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Mississippi finally ratifies ban on slavery

Published time: February 18, 2013 17:32
Edited time: February 18, 2013 21:32
Mississippi delegates wave flags as they watch the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina (Reuters / Chris Keane)

Mississippi delegates wave flags as they watch the first session of the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina (Reuters / Chris Keane)

The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which outlaws slavery, was passed 150 years ago. But the state of Mississippi never ratified it – until the movie ‘Lincoln’ led to the discovery of the missing paperwork.

Mississippi has already come into the spotlight for its inaction regarding the official ban on slavery. It wasn’t until 1995 that the state voted to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, long after all other states had voted to do so. But even though lawmakers unanimously voted for the resolution, the paperwork was never submitted and the amendment failed to become official.

After watching the movie ‘Lincoln’, which premiered in late 2012, a Mississippi professor’s curiosity led to his discovery of the state’s shortcoming. Dr. Ranjan Batra, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, conducted further research on the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment after watching the film.

The recent immigrant from India then discovered something that state lawmakers had failed to notice: a clerical error prevented the ratification from becoming official after the Senate voted upon it in 1995. The state had never officially notified the US Archivist, the Clarion Ledger reports.

Batra immediately informed Ken Sullivan, an anatomical material specialist for UMC’s body donation program, of his discovery – and Sullivan conducted further research to confirm his colleague’s findings.

“What an amendment to have an error in filing,” Dick Molpus, former Mississippi secretary of state, told the Clarion Ledger. “Thanks to Ken Sullivan for being a good citizen in bringing this oversight to light, so it can be corrected.”

In the months since Batra noticed the error in November, the state has worked towards completing the paperwork to officially ban slavery. The Office of the Federal Register received a copy of the resolution on Jan. 30, and the state officially ratified the Thirteenth Amendment on Feb. 7.

“We’re very deliberate in our state. We finally got it right,” Charles Barth, director of the Federal Register, told the Clarion Ledger.

“Now it’s officially filed and recorded.”

The move is long overdue: 36 US states had already ratified the amendment when it was adopted in 1865 and most other states added their votes in the late 1800s. Kentucky ratified the amendment in 1976, after having rejected it in 1865.

But even though all US states have been opposed to the use of slavery for decades, Mississippi did not officially ban the use of slavery and involuntary servitude until the year 2013.

It was long overdue,” Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said after the final papers were filed this month.

And 150 years after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, Americans can finally rest assured that every state has agreed to it.

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