What Is The 13th Amendment? A Summary Of Its Protections

Kanye West confused millions of followers after he tweeted out his support for abolishment of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in America.

An individual holds up a copy of the U.S. Constitution.
Rick T. Wilking / Getty Images

Kanye West confused millions of followers after he tweeted out his support for abolishment of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in America.

Kanye West made headlines over the weekend after he sent out a tweet suggesting that he supported abolishing the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The post was confusing to many readers, as was previously reported by Inquisitr. West, who is going by “Ye” these days, sent the tweet with ambiguous wording that left many wondering what exactly he was proposing. Indeed, complete abolishment of the amendment would theoretically allow states to legalize slavery again.

The message was sent with an attached image of the famous rapper, who performed on Saturday Night Live over the weekend, wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.

West’s message read:

“this represents good and America becoming whole again. We will no longer outsource to other countries. We build factories here in America and create jobs. We will provide jobs for all who are free from prisons as we abolish the 13th amendment. Message sent with love.”

Some have suggested that West was referring to a subsection of the 13th Amendment that deals primarily with allowing states to enslave prisoners as part of their punishments toward individuals incarcerated in prisons across the country. However, West did not make it clear what exactly he was intending to say, and it’s anybody’s guess at this point what the rapper was trying to get at.

But what exactly is the 13th Amendment? The text of the article that constitutionally forbids slavery isn’t difficult to read and consists of two sections. The second section is the least difficult to understand: it simply allows Congress to enact laws to enforce the amendment, according to Cornell Law School. So while discussing the amendment, it is Section 1 that matters the most, which reads:

“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.”

It’s a pretty straightforward amendment, and leaves little to doubt over its interpretation: slavery, except for those who are imprisoned, will not be allowed to exist in the U.S.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed and enacted by President Abraham Lincoln in the middle of the Civil War, is also seen as an important document curtailing slavery in America, on its own it could not abolish slavery, at least permanently or effectively, according to HistoryNet. Firstly, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free all slaves — it merely declared that all slaves in rebellion states would be deemed free in the eyes of the Union. Slaveholding states under Lincoln’s command would still be allowed to have slaves.

Secondly, the Proclamation could be deemed temporary. Because it was issued as a wartime order, it could expire once the war had ended. An amendment was needed, and passed Congress in the early months of 1865, as the Union was starting to win the war.

Unfortunately, Lincoln, who pushed for the 13th Amendment’s passage, did not live to see it enacted after the necessary three-quarters of states approved it in December of that year — Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865.