Class as Caste: The Thirteenth Amendment’s Applicability to Class-Based Subordination

16 Pages Posted: 25 May 2016

Date Written: May 6, 2016


As part of a symposium marking the sesquicentennial of the Thirteenth Amendment, this Article briefly explores whether the Thirteenth Amendment applies to class-based subordination. While recognizing that the increasingly rigid class-based stratification of our society, rampant discrimination against the poor, increasing income inequality, and the concentration of enormous wealth in the hands of so few are all pressing social challenges that the legal system must address, this Article concludes that generalized class-based discrimination likely would not fall within the scope of the “badges and incidents of slavery” that the Amendment prohibits.

This Article argues, however, that the Thirteenth Amendment's prohibition of the badges and incidents of slavery would provide a remedy for discrete forms class-based subordination that are akin to or arise from the race-based caste system that the Framers intended to abolish. The Article concludes by suggesting that the lingering and insurmountable effects of mass incarceration may provide an example of such an instance.

Keywords: Thirteenth Amendment, class-based subordination, social class, racial caste system, class-based discrimination, poverty, badges and incidents of slavery, Slave Power, income inequity, mass incarceration, civil rights, slave system, Framers' intent, legal interpretation, race equity, US Constitution

JEL Classification: K14, K19, K39, K42, K49, D63, J15, J71, J78

Suggested Citation

Carter, Jr., William M., Class as Caste: The Thirteenth Amendment’s Applicability to Class-Based Subordination (May 6, 2016). Seattle University Law Review, Vol. 39, p. 813, 2016, U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-18, 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)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics