On April 22, 2019, after years of work, SJR159 passed, which is the first step in making the abolition of slavery universal in Tennessee, with no exceptions. A friend in prison convinced me years ago that mass incarceration will never end until we can no longer apply slavery and involuntary servitude to those who are convicted of a crime. Four and a half years ago when I pledged that No Exceptions would lead the struggle for universal abolition, I was told by numerous individuals that it would never happen in Tennessee. It’s happening. Thank you to all of you who believed. Stay tuned though, we aren’t close to finished, this is the first step in a multi-year process in Tennessee, and once it is on the ballot we will need folks fighting for this constitutional amendment across the state. Additionally, we are taking this fight to the federal level. The 13th Amendment doesn’t actually abolish slavery as most of you know by now. In collaboration with other groups at the national level, we’re going to change that reality. A huge thank you to our partner in this struggle Rep. Joe Towns, who never quits; and also a big thank you to Sen. Akbari for working this through the Senate.
Article 1 Section 33 of the Tennessee Constitution reads: “That slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, are forever prohibited in this state.” We the undersigned individuals and organizations believe that the time is long overdue for the State of Tennessee, and indeed the United States of America, to permanently abolish all forms of slavery with no exceptions. To that end we call on the Tennessee Legislature, the Governor, and the citizens of Tennessee to amend Section 33 to henceforth read “That slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited in this state.” The only moral response to slavery is abolition, and we refuse to continue to participate in this immoral order which is nothing short of a crime against humanity.
Children’s Defense Fund
Dawn Deaner, elected Public Defender Nashville
Harriet Tubman House
H & S Farm
Human Rights Defense Center
Just City, Memphis
Mercy Junction, Chattanooga
NAACP – Nashville Branch
No Exceptions Prison Collective
Open Table Nashville
Selma Center for Nonviolence, Truth & Reconciliation
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)