America made slavery illegal in 1865, right? Hum, some of the states may want to check their paperwork just to make sure.
The state of Mississippi found itself finally formally ratifying the 13th Amendment – that one that abolished slavery – on February 7, 2013.
Now as you can imagine, being a southern state, Mississippi officials were probably less than excited about ratifying this amendment back in the late 1800s. So not eager to let this long standing tradition go, Mississippi officials didn’t even get around to voting on the ratification until 1995. 1995? Yes, it was 130 years after the fact and Mississippi was the last state to vote, but at least the vote was unanimous, if that helps any.
But, there was a paperwork error. At least we can only hope it was an error. The state failed to send the paperwork of this vote into the Office of Federal Register, so slavery still wasn’t officially illegal until that was filed.
Who at last discovered the error? It was University of Mississippi coworkers Ken Sullivan and Dr. Ranjan Batra. Dr. Batra, an associate professor who became a U.S. citizen in 2008, and Sullivan, who worked in the body donation program at the university, began doing some research after watching the film Lincoln. After discovering the vote had never been sent in, Sullivan contacted the Mississippi Secretary of State office, who got the ball rolling on this.
The paperwork was then mailed off to the national archives and the Federal Register confirmed that at last, Mississippi had indeed ratified the 13th Amendment.
The two men did get really cool recognition for their discovery. Director Steven Spielberg, who directed Lincoln, which is up for 12 Academy Awards tonight, sent a letter to Sullivan which read, “On behalf of Tony Kushner, the writer of LINCOLN, Daniel Day-Lewis, our producer, Kathy Kennedy, and myself, I want to thank you and your colleague, Dr. Batra, for making this discovery and then following through to ensure that Mississippi would, after nearly 150 years, officially ratify the 13th Amendment to our Constitution.”