The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution states that “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.

The first step towards abolishing slavery came with US President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War on January 1, 1863, that freed the slaves of the Confederate states in rebellion against the Union.

However, only through the 13th Amendment did emancipation become national policy.

The US Senate passed the amendment on April 8, 1864, but the House of Representatives did not until January 31, 1865. President Lincoln approved the amendment on February 1, 1865, but did not live to see its ratification – he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth on April 15, 1865. The amendment was finally ratified by the required number of states on December 6, 1865 and put into force on December 18th.

The Amendment under question, along with the 14th and 15th, were the product of the Civil War and greatly expanded the rights of Americans.