Monday, December 18, 2006

Slaves No More

For anyone of African descent, this should be a red-letter day. But I seriously doubt most people would be able to tell me why this date is important in Black History. I must confess that I had no idea what happened on this day. But I do see the importance of it. I can look at the events of December 18, 1865 and know why they changed history. But what about Black youth in today's society? I don't think many of them (aside from those currently studying US history) could explain why this effects their lives even today. But the ratification of the constitutional amendment that freed the slaves is one of the most important events in the history of blacks for the United States.
It was on this date in 1865 that Secretary of State William Seward declared the thirteenth amendment ratified by 27 of the then 36 states. This date marks when the amendment was officially placed in the Constitution. Because of this amendment, black all over the United States were freed from slavery. The amendment itself was a follow-up to the Emancipation Proclamation and a way to make the abolishment of slavery permanent. But why is it still important today?
Like many of the freedoms we have been given, the right to be free from slavery is taken for granted. Many people today don't even think about slavery. When we hear about it happening in other places, it is brought to mind only briefly. But with this action, the United States put itself on a course that would lead to the eventual complete equality of blacks. It is an all-important first step. Without the 13th, other amendments, such as the Civil Rights Act, would not have been passed. This makes the 13th amendment the reason for black freedom today. But is this message lost on youth?
I believe it is. If I were to take a poll at this school, many students would have no idea what the 13th amendment is. More still would not be able to tell me if and when slavery was abolished in the United States. Some 40 years has passed since the Civil Rights Movement and the actual affects have not fully occurred. Slavery in America, at least, is gone. But ending slavery was just one step. While thinking on the 13th amendment, we must also think on what brought about the need for such an amendment and learn from that mistake.
There has been increased talk in the media about racism in America. It is clearly still a problem in some areas. Of course when celebrities are brought into the mix, the topic gets an increased spotlight. We must remember that the ignorance of racism is what brought about the need for the 13th amendment. We must learn from our mistakes. We must put our petty differences aside and move on. While I do not think that we will ever return to an era of forces servitude, I feel that the attitude that created that era still exist. It must be stamped out. We are slaves no more. We must live and work together as one equal people unseparated forever.
Section 1. 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.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

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