Approaching the 150th anniversary of the Thirteenth Amendment, we find ourselves in a period of heightened concern about issues of economic inequality. If any provision of the United States Constitution speaks to those issues, it is the Thirteenth Amendment. The Amendment's proponents maintained that it established "freedom" and a "free labor system," a view eventually accepted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Beginning after the turn of the millennium, Congress has drawn on the Amendment to support legislation outlawing the "new slavery," including — for the first time — forms of labor control other than physical force or legal compulsion. Conversely, state governments have cited the Amendment's punishment clause to justify forced labor by prisoners in a rapidly growing archipelago of private prisons and prison industries.
Paper proposals focused on the Thirteenth Amendment and include class or labor as an important theme. Proposals addressing the relations (including relative priorities) and intersections of race, gender, and sexual orientation with class or labor were strongly encouraged.
The Thirteenth Amendment Through The Lens of Class and Labor Conference was sponsored by the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at the Seattle University School of Law, the Seattle University School of Law, and the University of Washington School of Law. The conference was held at the Seattle University School of Law on May 31-June 1, 2015, immediately following the annual meeting of the Law & Society Association.
The planning committee for the Sesquicentennial Conference on the Thirteenth Amendment through the Lens of Class and Labor included: