On this dayFeb 24, 1865

Kentucky Refuses to Ratify Abolition of Slavery

Kentucky Public Radio

On February 24, 1865, the Kentucky General Assembly refused to endorse the end of slavery in America when it voted against ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery except as punishment for crime.

As the Civil War began in 1861, Kentucky, a border state, remained in the Union but the state's legislature did not fully support President Abraham Lincoln or his Republican administration because lawmakers worried that Lincoln would abolish slavery. Throughout 1861, President Lincoln assured Kentuckians he had no intention of interfering with the state's "domestic institutions." 

In March 1862, President Lincoln proposed a plan of gradual emancipation for the border states, offering to compensate enslavers who freed the Black people they enslaved. When the congressional delegations for the border states turned down that offer, President Lincoln issued a draft Emancipation Proclamation in September 1862 and signed the final version on January 1, 1863, which applied only to enslaved people in states that were in rebellion and, thus, allowed for enslavement to continue in Kentucky, along with Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, and Tennessee, as well as portions of Virginia and Louisiana that were occupied by the Union.

Kentucky legislators continued to oppose all efforts to abolish slavery in the coming years, and on February 24, 1865, the Kentucky General Assembly rejected the Thirteenth Amendment. Prominent politicians and other public figures harshly criticized President Lincoln and members of Congress, and the Kentucky legislature expressed their disapproval of the amendment's adoption by politically siding with the former Confederacy throughout the post-Civil War era. Kentucky did not officially adopt the Thirteenth Amendment until 1976.

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