The U.S. Constitution and the End of American Slavery

Jan. 24, 2015Apr. 21, 2015
Library, West Hall

Just after 3 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1865, Schulyer Colfax, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, called for the vote on a joint resolution that would amend the Constitution to abolish slavery in the United States. After the roll call was finished, Colfax asked the clerk to add his name to the roll, so that he too could cast his vote for “that great measure, which hereafter will illuminate the highest place in our History.” The tally was announced: 119 ayes to 56 nays, with 8 abstaining. After a moment of stunned silence, the chamber erupted in wild jubilation. Timed to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Thirteenth Amendment, this exhibition explores the long, tortuous, and bloody road that led to that fateful vote. With more than 80 items, drawn entirely from The Huntington’s rich collection of historical materials, it features rare manuscripts, books, and prints, including letters by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln.