President Barack Obama commemorated the 150th anniversary of the 13th Amendment on Wednesday, delivering a speech at the U.S. Capitol. Obama was joined by members of both the House and Senate, including Congressional leadership and the Congressional Black Caucus, marking the landmark legislation that effectively abolished slavery in America.
Evoking images of lynching that “justice turned a blind eye to,” Obama said that slavery was “wrong in every sense.” Noting that Black people at one time couldn’t vote, fill most jobs or “protect themselves or their families from indignity or violence,” the president went on to say that “through all this, the call to freedom survived.
“Maids, porters, students, farmers, priests, housewives—because of them, the civil rights law passed” and “doors of opportunity swung open.”
Obama was sure to note that this also held true for White menial workers.
“Freedom for you and for me. Freedom for all of us,” he said. “And that’s what we celebrate today: the long arc of progress. Progress that is never assured, never guaranteed, but always possible.”
Obama also saluted trailblazers who worked to abolish slavery and insure civil rights, such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and Dr. Martin Luther King.
“We would do a disservice to those warriors of justice,” said Obama, “to deny the scars of our nation’s original sin that are still with us today.”
The U.S. Senate passed the 13th Amendment on April 8, 1864. It was passed by the House Jan. 31, 1865, through a joint resolution of Congress, according to the National Archives. Lincoln signed the resolution Feb. 1, 1865. States ratified it 10 months later, Dec. 6, 1865. It reads: “Amendment XIII. 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.”