Colorado Votes To Abolish Slavery — Yes, It Is 2018

Written by Ann Brown

Who would have thought slavery was still legal in the United States? Well, it seems a form of it is in about 16 states despite the federal government abolishing almost all forms of slavery in 1865. The 13th Amendment actually allowed for one exception: When servitude is used as  punishment for a crime.

But on the past election day, voters in Colorado decided to change the language of their state’s constitution and abolish all forms of slavery. Colorado’s Amendment A passed, which means Article II, Section 26 of Colorado’s constitution will be changed.

“It had read: Thereshall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted,’” CBS News reported. “It will now read: There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude.’”

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“I hope that this puts forth the message that our past doesn’t have to be our future, that by and large we as Americans are interested in fixing our mistakes and that there’s hope for our future,” Jumoke Emery with Abolish Slavery Colorado said. Emery has worked to get this amendment passed. And he has faced opposition to his efforts. The day before election day Emery’s wife found a smoldering pile of campaign fliers on their front porch. Emery said that the fire was set to scare and stop him. “As far as I’m concerned, someone may have burned a cross on my front lawn. This is a clear case of terrorism and intimidation,” Emery said.

Although all of the votes have not yet been counted, the amendment “had 65% of the vote with more than four-fifths of precincts reporting as of Wednesday, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office,” CNN reported.

The issue went before voters in 2016 but was not passed, many say because the wording was confusing. “Many of our voters did not really understand whether to vote yes or no,” Lee McNeil, a board member with Together Colorado, told the Denver Channel.  “Another drawback was many didn’t vote at all.”

In this Nov. 12, 2016 photo, a close-up of an 1876 copy of the Colorado Constitution which contains an exception under which slavery could be used as punishment for a crime, at the Stephen H. Hart Library & Research Center in Denver. Colorado’s voters were asked to eliminate an archaic and offensive reference to slavery as a punishment for a crime in the state Constitution. But a week after the vote, the poorly-written amendment is on the cusp of failing, and a lack of clarity from lawmakers may be to blame. (AP Photo/P. Solomon Banda)


But this time around, the vote was definite. “The margin is such that there is no doubt,” said Lynn Bartels, a spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office. Time will tell if other states will follow Colorado’s lead. But for many states it is a matter of getting cheap — or free labor. We don’t have to look any further than the California wildfires now occurring. It has been reported that inmates are helping to fight these deadly fires and are only being paid $1 a day.

“In Georgia and Texas, the maximum wage in dollars per day is $0. In Nevada, prisoners make $0.13 an hour. The average wage is between $0.93 a day and $4.93 a day—less than an hour of work at minimum wage. Conservative estimates put the value of output from prison labor at $2 billion annually,” Newsweek reported.


In this Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, photo, sister Lee McNeil talks about her efforts to eliminate an archaic and offensive reference to slavery as a punishment for a crime in the state constitution through an amendment on the general election ballot, during an interview outside Shorter Community A.M.E. Church in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)