On this dayFeb 24, 1865

Kentucky Refuses to Ratify Abolition of Slavery

Image | Kentucky Public Radio

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, Lincoln assured Kentuckians he had no intention of interfering with the state's "domestic institutions." In March 1862, Lincoln proposed a plan of gradual emancipation for the border states, offering to compensate slaveholders who freed the Black people they enslaved. When the congressional delegations for the border states turned down that offer, 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 and portions of Virginia and Louisiana that were occupied by the Union.

Kentucky legislators opposed all efforts to abolish slavery, 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.

About EJI

The Equal Justice Initiative works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality.

Learn more

About this website

Until we confront our history of racial injustice and its legacy, we cannot overcome the racial bias that exists today.

Learn more

Explore more events