March 16th, 1995

Mississippi Ratifies Thirteenth Amendment 130 Years After its Adoption

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution declares: "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." Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865. Three-fourths of the states needed to ratify the amendment before it could become part of the Constitution, which was achieved when Georgia ratified on December 6, 1865. Mississippi, with an economy rooted in slavery, was one of many Southern states that refused to ratify the amendment at that time.

In 1994, Gregory Watson, a clerk in the Texas legislature, discovered that Mississippi still had not ratified the Thirteenth Amendment. He notified each of the African American members of the Mississippi legislature and sent them a draft of a resolution that Mississippi could adopt in order to rectify the situation. On March 16, 1995, the Mississippi legislature ratified the Thirteenth Amendment 130 years after it was initially proposed and rejected, becoming the final state in the country to do so.

However, state officials failed to send the necessary documentation to the federal register and the ratification was not formally filed as required. Nearly twenty years later, in late 2012, Mississippi residents Dr. Rajan Batra and Ken Sullivan discovered that the ratification was not yet official. Mr. Sullivan notified the Secretary of State, who agreed to do the necessary filing. On February 7, 2013, Mississippi's ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment became official.