Treasures of Carolina: Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

13th Amend

Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Transmittal Letter, 1865, Vault Collection, State Archives of North Carolina

The first Wednesday of each month features a document or item from the State Archives considered a treasure because of its significance to the history and culture of our state or because it is rare or unique. Sometimes the featured item just illustrates a good story. The items highlighted in this blog have been taken from the exhibit, “Treasures of Carolina: Stories from the State Archives” and its companion catalog.

On December 4, 1865, the North Carolina General Assembly approved the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery. For a state to be readmitted to the Union following the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson required states to approve the amendment. Ten days following North Carolina’s vote the requisite three-quarters of the states had approved its ratification and thus it became law.

This action by the legislature in 1865 came almost three years after the Emancipation Proclamation, which outlawed slavery in the southern states. Following the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the freedmen’s convention met a few blocks northwest of the State Capitol. That assembly was the first effort by the state’s African Americans to press for full political rights.