By now you may have heard that on February 7th of this year, 2013, the state of Mississippi officially abolished slavery by adopting the 13th amendment to the Constitution. Here’s the text of the document that Mississippi only got around to officially ratifying two weeks ago.
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Let’s face it, due diligence in rectifying the crimes of the past hardly wins you any merit badges in Mississippi, a state where 46% of “hardcore Republican voters” polled in 2011 thought inter-racial marriage should be against the law, and in which a middle school in 2010 couldn’t understand why it was a problem that only white students were permitted to run for class president.
So it’s little wonder that “someone forgot” to file the paperwork to officially get rid of slavery until 148 years after the 13th amendment became a permanent part of the US Constitution in 1865. Oops.
Now, defenders of Mississippi will argue that this isn’t entirely true. Mississippi didn’t just officially end slavery. The year Mississippi took its brave stand against enslaving African-Americans was not 2013. It was 1995. Only 130 years too late. So there.
But in the ensuing years, everyone in Mississippi simply “forgot” to officially notify the US Archivist of the amendment’s ratification by their state, so it never counted, until now. It seems someone was watching the movie “Lincoln,” saw that Mississippi had yet to ratify, and he raised enough trouble back home to get the thing done.
But seriously. Come on. They just forgot?
You forget to get toothpaste. You forget to pick up the laundry. You might, on a really horrifically bad day forget your anniversary. But you forget to end slavery? Really, Mississippi?
You know what else Mississippi forgot? To ratify the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote in 1920. Mississippi finally got around to that one in 1984 – 64 years too late, and dead last among the states.
We can all laugh at this story, but these are the kind of people we have to deal with, negotiate with in Congress, to get things done in this country. These are the kind of people who make up a good part of the base of the Republican party. If it’s not about God, gays or guns, they’re not interested. So it’s no wonder America is falling behind the rest of the world with regards to the civil rights of gays and trans people in comparison to, say, Mexico. Mexico doesn’t have to deal with Mississippi.
In Mississippi’s defense, when the resolution passed in 1995, it was unanimous. Sort of.
“It was unanimous,” Frazier recalled. “Some didn’t vote, but we didn’t receive a ‘nay’ vote.”
Yes, not everyone voted to end slavery, but no one voted against ending slavery. And in Mississippi, you take your civil rights victories however, and whenever, you can get them.