AUGUSTA – The Maine State Archives is celebrating Black History Month by commemorating the State’s 150th anniversary of ratifying the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery.
The Maine State Archives has created a display of historic documents from the State’s February 1865 ratification process, which is featured this month in the Senate Majority Office at the State House and in the lobby of the Archives in the Cultural Building. In addition, a video of Secretary Matt Dunlap and State Archivist David Cheever discussing the anniversary is available on the department’s YouTube channel.
Documents shown in the display and video include the letter to the 44th Legislature from Gov. Samuel Cony, congratulating the legislators on abolishing the institution of slavery as well as Maine’s Act to Ratify the 13th Amendment and the joint resolution of the U.S. Congress, signed by then-U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward.
Maine ratified the amendment less than two weeks after receiving the Congressional resolution, noted Cheever. It was one of the first states to act, although it was not until the following year that enough states had ratified the Amendment to add it to the U.S. Constitution.
Other unique items in the collection that show how Maine was a leader in the abolition movement include a photo on the Archives website from the visit of renowned equal rights advocate Frederick Douglass, which took place in Old Orchard Beach during a gathering of Civil War veterans in 1877; incorporation documents of the Abyssinian Religious Society of Portland in 1829; the 1832 Resolve authorizing the governor to procure freedom for a free black sailor from Maine, who was detained in a southern jail; several petitions regarding slavery in the District of Columbia, including a 50-foot scroll petition from 1841 signed exclusively by women; and the list of voters for the 1864 national election where Maine allowed black people to vote – one of the few states to do so. Also in its collection are court records, legislative actions and military records.