The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom

A Legal History

229 pages

December, 2004

ISBN: 9780814782767



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Alexander Tsesis is Assistant Professor at at the Loyola University School of Law, Chicago.

All books by Alexander Tsesis

In this narrative history and contextual analysis of the Thirteenth Amendment, slavery and freedom take center stage. Alexander Tsesis demonstrates how entrenched slavery was in pre-Civil War America, how central it was to the political events that resulted in the Civil War, and how it was the driving force that led to the adoption of an amendment that ultimately provided a substantive assurance of freedom for all American citizens.

The story of how Supreme Court justices have interpreted the Thirteenth Amendment, first through racist lenses after Reconstruction and later influenced by the modern civil rights movement, provides insight into the tremendous impact the Thirteenth Amendment has had on the Constitution and American culture. Importantly, Tsesis also explains why the Thirteenth Amendment is essential to contemporary America, offering fresh analysis on the role the Amendment has played regarding civil rights legislation and personal liberty case decisions, and an original explanation of the substantive guarantees of freedom for today's society that the Reconstruction Congress envisioned over a century ago.


  • "[A] comprehensive and brilliant book from both a historical and analytical perspective. Drawing from the lessons of history, Alexander Tsesis shows persuasively the relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment to a wide range of the social and economic issues currently facing America, and he offers highly creative arguments that support the use of congressional power under the Thirteenth Amendment as a potent and effective means of meeting and resolving these issues."

    —G. Sidney Buchanan, Baker & Botts Chaired Professor of Law, University of Houston Law Center

  • "Tsesis vigorously presents a set of arguments that are rarely found in the conventional legal literature. . . . an interesting and challenging book."

    —Sanford Levinson, University of Texas Law School

  • "For those looking for arguments to revitalize and expand the use of the Thirteenth Amendment, this is an interesting piece of advoacacy."

    Journal of American History

  • "...audacious and original. He (Tsesis) offers a blueprint as to how desperately needed reforms...can come about."

    —Richard Delgado, Michigan Law Review

  • "Alexander Tsesis's invigorating reevaluation of the Thirteenth Amendment agrees with many Lincoln Republicans that it embraced the Declaration of Independence."

    —Harold Hyman, Rice University