Steven Spielberg’s ‘Lincoln’ Reminds Mississippi to Finally Ratify Thirteenth Amendment Outlawing Slavery
Posted on Monday, February 18th, 2013 by Angie Han
Oscar loves a good historical drama, and this year’s crop of Best Picture nominees has plenty that fit that mold, whether realistically (Zero Dark Thirty) or metaphorically (Beasts of the Southern Wild). But few of the films can actually boast of having made history.
In depicting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery, Steven Spielberg‘s Lincoln has helped to ratify the legislation in Mississippi. And yes, I do mean Lincoln the film and not Lincoln the sixteenth president. Read more after the jump.
According to The Clarion-Ledger (via Cinema Blend), a University of Mississippi associate professor Ranjan Batra was inspired by the Spielberg film to research his own state’s history with the Thirteenth Amendment. He discovered that Mississippi was, in fact, the only state (of the 36 that existed in 1865) to never have ratified the amendment. Like other states that had initially rejected the slavery ban, Missisippi eventually voted in 1995 to pass the bill. However, the state never got around to notifying the U.S. Archivist, so the vote was never actually made official.
Batra shared his findings with a UMC colleague named Ken Sullivan, who went to go see Lincoln himself and was moved to tears by the saga. “People stood up and applauded at the end of it,” Sullivan said. “That’s the first time I ever saw an audience do that.” Sullivan consequently decided to make it his mission to have Missisippi formally pass the slavery ban. He explained, “I felt very connected to the history.”
Fortunately for Sullivan, making the ratification it official in 2013 was nowhere near as impossible a task as it had been in the era of the Civil War. Sullivan simply reached out to Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, who agreed to file the necessary paperwork. Hosemann sent a copy of the 1995 resolution on January 30, and on February 7 received a confirmation from Charles A. Barth, director of the Federal Register. “With this action, the State of Mississippi has ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” it read.
Of course, slavery has been illegal in Mississippi since the amendment was signed into federal law in the 19th century. Ratification now is a purely symbolic gesture, albeit a welcome one. Still, I think Lincoln (the man) would’ve been thrilled to learn that Lincoln (the movie) pushed the final holdout into passing the Thirteenth Amendment. If Lincoln fails to get the statue on Oscar night, at least Spielberg and his cast and crew can take some pride in that.