2016 Press Releases

National Archives Museum Displays CA’s ratification of 13th Amendment
Press Release · Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Washington, DC

Display marks 150th anniversary of ratification of amendment ending slavery

“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.” 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

The National Archives Museum marks the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment with a special “Featured Document” display of California’s ratification of the landmark amendment that ended slavery. The original document will be shown from December 3, 2015, through January 6, 2016, in the National Archives Museum’s East Rotunda Gallery. The Museum, display and related program are free and open to the public. The National Archives Museum's "Featured Document" exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation.

Background on the Thirteenth Amendment

Four years of Civil War resolved once and for all the question of slavery in the United States. On January 31, 1865, Congress approved a resolution proposing an amendment abolishing slavery and sent it to the states for approval. At that time, there were approximately 200 to 300 enslaved African Americans in the technically "free" state of California. Many worked on gold claims of white southern slave owners.

By December 6, 1865, a sufficient number of states had approved the amendment for it to become part of the Constitution. Slavery was formally abolished in California and the rest of the United States twelve days later when the 13th Amendment was ratified on December 18, 1865. California ratified this Amendment on December 20, 1865. The document is from Records of the Department of State, National Archives.

The National Archives Museum is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Metro accessible on Yellow or Green lines, Archives/Navy Memorial station. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., daily. More information on exhibits and programs can be found online.

Related program

The 13th Amendment at 150: Emancipation, America’s Second Founding, and the Challenges That Remain
Monday, December 7, at 7 p.m., William G. McGowan Theater
The 13th Amendment began a wave of constitutional transformations that followed through on President Lincoln’s promise of “a new birth of freedom. On this 150th anniversary, we explore the challenges that remain. Jeffrey Rosen, president of the National Constitution Center, will moderate a discussion with Representative G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus; Judge Bernice Donald, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit; Judge James Wynn, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit; Thavolia Glymph, professor of history, Duke University; Richard Brookhiser, author and journalist; and Kate Masur, professor of history, Northwestern University. A book signing of Richard Brookhiser’s Founders’ Son: A Life of Lincoln will follow the program. This event is presented in partnership with the Constitutional Accountability Center and the National Constitution Center.

Related online resources

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