Civil rights icon John Lewis reads amendment that abolishes slavery

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), Congress’s most prominent civil rights icon, received a standing ovation on the floor of the House after reading aloud the Constitution’s 13th amendment, which abolished slavery.

“I was very pleased and honored to read this important amendment which helped to make democracy more real in the lives of all American citizens,” Lewis told The Hill in a statement.

In the 1960s, Lewis was a civil rights icon, organizing sit-in demonstrations and challenging Jim Crow segregation across the Deep South. 


Lewis and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) were the only two members invited by the floor manager, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), to read assigned sections of the document. House leadership read first sections and then slots were handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.  

The 13th amendment, read by Lewis:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.