Mississippi finally abolishes slavery officially — thanks to Indian-American professor

VANCOUVER DESI/IANS

Dr. Ranjan Batra

Dr. Ranjan Batra, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre, started looking into states ratifying the 13th Amendment after watching Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Screengrab/MSNBC

Better late than never.

The curiosity of an Indian-American professor has led to slavery officially being abolished across the United States — 148 years after U.S. President Abraham Lincoln’s emancipation declaration.

The state of Mississippi finally ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery only earlier this month, due in great measure to Dr. Ranjan Batra, associate professor of neurobiology and anatomical sciences at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre.

Batra, who became a U.S. citizen in 2008, last November started looking into states ratifying the amendment after watching Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln,” an Oscar-nominated film which depicts the political fight to pass it, according to The Clarion Ledger, a state newspaper.

As Batra learnt from the usconstitution.net website, after Congress voted for the 13th Amendment in January 1864, the measure went to the states for ratification.

On Dec 6, 1865, the amendment received the three-fourths’ vote it needed when Georgia became the 27th state to ratify it. States that rejected the measure included Delaware, Kentucky, New Jersey and Mississippi.

In the months and years that followed, states continued to ratify the amendment, including those that had initially rejected it. New Jersey ratified the amendment in 1866, Delaware in 1901 and Kentucky in 1976.

But there was an asterisk beside Mississippi. A note read: “Mississippi ratified the amendment in 1995, but because the state never officially notified the U.S. Archivist, the ratification is not official.”

Batra, according to the Clarion Ledger, then told colleague Ken Sullivan who called the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register to inform them that Mississippi was yet to ratify the 13th Amendment.

Sullivan was able to retrieve a copy of a 1995 Senate resolution, which passed both the Mississippi House and Senate, that ratified the amendment to abolish slavery, but it was never sent to the Office of the Federal Register.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann sent the Office of the Federal Register a copy of the 1995 Senate bill and on Feb. 7, Mississippi finally ratified the 13th Amendment.

“Now it’s officially filed and recorded,” Sullivan told the Clarion Ledger. “There’s no asterisk by Mississippi any more.”

“Mississippi gets a lot of bad press about this type of stuff and I just felt that it is something that should be fixed, and I saw every reason that could be done,” Batra told ABC News.

“Everyone here would like to put this part of Mississippi’s past behind us and move on into the 21st century rather than the 19th,” he said.

Sullivan also remarked on the unlikely pairing of an immigrant from India and a life-long southerner working together to resolve the oversight.

“You have Dr. Batra, who is the immigrant and me who is the native-born, life-long resident of Mississippi, it was a unique pair,” he said.

IANS 2013-02-20 15:04:04

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