The Thirteenth Amendment: Abolition Of Segregation In The United States

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There is a tendency to view the racial segregation in American housing as the result of several local, uncoordinated decisions made in the past. Typically, Americans are told that once African American families began moving into a neighborhood, their prejudiced white neighbors would panic and start fleeing. This in turn led to plummeting property values, tax revenues, and a cycle of deteriorating neighborhoods that were in sharp contrast to those occupied by white residents. All of this taken together has some truth, but it is masking a far more important factor. For most of the twentieth century, racially discriminatory policies of federal, state, and local governments dictated where white and black citizens should and could live. Intentional…show more content…
The Thirteenth Amendment provided for the abolition of slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a proper punishment for criminal conviction. There have been some questions as to whether the Thirteenth Amendment was only meant to abolish slavery and involuntary servitude per se or whether it was also meant to rid the country of the “incidents of slavery.” Records of the congressional debates during 1864 and 1865 lend credence to the belief that proponents of the Amendment saw its purpose as more than simply abolishing slavery and indentured servitude. The legislators wanted to protect African American’s rights such as the freedom to contract, to sue, to be a party to a suit, and to inherit, purchase, lease, and sell property. They realized that the forms of discrimination, such as refusing to sell property to newly freed African Americans, could be prohibited and that the Thirteenth Amendment was the tool that could be used to protect certain rights of…show more content…
Justice Day’s opinion makes no mention of equal protection, other than general statements about what the purpose of the amendment was. He focused throughout either on the Fourteenth Amendment at large or on the due process clause and property rights. Justice Day stressed that the Louisville ordinance was a restriction on “the civil right of a white man to dispose of his property if he saw fit to do so to a person of color and of a colored person to make such disposition to a white person.” The ordinances were seen as destructive tools that posed a threat to individual’s right to acquire, enjoy, and dispose of his property. The Court’s opinion also only dealt with prior equal protection cases in passing. All that was said about Plessy v. Ferguson for example, is that it did not control because in that case African Americans were not deprived of public transportation and were ensured of equal accommodations. The Court’s characterization of the ordinance and their handling of precedents points to a decision that was grounded in the principles of private rights of property and contract. This helped the Supreme Court strike down laws that were racially discriminatory and that led to residential segregation. Nevertheless, the legal reasoning used would lead to worse conditions for African Americans as private racial discrimination in the sale and renting of property was all but endorsed by the

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