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05/23/2024 12:27 PM
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: February 3, 2023 01:46 PM
From: Representative Christopher M. Rabb and Rep. Donna Bullock
To: All House members
Subject: Establishing the first Monday of February as “Emancipation Day”
The Thirteenth Amendment, which passed the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 1864 and 1865, respectively, abolished slavery in our country and indefinitely changed the lives of Black people across America. The amendment was then sent to state legislatures for ratification, which is a process that requires the affirmative vote from three-fourths of the states in order to amend the Constitution. 

While the gradual abolition of slavery in the Commonwealth had begun in 1780, on February 3, 1865, Pennsylvania became the sixth state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, ensuring the abolition slavery throughout the entire United States of America. Before 1865, Pennsylvania allowed slavery to persist for 67 years after its state legislature passed the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, an onerous statute that codified precarious systems of oppression for enslaved and unfree Pennsylvanians of African descent for generations.
In theory, the adoption of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, known as the Reconstruction Amendments, led to the expansion of civil rights for Black Americans by abolishing slavery, guaranteeing equal protection of the law, and the right to vote. In practice, true emancipation has eluded us and the collective  impact of these constitutional amendments is far more complicated. Thus, the impetus for our commonwealth recognizing Emancipation Day transcends honoring our ratification of the 13th Amendment. 

This bill seeks to acknowledge the ongoing struggle for Black liberation in a society that still poses threats and allows barriers to persist against the advancement of Black people and allied communities of struggle. As the old axiom says, “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

Please join us in co-sponsoring this forthcoming bill authored in the spirit of collective liberation. 

Introduced as HB296