Life After the Thirteenth Amendment

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12282

Do you own a pet? Does your mom or dad work for someone and get paid? Imagine owning a person and not paying them for work. Slavery was like that; now, it's illegal, but some bad effects still remain!


Social Studies, United States

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • What do you think life was like after slavery ended in America?
  • Was it magically better for everyone?

One of the easiest ways to get rich throughout history was to own slaves.

Getting other people to do the work — for free — meant that you could keep all the money and didn’t have to do any of the work. To many people, slavery seemed like a normal part of life. It wasn’t until the 1800s that a majority of people began to see that slavery was violent, brutal, and immoral.

Between the years 1525 and 1866, over ten million people were abducted from parts of Africa to become slaves in the New World — North and South America. By the 1860s, there were over four million slaves in the United States. The states of the North and the South fought the Civil War over the right to keep slaves.

President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, which freed the slaves in the “rebel” states. That didn’t quite end slavery by law in America, though. The end of slavery would come once and for all when Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865.

  • What is an amendment?

The Constitution is the document that explains the basic rules of American government. The Constitution allows people to add further changes later on as the needs of the times change. Many amendments have been passed over the years, including amendments about elections and voting and other issues. As of 2017, there are currently 27 amendments.

Read more about the amendment that finally ended slavery in the United States at US Government Thirteenth Amendment, courtesy of As you do, note the answers to these questions:

  • How many parts of the amendment are there?
  • What do they say?
  • What is the meaning of “involuntary servitude”?
  • Why was this amendment needed?

Share the information you found with your parent or teacher, then discuss the following:

  • What could an amendment do that the Emancipation Proclamation couldn’t do?
  • Some states did not agree with the Thirteenth Amendment. Why do you think they didn’t?
  • What problems do you think might have happened after the Thirteenth Amendment passed?

Life changed in big ways after the Thirteenth Amendment. The biggest changes were in the South, where slavery had become an important part of society.

In the Got It? section, explore some of the changes that came after slavery ended.

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