Thirteenth Amendment Exhibit

Slave Pen at Freedom Center

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will exhibit a rare, handwritten copy of the Thirteenth Amendment—the federal law, passed on January 31, 1865, abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude except for punishment of a crime—in January 2016.

The announcement comes as the community continues to engage with our nation’s freedom journey through the current exhibition of the Emancipation Proclamation, on loan from David Rubenstein, and as citizens across the nation exercise their right to vote.

The Thirteenth Amendment is also a loan from David Rubenstein, managing director of The Carlyle Group. Mr. Rubenstein, who was recently profiled for his “patriotic philanthropy” on television program 60 Minutes, personally selected the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as the temporary home for two rare, historical freedom documents from his collection.

“David’s decision to share both the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment with us is reflective of the value and importance of our institution,” says Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, “one that will continue to enable us to engage and educate the public through compelling historical documents and artifacts, in addition to our permanent exhibitions. It’s a rare occurrence to see these two documents exhibited side-by-side.”

When the Civil War began in 1861, President Lincoln sought to preserve the Union rather than end the system of enslavement. He knew that neither the Union nor the Border States would support abolition as a final outcome, however, by mid-1862, the President was convinced that abolition was the correct military and moral strategy. To solve this dilemma, in early 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was issued but it only freed enslaved persons in states that had already seceded from the Union. At the time, it was thought of as an effective war measure that would cripple the Confederacy, which had used enslaved laborers to support the Confederate Army. However, the Emancipation Proclamation also set the stage for conversations on the future of human bondage in the United States and would dramatically alter the lives of African Americans once the Civil War ended – with the passing and ratification of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. While the struggle for freedom continues to this day, these documents became a cornerstone in the fight for freedom and equality in our nation.

“The arrival of the Thirteenth Amendment at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is powerful in the telling the America’s journey to freedom,” says Dr. Newsome. “From the arrival of the first slave ships to the Underground Railroad to the ratification Thirteenth Amendment, our nation’s story is one that is not easy to tell but must be told. It’s ever important that we continue to educate the public about this time, as the effects of institutionalized slavery and racism continue to plague us in modern forms—inequality, injustice, generational poverty and global lack of access to healthcare—proving the inherent need for current and future generations to learn important lessons from our relatively recent past.”

The Thirteenth Amendment will be on exhibit at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center beginning January 2016 through June 2016. To learn more visit

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Visit the permanent and changing exhibits and public programs, inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom. Millions of people have utilized educational resources online at, working to connect the lessons of the Underground Railroad to inform and inspire today’s global and local fight for freedom.