Minnesota lawmakers and St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell launched an effort this week to remove references to slavery and involuntary servitude from the Minnesota Constitution. Despite being banned since statehood was achieved in 1858, the Minnesota Constitution still contains outdated permissive language regarding slavery.
Article I, Section 2 of the Minnesota Constitution reads, in part, “there shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the state otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted.” The proposed amendment would remove the clause “otherwise than as punishment for a crime of which the party has been convicted.”
The Minnesota constitution should reflect Minnesota values. It’s inappropriate that references to slavery still exists in the state’s constitution, even if it’s narrowly constructed and obsolete. While progress has undoubtedly been made in expanding civil rights, racial bias remains persistent, and it’s unacceptable that people of color continue to face such significant disparities. By amending the constitution to remove this troublesome language, Minnesotans have the opportunity to make the state a more inclusive place to call home.
In 2018, Colorado voters removed a similar clause from that state’s constitution, with 65% approving the measure. The 13th amendment to the United States Constitution – which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude – contains similar language to that contained in the Minnesota Constitution which lawmakers are looking to remove. (SF 2974)