On December 18, 1865, the 13th Amendment was adopted as part of the United States Constitution. The amendment officially abolished slavery, and immediately freed more than 100,000 enslaved people, from Kentucky to Delaware.

Two years earlier, at the height of the Civil War, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared that all captive blacks in the states in rebellion—the Confederacy—were free. This did not have a sweeping practical impact, however, as the Confederacy considered itself a separate nation and did not follow U.S. laws, and the proclamation did not free enslaved poulations in the “border states” that sided with the United States.

Within five years, the 14th and 15th Amendments were also passed. These amendments, among the most contested in courts today, established citizenship, equal protection, and voting rights for all male Americans, regardless of race. However, the same suffrage and protections would not be afforded to women of all races until over 50 years later, when Congress passed the 19th Amendment in 1919.

abolish
Verb

to wipe out or get rid of.

adopt
Verb

to formally raise and care for a child of other biological parents.

amendment
Noun

change made to a law or set of laws.

citizenship
Noun

behavior of a person in terms of their community.

civil war
Noun

conflict between groups in the same country or nation.

Confederacy
Noun

Confederate States of America, states which broke from the United States to form a new government during the Civil War.

constitution
Noun

system of ideas and general laws that guide a nation, state, or other organization.

issue
Verb

to distribute, give away, or sell.

Noun

political unit made of people who share a common territory.

slavery
Noun

process and condition of owning another human being or being owned by another human being.

voting rights
Noun

issues surrounding the legal right and ability to campaign and cast a vote in political elections.

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