Student Blogger - #13Amend Live Blog: Opening Keynote Speech
Professor David Brion Davis of Yale gave the opening remarks, focusing on the broadness of this conference's topic. One theme running throughout the wide-ranging speech on the history of the Thirteenth Amendment was the difference between its principles and its effects. The writers of the Thirteenth Amendment could have used a much narrower phrasing limited to chattel slavery, that is, owning a person as livestock, but instead, they incorporated Thomas Jefferson's encompassing phrase, "neither slavery nor involuntary servitude," into the Amendment in 1865. Despite the following legislative successes of the Radical Republicans, a century of bondage under Jim Crow laws in the South followed; penal servitude (exempted in the Amendment) in chain gangs was in many ways worse than the chattel slavery that preceded it. The principles of the Thirteenth Amendment stretched further than only the condition of African Americans in this country, for example to the condition of women and the modern pattern of world trade. Like his introducer said, Professor Davis is bringing a moral perspective to the issue.