In February 2013 headlines announced that the state of Mississippi had finally banned slavery. Now this is not to say that the state had been stuck in an Antebellum/Civil War timewarp for the past century and a half. But apparently there were a few oversights along the way.
The Thirteenth Amendment was the first of the Reconstruction Amendments adopted after the Civil War. Outlawing slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime, it was passed by the Senate April 8, 1864 and the House on January 31, 1865. The Amendment was officially adopted on December 6, 1865 after 27 of the then 36 states ratified it. Of the 36, three states did not ratify the Amendment until the 1900s. Delaware initially rejected it in 1865, then ratified it on February 12, 1901. Kentucky also rejected it in 1865 and finally ratified on March 18, 1976.
Mississippi was the last holdout of the 36 states. The state rejected the Amendment on December 5, 1865 because lawmakers were unhappy they had not been reimbursed for the value of freed slaves. It took 130 years for them to go back and tie up that loose end. On March 16, 1995 the state House unanimously approved a resolution that had already been unanimously passed in the Senate, and Mississippi finally ratified the Thirteenth Amendment.
Apparently, no one ever informed the national archives of the law of the ratification, which has to happen for the process to officially go through. A medical professor at the University of Mississippi, Dr. Ranjan Batra, who dug deeper into the topic after seeing the movie “Lincoln,” found this oversight. He and his collegue, Ken Sullivan, determined the problem and contacted the office of the Secretary of State, Delbert Hosemann who quickly sent in the required documentation to the National Archives. On February 7, 2013 confirmation came that the Archives had received the official ratification.
Finally, with all paperwork troubles aside, Mississippi outlawed slavery and the Thirteenth Amendment was “unanimously” ratified. However, I still want to know how it took 130 years for Mississippi to make the initial ratification.
Dr. Kathleen Logothetis Thompson graduated with her Ph.D. from West Virginia University in 2017. She earned her M.A. from West Virginia University in 2012 and her B.A. in history with a Certificate in Revolutionary Era Studies from Siena College in 2010. In addition, Kathleen was a seasonal interpreter at Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park from 2010-2014 and has worked on various other publications and projects.