Skip to main content


This Article discusses why the Thirteenth Amendment's reach extends beyond the institution of slavery and has important implications for civil liberties. The Amendment—in providing a mechanism to protect fundamental rights articulated in the Declaration of Independence and Preamble to the Constitution—not only ended slavery, but also created a substantive assurance of freedom. This Article reviews Thirteenth Amendment jurisprudence and shows that, despite substantial narrowing after its adoption, the Amendment is a source of sweeping constitutional power for enacting federal civil rights legislation. The Article also distinguishes congressional power under the Thirteenth Amendment from that under the Fourteenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause, demonstrating that the Thirteenth Amendment is a viable, and at times preferable, alternative for civil rights reforms. Finally, the Article suggests that recent U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence limiting congressional Commerce Clause and Fourteenth Amendment Section 5 powers has increased the importance of the Thirteenth Amendment as an alternative strategy for civil rights legislation and litigation.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
6 Sep 2022
4.44 MB



  • Subject
    • Civil Rights and Discrimination

    • Fourteenth Amendment

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 45

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Pagination
    • 307

  • Date submitted

    6 September 2022