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Looking at a Piece of U.S. History: the Amendment That Banned Slavery
The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution made slavery illegal. Recently, the New York Historical Society was showing a rare copy of the amendment. It is one of only 14 copies signed by Abraham Lincoln, America's Civil War president. David Rubenstein loaned it to the Society. DAVID RUBENSTEIN: "When it passed the House and Senate, he signed it, and although presidents of the United States aren't required to sign proposed Constitutional Amendments, Abraham Lincoln signed several copies of it. So the 13th Amendment is symbolic of that, everybody is free, everybody can achieve whatever they want as an objective in life. And as young children they should recognize that's one of the great things about America." The school children who saw the document understand its importance. NAYA ROGERS: "If this document didn't exist, none of us would be able to have so many opportunities that we have now." BRIANA ROSADO: "If we wouldn't have had this document and if we would never fought the Civil War and have all those people stand up for African Americans, I don't think we would have had as much justice as we have today." James Basker heads the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. He says young Americans need to see the amendment. JAMES BASKER: "So I think sometimes seeing a document in its original handwriting and knowing the story that 620,000 men died in the Civil War to clear the ground that actually made an amendment to end slavery possible, this can inspire a kid to be interested in history, make the lights go on. And I think that's as important as anything else we do." Eighth grader Adam Neto perhaps said it best. ADAM NETO: "The 13th Amendment really, you know, defines America as the free country that it is. It shows that we, we're all equal." I'm Steve Ember.