Sesquicentennial Conference: The 13th Amendment through the Lens of Class and Labor

Approaching the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment, we find ourselves in a period of heightened concern about issues of economic inequality. If any provision of the United States Constitution speaks to those issues, it is the Thirteenth Amendment. The Amendment's proponents maintained that it established "freedom" and a "free labor system," a view eventually accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Beginning after the turn of the millennium, Congress has drawn on the Amendment to support legislation outlawing the "new slavery," including — for the first time — forms of labor control other than physical force or legal compulsion. Conversely, state governments have cited the Amendment's punishment clause to justify forced labor by prisoners in a rapidly growing archipelago of private prisons and prison industries.

Paper proposals focused on the Thirteenth Amendment and include class or labor as an important theme. Proposals addressing the relations (including relative priorities) and intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation with class or labor were strongly encouraged.

The Thirteenth Amendment Through The Lens of Class and Labor Conference was sponsored by the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at the Seattle University School of Law, the Seattle University School of Law, and the University of Washington School of Law. The conference was held at the Seattle University School of Law on May 31-June 1, 2015, immediately following the annual meeting of the Law & Society Association.

The planning committee for the Sesquicentennial Conference on the Thirteenth Amendment through the Lens of Class and Labor included:

  • Charlotte Garden (Seattle University School of Law)
  • Darrell A.H. Miller (Duke University School of Law)
  • Maria Linda Ontiveros (University of San Francisco School of Law)
  • James Gray Pope (Rutgers University School of Law)
  • Aviam Soifer (William S. Richardson School of Law)
  • Lea VanderVelde (University of Iowa College of Law)
  • Ahmed White (University of Colorado School of Law)
  • Rebecca E. Zietlow (University of Toledo College of Law)

Contact us

Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality
901 12th Avenue
Sullivan Hall 313
Seattle, WA 98122-1090
Phone: 206-398-4394
Fax: 206-398-4077

Please note: The Korematsu Center will conclude its tenure at Seattle University in June 2024. We are in the process of building a new center for civil rights that will continue this important work. To learn more about those plans and ways that you can support them, please contact Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Affairs Feven Teklu at