Colorado Voters Get A Chance To Abolish Slavery Next Month

Monument of slaves in Stone Town, Zanzibar on Sept. 24, 2013. Historical Memorial with sculptures and chains near the former African slave trade place in slave market.
Sevde Sevan / Shutterstock

Slavery is on the midterm ballot in Colorado as voters will get a chance to technically abolish it within the state come November midterm election, according to CNN.

While the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished slavery in most forms when it was ratified in 1865 after the Civil War, it still allowed “involuntary servitude” as a legal punishment. The Constitution has not changed and 15 other states have similar language regarding slavery, the network stated.

The ballot measure in Colorado will change the wording of its state constitution to read, “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude,” the broadcaster noted.

“I hope that this puts forth the message that our past doesn’t have to be our future, that by and large we as Americans are interested in fixing our mistakes and that there’s hope for our future,” Jumoke Emery, with Abolish Slavery Colorado, told CNN.

The 2016 Academy Award-nominated documentary 13th argued that the 13th Amendment was used as an extension to slavery after the Civil War, leading to the mass incarceration of African-Americans.

“After the Civil War, many states, mostly former slave states, immediately exploited the 13th Amendment loophole allowing slavery and involuntary servitude as a punishment for crime,” Nathan Woodliff-Stanley, the executive director of the ACLU of Colorado, said in a statement.

“Many former slaves were arrested and then put back into slave labor conditions through convict leasing, a lucrative practice that generated more than 70 percent of total state revenues for the state of Alabama in 1898. From the 1920s through 1941, convict leasing was gradually eliminated through state laws and by presidential executive order. The constitutional loophole, however, was never removed,” Woodliff-Stanley continued.

According to the Constitution Center, former slaves and other poor citizens became indebted to merchants and plantation owners for living and working expenses after the war, leading to their arrests and road back to slavery in many southern states.

Abraham Lincoln Statue at Memorial monument Washington D.C. Lincoln is credited with the passage of the 13th Amendment.
Abraham Lincoln Statue at Memorial monument Washington D.C. Lincoln is credited with the passage of the 13th Amendment. E.J. Grubbs / Shutterstock

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1911 that such practice was unconstitutional, according to the Constitution Center.

Rapper Kanye West cause confusion last month when he called for the abolishment of the 13th amendment on Twitter, later clarifying that the amendment was “slavery in disguise.”

“Slavery is not a Colorado value, and it should not even be a possibility under the Colorado Constitution,” Woodliff-Stanley wrote. “… While some concerns were also raised in 2016 about prison work or service programs, it should be clear that desirable work programs or programs that people convicted of crimes agree to take part in would not be affected because they would not constitute involuntary servitude or slavery.

“Whatever our corrections system may be, even in areas where there is legitimate debate, we should all agree that it should never consist of actual slavery or involuntary servitude,” he added.

CNN reported that a similar measure was proposed two years ago, but the wording of the measure confused many voters and it failed.