Nearly 150 years after Congress voted to abolish it, slavery still has never been officially banned in Mississippi—until now.
It was not until 1995, decades after other states made the decision, that Mississippi voted to ratify the 13th Amendment, which outlaws slavery. However, lawmakers never submitted the paperwork and the amendment was not officially adopted.
While watching the 2012 film “Lincoln,” a University of Mississippi associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical science, Dr. Ranjan Batra, had his curiosity piqued, prompting him to delve into researching whether slavery was ever officially abolished in his state.
Batra found that the paperwork had never been sent to the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), and he shared his findings with co-worker Ken Sullivan, an anatomical material specialist with the university.
That weekend, Sullivan took his family to see “Lincoln,” and he said that when “people stood up and applauded at the end of it,” he knew that he had to do something about Mississippi having never approved the 13th Amendment, reported the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “I felt very connected to the history,” he said.
Sullivan said that he contacted Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office, which then made the paperwork official. Hosemann described it as “long overdue,” reported the Clarion-Ledger.
Former Mississippi Secretary of State Dick Molpus said that it was unclear why the 1995 copy of the resolution was never sent to the federal government.
“What an amendment to have an error in filing,” Molpus told the newspaper. “Thanks to Ken Sullivan for being a good citizen in bringing this oversight to light, so it can be corrected.”
The OFR got a copy of the resolution in late January and officially ratified the amendment on Feb. 7. “With this action, the State of Mississippi has ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” wrote Charles A. Barth, director of the Federal Register, according to the newspaper.
By the time Congress voted on the 13th Amendment in 1865, 36 states had already adopted it. Most states approved the amendment in the late 1800s, although Kentucky did not ratify it until 1976. In 1865, Mississippi state lawmakers said that they were angry that the government would not reimburse them for freed slaves.
Mississippi was also the last state to repeal the Great Depression-era prohibition of alcohol, doing so in 1965.
Sen. Hillman Frazier (D-Miss.), who introduced the bill in 1995, told the paper that voting to approve the 13th Amendment was “unanimous,” adding, “Some didn’t vote, but we didn’t receive a ‘nay’ vote.”
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