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Floor Statement

Recognizing the 140th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment

Mr. Speaker, I proudly rise today to recognize the anniversary of a significant milestone in American history. On December 6, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, proclaiming that "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude . . . shall exist within the United States." December 6, 2005, marks the 140th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

Although President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the Northern states. The 13th Amendment was taken up in Congress before the end of the Civil War. The House passed the bill in January 1865, by a vote of 119 to 56. President Abraham Lincoln approved a Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures and the necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865.

The 13th Amendment, along with the 14th and 15th Amendments, greatly expanded the civil rights of African Americans and provided some measure of remedy for the unspeakable tragedies proceeding and after the Civil War.

Nevertheless, the abolition of slavery did not mean equality for African Americans. Social and economic injustice still exists as a result of the pernicious institution of slavery in America. The limited measure of equality we currently enjoy has required a constant vigilance and steadfast determination to overcome the vestiges of slavery, segregation, discrimination and racism.

Today, Mr. Speaker I rise to acknowledge the anniversary of the 13th Amendment so that we all can learn the lessons of the African slaves and celebrate the legacy of pride within the African American community for having survived what is undoubtedly America’s worst period in history .

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