Abolish Slavery Vermont Learning Session
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While Vermont is widely known to be the first colony to abolish slavery (in 1777), it was only a partial prohibition, applicable to adults reaching a certain age, “unless bound by the person’s own consent, after arriving to such age, or bound by law for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.” Despite subsequent revisions, the Vermont Constitution continues to contain only a partial prohibition on slavery.
Vermont’s constitution went on to model a similar exception clause in the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Ratified in 1865, this renowned legislation likewise prohibited slavery within the United States “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted[.]”
“In the year 2021, slavery is still allowed, legally, in Vermont’s constitution. We cannot accept this any longer,” said Mark Hughes, Executive Director of the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance. Hughes and racial justice advocates across the state have been working towards a full abolishment of constitutional slavery for years.
In March the Vermont Senate Rules Committee voted in favor (5-0) of PR.2, a proposal to amend the Vermont constitution with language clarifying that slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited. The proposal will go to the Senate floor on April 9th for a vote.
“At 244 years old, the Vermont constitution is the grandfather of all constitutional slavery. So this amendment is far more than symbolic,” said Hughes. “We must finish the work that we started last biennium and bring an end to this crime against humanity in our state and in our nation.”
Hughes characterized the current proposal to amend the Vermont constitution “long overdue “ and called on the legislature to also pass a Joint Resolution calling for the repeal and replacement of the 13th amendment of U.S. Constitution. The learning sessions are being offered by the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance to engage the public on the critical issues that impact the advancement of human rights and dignity in Vermont.
In addition to ending constitutional slavery, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance’s ACT Legislative Agenda for 2021 includes policies to advance economic development, housing and land ownership, health equity and more for American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS). This agenda includes that reintroduction of an act relating to establishing the task force to study and develop reparation proposals for the Institution of chattel slavery (H.287)
Learn more about the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance and sign up for the #AbolishSlaveryVT learning sessions at www.vtracialjusticealliance.org.