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The 13th Amendment Influence in Shaping Modern America


The 13th Amendment was passed by the House of Representatives on January 31, 1865. Twenty- seven out of 36 states ratified and proclaimed the rule by the end of December the same year. This constitution aimed at abolishing the slave trade, and involuntary servitude, except during punishment for breaking a law in the United States of America. It stated that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction” (Upham, 2017). This paper explains how the thirteenth Amendment shaped modern America today.

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Influence on Civil Rights

Although slavery was abolished throughout America after the 13th Amendment, Black Americans remained victims of slavery in the south, they were faced with challenges such as subjection to involuntary labor, selective law enforcement, and white supremacist violence. This amendment was further utilized to end peonage, slavery incidences, and to solve race-based discrimination problems in southern parts. The law is currently used as a reference by Congress when making other rules against sex trafficking.

The civil rights currently enjoyed by Americans are based on reconstruction amendments, which included the 13th, 14th, and 15th constitutional changes. The Jim Crow laws hindered the implementation of the 14th amendment. This is because it prevented African Americans from participating in political elections by imposing poll taxes and literacy tests. Voting Rights Act enacted later transformed all the aforementioned rules into reality. Consequently, all Americans are currently enjoying their civil rights equally regardless of race or social status.

Slavery was one of the major reasons for the Civil War, which had caused people to divide and fight for their own beliefs. Before the 13th amendment, no rights were given to African Americans. However, few civil liberties were offered to them after the enactment, and as a result, the law influenced how people perceived and acted towards people of color. Although segregation was born from slavery, the amendment brought equality. This opened job and citizenship opportunities for African Americans and non-native individuals to live in America. Thus, the country is now diverse and racial discrimination has been prohibited.

Political, Social, and Economic Impacts

The 13th amendment and the Civil War had a great impact on American politics. It led to the enactment of the 15th and 19th amendments, which triggered a revolution of freedom and rights movement in America that is continuously taking place. The 15th Amendment enacted in 1997 gave black males voting right while the 19th Amendment of 1920 assured women of participating in the election (Johnson, 2020). America has been shaped greatly by giving polling rights to African Americans, currently, they have a say in voicing their concerns and electing their leaders. Thus, the 13th amendment paved way for democracy. Moreover, several principles of the Republican Party, which is involved in the lawmaking and decision-making process are largely based on this amendment.

Elimination of the slave trade by the 13th amendment affected the American economy. Job opportunities were opened on a large scale capacity due to the lack of free workers. In addition, farmers who were unable to employ people had to sell off their lands and animals. Due to this, bitterness and hostility between the natives and the former slaves ensued and as a result, the jobs were rarely given to people of color. The hatred created breaded racial discrimination, which is still a matter of great concern in the USA even though the constitution is against it.

The 13th Amendment outlawed unpaid labor and oppression, however, some leaders created loopholes in this law. Since this act had not prohibited unpaid labor for convicted people, the former slaves were criminalized by their masters for no good reason. This loophole gave rise to a history of systemic oppression, which is still a major challenge in America. Issues such as school segregation, African Americans being targeted by law enforcers, marriage restrictions, and voter disenfranchisement influenced the current culture. People of color are perceived to be criminals, dangerous and lesser beings than Americans in society.

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According to the 13th amendment, convicted people are stripped of some basic privileges such as working for payment and voting. This standard is currently utilized in some American states, imprisoned people labor without salary and they are not eligible to vote. For instance, in Florida, Kentucky, and Iowa convicted felons have no right to elect leaders. Voting is essential, it enables one to participate in democracy, however, some citizens are discriminated against based on their past mistakes instead of being reintegrated into society after finishing their jail term.

Changed the American Views on African America

The perception of some American natives towards African Americans after the 13th amendment has changed. Freedom to equality that was later achieved enabled blacks to attend schools against the will of their masters. It was also discovered that people of color were capable of acquiring literacy skills and they were intelligent. This finding enabled the blacks to hold positions in government and vie for political seats. If it was not for the 13th amendment, slavery could be in existence and former president Barrack Obama would not have been elected in 2008.

13th Amendment Influence on Racism

The southerners continued being racist even after the 13th amendment, they had a lingering hope that this law will be reversed someday to fit their interest. The slaves’ status quo has never changed on the ground due to deep-seated hatred towards the blacks. This is because slave codes were still imposed on freedmen who were working on plantations and stricter rules protecting the masters had been formulated. For instance, in Kentucky, blacks were outlawed from testifying against whites by the law (Marchal, 2020). This made it hard for blacks to obtain justice in cases involving a white person. Hence, a need for Civil Rights Act was found, which led to equality in the justice system.

The 13th amendment caused former slaves to be freed with no money, land, protection, or legal status. Moreover, thousands of African Americans who fought in the civil war were left in dilapidated soldiers camps while others became homeless. Therefore, they had to work on the farms as slaves while receiving low wages to survive. For this reason, the black remained despised, impoverished, and extremely poor. The racial discrimination issue has never been fixed up to date in America, currently, racial riots are still common in the streets. Consequently, most people of color are still living in poor neighborhoods called ghettos which have poor infrastructure and social amenities.


The 13th amendment was not successful in ending slavery and racism completely but it formed a most crucial starting point that spearheaded change. This is because it became a tool utilized by the Americans to alter their perceptions of people of color. Additionally, a new ideology that all people are equal and everyone has a right to live in the United States was instituted after the law was established. America is a nation of diversity at the present because the act opened opportunities for former slaves to become citizens and earn a source of income. Most importantly, it brought an end to the civil war and slavery. Thus, this amendment has played a significant role in shaping today’s America.


Johnson, J. M. (2020). “Not as a favor, not as a privilege, but as a right”: woman suffragists, race, rights, and the nineteenth amendment. Western New England Law Review, 42(3), 385. Web.

Marchal, F. (2020). When freeing the slaves was illegal: “Reverse-trafficking” and the unholy, unruly rule of law. The Palgrave International Handbook of Human Trafficking, 8, 51-66. Web.

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Upham, D. R. (2017). The Understanding of neither slavery nor involuntary servitude shall exist before the Thirteenth Amendment. The Georgetown Journal of Law &Public Policy, 15, 137.

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