Mississippi forgot something.
Fully 148 years after the end of the Civil War and the U.S. end to slavery, the state has officially ratified the 13th Amendment ban on the practice.
The state thought the amendment had already been ratified by its Legislature. Turns out it hadn’t, at least in the eyes of federal record-keepers.
“It was never transmitted to the national archivist to be put on the record," Pamela Weaver, spokeswoman for the Mississippi secretary of state, told The Times.
The 13th Amendment was passed by Congress on Jan. 31, 1865 -- a fraught affair, as depicted in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Lincoln,” which will matter in a bit here -- and then headed to the states for final approval. After Georgia approved the amendment on Dec. 6, 1865, three-fourths of the states had given the go-ahead for the new constitutional amendment, formally ending slavery across the land.
Nonetheless, some states dragged their spurs into the 20th century before ratifying it as a formal matter, such as Delaware (1901) and Kentucky (1976). For nearly two decades, Mississippi was the final state not to agree with the amendment, which it had originally rejected on Dec. 4, 1865.
In 1995, the Legislature finally voted to ratify the 13th Amendment. Then the paperwork that officials needed to send to the National Archives apparently slipped through the cracks.
The Clarion Ledger has the full story about the Mississippi residents who caught the oversight: In November, Ranjan Batra, an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Center -- and a native of India recently naturalized as a U.S. citizen -- saw the movie “Lincoln” and wondered what happened after Congress passed the 13th Amendment.
He noticed an asterisk below the amendment on USconstitution.net, a Constitution interest site, with the following note: “Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995, but because the state never officially notified the U.S. archivist, the ratification is not official.”
Batra then told a co-worker, Ken Sullivan, about the oversight, and Sullivan notified state officials after also seeing “Lincoln,” according to the Ledger, crying when the audience applauded at the end of the film.
“I felt very connected to the history,” Sullivan told the paper.
He notified the Mississippi secretary of state’s office, and “they fixed it immediately,” spokeswoman Weaver told The Times.
On Feb. 7, the director of the Federal Register wrote back that he’d received Mississippi’s paperwork, according to the Ledger, saying, “With this action, the state of Mississippi has ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”