Today, state Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Avondale) announced that he will soon introduce a joint resolution to remove the exception for slavery from the Ohio Constitution.
“This archaic exception for slavery should be removed,” said Sen. Thomas. “It speaks to the inhumane treatment of Black Americans as chattel and does not belong in the supreme law of Ohio, our Constitution.”
Currently, Article 1, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution says, “There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime.” The resolution would delete the phrase “unless for the punishment of crime.”
If passed by three-fifth of both chambers, the resolution would be placed as an issue on the general election ballot in November.
“Words matter. The majority of Ohioans would be shocked to learn that this exception is still in our governing document,” said Sen. Thomas. “As we embark on making structural changes to our laws and policies that adversely impact people of color, it is important that Ohio lawmakers stand together to eliminate this painful reminder of a ruinous time in the history of our country.”
Sen. Thomas chose June 19, also known as Juneteenth, because of its dual significance in our nation’s history as a reminder of the atrocities Black people have experienced and as a promise that no one should ever be subjected to such inhumane treatment again. Juneteenth commemorates the day when Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas to announce that enslaved people were free, more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This was significant because the proclamation hadn’t been enforced consistently in Texas and there were still Black people in the state who didn’t know of their freedom.
“Juneteenth is a time in our history when words mattered in remedying injustices, promoting truth and liberating people,” said Sen. Thomas. “As we celebrate Juneteenth it should be with the notion that we have done everything necessary to preserve its truth and intention.”