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13th Amendment floor 2 webOne hundred and fifty years ago this week, members of the 24th Illinois General Assembly made Illinois the first state to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery in the United States. Today, I stood - the great-granddaughter of a slave and a member of the 99th General Assembly - to recognize our predecessors' courage and the significance of the Thirteenth Amendment in driving the freedom train farther down history's long track. Following a moving ceremony commemorating the ratification vote, the Senate adopted a resolution I sponsored to designate February of 2015 as Thirteenth Amendment Ratification Month in Illinois.

Here are the remarks I gave in presenting the resolution.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "The time is always right to do what is right." One hundred and fifty years ago, our predecessors in this institution acted swiftly to seize the opportunity they were given to do justice.

The Thirteenth Amendment finally abolished slavery – a heinous system that not only exploited human beings for economic gain, tearing apart families and claiming countless lives, but institutionalized the idea, which still poisons our nation today, that some people are inferior to others simply because of the color of their skin.

Its abolition, of course, was long overdue. But we can be proud that on February 1, 1865, our state's leaders wasted no time in demanding that the laws of this nation no longer allow one man or woman to own another. Their courageous vote set us on a path we still walk today, and it is my hope that on this anniversary, we will turn our attention to that path – how far we've come, how far we still must go and what each one of us can do to get there.

It is with great pride in my state and my colleagues and with determination to continue the struggle against all forms of injustice threatening our common humanity that I urge the adoption of this resolution.

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