Today Colorado voters turned out to pass Amendment A, finally abolishing slavery from the state’s constitution. The change will now see language removed from the constitution that permitted slavery and involuntary servitude as a form of punishment for prisoners.
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Specifically, the state constitution will now eliminate this line: “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
Abolish Slavery Colorado, the ACLU, and the NAACP campaigned to build support for Amendment A, with three Democrats, Rep. Jovan Melton, Rep. Joseph Salazar, and Sen. Angela Williams, and one Republican Sen. Larry Crowder sponsoring the legislation.
While official opposition to the amendment has been limited, activists promoting Amendment A have been subjected to harassment.
On Monday, Jumoke Emery, a lead organizer at Abolish Slavery Colorado, a posted a photo of a pile of burned Amendment A flyers on Facebook, saying that the flyers had been burned on his front porch. In an interview with the Colorado Sun, Emery likened the action to “a cross burning in my front yard.”
With the amendment passing successfully this time, advocates finally achieved the victory they fought for two years ago. But they acknowledge that this victory is more about the reaffirming the state’s values than immediately changing prison labor conditions.
The Tuesday result makes Colorado one of the first states to remove this language from its constitution. Governing magazine notes that bills “with similar goals failed this year in Wisconsin and stalled in Tennessee.”
This isn’t the first time Colorado voters have voted to abolish slavery. In 2016, a similar measure called Amendment T was on the ballot, yet it failed to pass due to the confusing wording of the text.
Yet this year anti-slavery activists were determined to win.
“We did our due diligence ahead of time, and we had legal assistance from the state legislature, from the ACLU,” said Emery.
“I hope that this puts forth the message that our past doesn’t have to be our future, that by and large we as Americans are interested in fixing our mistakes.”
However, advocates have acknowledged that this “victory is more about the reaffirming the state’s values than immediately changing prison labor conditions.”
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