Civil War ended, slavery was still legal in some parts of the U.S.A.
This year Congress created a new federal holiday, called “Juneteenth.” Juneteenth will fall on June 19th of every year, except when it occurs on the weekend, in which case it will fall on Friday, the 18th, or Monday, the 20th. It commemorates the end of slavery in Texas, which was the last Confederate state to allow slave ownership. This end occurred on June 19th, 1865.
However, slavery was still legal in two border states that had not joined the Confederacy. These were Delaware and Kentucky. Slavery had already been prohibited in the other two borders states, Missouri and Maryland, by state legislative action.
On December 6th, 1865, Georgia became the 27th state to approve the Thirteenth Amendment, making it an official part of our Constitution. It’s ironic that manumission was inaugurated by a former slave state of the Deep South. But let’s be real. This was more like a transfer of ownership from plantations to a fellow named Jim Crow. Conditions for African-Americans immediately after the Civil War may have been a step up from antebellum days, but I wouldn’t call it a giant leap.
Let’s also be real about slavery in general. Can it really be abolished? Or is it an integral part of human nature? From what I’ve seen, slavery is all around us. It seems to me that humans love trying to enslave each other.
For instance, have your ever loaned money to someone, and not been paid back? You worked hard for that money. So you became the borrower’s slave.
Are you working hard to pay off credit cards that charge interest at usury rates? Now you’re the borrower, but still a slave.
Are you always doing favors for someone, who never returns favors? Slavery.
Addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs? This is slavery to the purveyors of those substances.
Can’t stop blogging? Don’t want to let your followers down? You could be a blogoholic slave.
Are you working two or more jobs at minimum wage, and barely making ends meet? Some would call you a wage-slave.
Do your kids do chores without pay? If so then you’re the master and they’re your little slaves.
Yep, slavery is all over the place. Ever check out those tags on the clothes you buy? Most clothing sold in America is produced in third world countries, and often by children working long hours in factories under miserable conditions, for meager pay. How is this not slavery?
The coffles of illegal immigrants flooding across our borders contain our imported slaves. We can thank slavery for some of those nice fruits and vegetables sold cheap at the supermarket.
Sex trafficking? That’s a euphemism for sex slavery.
My wife gave me a honeydew list. Slavery, in my view.
My boss at work always appreciated it when employees worked off-the-clock, or through their lunch breaks. And this kept him off their backs. He understood the value of slavery.
Slavery is so much a part of the human condition, and of every culture, that I don’t think there’s any way to completely escape it. The best we can do is avoid it as much as possible. So try to keep people from exploiting you. And try to avoid exploiting others. Don’t expect anyone to be your slave.
And then you will honor the true spirit of the Thirteenth Amendment.