Kate Masur, Northwestern University historian and author of Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement, from the Revolution to Reconstruction says the measure faced some challenges before it was passed. February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved and signed he 13th Amendment, determining “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.”

Since then, legislation to remove the language “except as a punishment for crime” has been slow to gain traction, but several individual states voted on the measure November 2022.