Slavery finally over in Mississippi
Newsworthy | Whitney Williams
Slavery is now officially illegal in Mississippi, a century and a half after most of the rest of the country, thanks to the research of a curious moviegoer and his concerned colleague.
Last November, Ranjan Batra, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, left Stephen Spielberg’s Oscar-nominated film, Lincoln, with a question: What happened after the states voted on ratification?
He decided to do some research, gleaning the rest of the story from usconstitution.net, according to a report in The Clarion Ledger.
The U.S. Congress approved the 13th Amendment in January 1864, and afterwards gave the measure to the states for ratification.
On Dec. 6 the following year, Georgia became the 27th state to ratify the amendment, giving it the three-fourths’ vote it needed to become law. States that rejected the measure included Kentucky, Delaware, New Jersey, and Mississippi.
In the following months and years, states continued to ratify the amendment, including the ones that at first rejected it—New Jersey in 1866, Delaware in 1901, and Kentucky in 1976.
But Batra could find no date listed for Mississippi’s ratification vote. Instead, he found an asterisk with a note reading, “Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995, but because the state never officially notified the US Archivist, the ratification is not official.”
The next day, Batra shared his findings with colleague Ken Sullivan, an anatomical material specialist for UMC’s body donation program. Sullivan then called the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Registrar, The Clarion Ledger reported.
Indeed, the registrar confirmed, Mississippi had yet to officially ratify the amendment. That weekend he took his wife to see Lincoln. With tears in his eyes, Sullivan joined the crowd in a standing ovation at the movie’s close, overwhelmed.
“I felt very connected to the history,” Sullivan told The Ledger, and he knew then he had to do everything he could to make sure the 13th Amendment became official in his home state.
Sullivan phoned the office of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who agreed to file the paperwork the federal government needed.
According to The Clarion Ledger, Hosemann sent the Office of the Federal Register a copy of the 1995 Senate resolution, adopted by both the Mississippi Senate and House, on Jan. 30. On Feb. 7, the resolution was duly notified and the amendment received it’s final vote of approval.
“Now it’s officially filed and recorded,” Sullivan told The Ledger. “There’s no asterisk by Mississippi any more.”
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