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Undoing The Slavery Loophole In the Anti-Slavery Amendment

A modern chain gang in Texas.
Patrick Denker
A modern chain gang in Texas.

"President Lincoln freed the slaves," was the simple declarative sentence heard in elementary school. True up to a point, but with some qualifiers. For one thing, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, while declaring slavery non-existent, left a glaring loophole.

"Except as a punishment for a crime," it goes on to say, and that's why men—mostly Black men—were often arrested, charged, convicted, and put on chain gangs in the South, and otherwise put to work elsewhere.

OregonSenator Jeff Merkley recently introduced a bill to remove the "except" from the amendment. The move is celebrated by Dream Corps and the Anti Recidivism Coalition.

We get Sen. Merkley's remarks, plus reactions from Nisha Anand at Dream Corps and Esteban Nunez at the Anti-Recividism Coalition.

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The Jefferson Exchange is Jefferson Public Radio's daily talk show focused on news and interests across our region of Southern Oregon and Northern California. Angela Decker is the senior producer, Charlie Zimmermann is the assistant producer, and Geoffrey Riley hosts the show.