The Crusader Newspaper Group

Original copy of Thirteenth Amendment on auction in Chicago

By Erick Johnson

It officially outlawed slavery years after hun­dreds of thousands of Blacks in the South were declared free when Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation sparked what is today the annual Juneteenth holiday.

Today, an original, 157-year-old, historic copy of the Thirteenth Amendment is be­ing auctioned online by Heritage Auctions in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. The auction is open to buyers who can bid on­line. The opening bid is $200,000. The last day to bid on the document is February 11.

The auction house does not identify the seller or say how it obtained the rare copy.

Heritage Auctions sells many post-Civil War items with ties to Congress and Ameri­ca’s 16th President Abraham Lincoln. Some are sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In 2019, it sold a rare preliminary version of President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation that was published in Decem­ber 1862, less than a month before the histor­ic declaration was made. The document sold for an undisclosed amount, but the current owner welcomes fresh offers over $21,562.

But Heritage Auctions’ copy of the Thir­teenth Amendment may fetch a much high­er price.

13th Amendment

Like other items up for auction, the copy of the Thirteenth Amendment is posted on Heritage Auctions’ website. Heritage Auctions said its copy of the Thirteenth Amendment is on parchment paper and marked “Duplicate” at the heading. It’s signed by then Speaker of the House of Rep­resentatives Schuyler Colfax, Vice President Hannibal Hamlin and over 107 members of the 38th Con­gress, including future U.S. Presi­dent James Garfield.

The Thirteenth Amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865. President Lincoln signed the document on February 1, 1865, three months before he was assas­sinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C.

The amendment was ratified by 27 of 36 states on December 5, 1865. Illinois Congressman and Civil War General John Franklin Farnsworth also signed the histor­ic document. Illinois Congressman Jesse Olds Norton’s signature is al­so on the document.

Four faint signatures of members of the Senate, including Charles Sumner and John P. Hale, are writ­ten on the left margin.

Titled, “The Historic Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution: Abolishing the Institution of Slav­ery,” the document reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place sub­ject to their jurisdiction. (Amend­ment xiii, Section 1)”.

The Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution are among the most important documents in U.S. his­tory.

They are significant events in Black history.

images 1

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect January 1, 1863. It declared an end to slavery for Blacks in confederate states. Most Blacks in Texas were unaware of the dec­laration and the state was slow to free them until President Lincoln sent U.S. Troops to enforce the mandate on June 19, 1865. Near­ly six months after the Thirteenth Amendment passed and made slav­ery illegal in America.

Last year, Blacks across America celebrated as Juneteenth became an official U.S. paid holiday.

During an auction in 2016 at the world-renowned Sotheby’s in New York, a copy of the 13th amendment sold for $2.4 million. The auction house said at the time that it was one of 14 copies Pres­ident Lincoln signed on Febru­ary 1, 1865.

During that auction, a copy of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation sold for $2.1 million.

Sotheby’s copy of the Emanci­pation Proclamation was not an original, even though it was signed by Lincoln and Secretary of State William Seward. The document was one of 27 surviving copies of the original 48, according to So­theby’s.

In 2018, Philanthropist David M. Rubenstein gave copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment as part of a long-term loan to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The documents are part of the museum “Slavery and Freedom exhibition that includes a restored slave cabin used in the early 1800s to house enslaved families on a plantation on Edisto Island, S.C.

“These two early documents show a nation in transition: they mark a powerful shift in America’s relation to the millions of enslaved Blacks who had been bought and sold and considered property,” said the museum’s founding director Lonnie G. Bunch at the time.

“Showcasing the documents in the museum helps to illuminate an often-overlooked story of how the enslaved, through self-emancipa­tion and other resistance methods, forced the federal government to create policies that led to the Eman­cipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.”

In 2016, Rubenstein loaned the copies for a week-long summit at President Thomas Jefferson’s Mon­ticello estate in Charlottesville, VA. Historians and supporters of Pres­ident Jefferson over the years have rewritten Monticello’s history to in­clude Black descendants of Presi­dent Jefferson, who fathered chil­dren with Sally Hemings, one of his 600 slaves.

Recent News

Scroll to Top