The Thirteenth Amendment and Constitutional Change

12 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2015

Date Written: November 16, 2015


This article builds upon remarks the author originally delivered at the Nineteenth Annual Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society at NYU Law in November of 2014. The Article describes the history and purpose of the Thirteenth Amendment’s proscription of the badges and incidents of slavery and argues that an understanding of the Amendment's context and its Framers' intent can provide the basis for a more progressive vision for advancing civil rights. The Article discusses how the Thirteenth Amendment could prove to be more effective in addressing persisting forms of inequality that have escaped the reach of the Equal Protection Clause and other constitutional remedies. Finally, the article discusses and analyzes Thirteenth Amendment jurisprudence and legislation and, drawing upon the work of Professor Bell, argues that the Thirteenth Amendment remains an under-enforced constitutional norm in part due to a lack of perceived interest convergence.

Keywords: Thirteenth Amendment, badges and incidents of slavery, race, civil rights, racial discrimination, Jones v. Alfred H. Mayer Co., Fourteenth Amendment, equal protection, Equal Protection Clause, slavery, abolition, civil war, original intent, critical race theory, stigma, constitutional scrutiny

JEL Classification: K19, K30, K39, K49, J31

Suggested Citation

Carter, Jr., William M., The Thirteenth Amendment and Constitutional Change (November 16, 2015). New York University Review of Law & Social Change, Vol. 38, p. 583 (2014), U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-36, Available at SSRN:

William M. Carter, Jr. (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - School of Law ( email )

3900 Forbes Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States
412-648-1420 (Phone)

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