These fascinating photos from 150 years ago show the brutal reality endured by slaves in America. They resurfaced on 153rd anniversary of 13th Amendment abolishing slavery being signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865. That came 2 years after President Lincoln declared slaves in designated areas of the South free with his Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War. But this series of photos show what life was like for slaves before the institution was abolished. Some show back-breaking work of picking cotton on plantations in Georgia, with another horrific photos shows the criss-crossing scars inflicted on one slave who was freed from a plantation in Louisiana. Others show newspaper clippings from the era, including advertisements for auction of slaves across United States. One even warns African-Americans that law enforcement has power to return them to their plantations should they escape. 13th amendment remains to this day the only ratified amendment to US Constitution to have been signed into law by a sitting President.

Under the rules of Constitution, Lincoln’s signature was not necessary for passing of the bill, having already been passed by both Congress and the Senate prior to this. The amendment was approved after a bitter Civil War devastated the country, pitting pro-slavery Confederate States of America, including Texas, Louisiana and Kentucky, against the mostly anti-slavery Union states, which included NY and Illinois. President Lincoln had already signed Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves within the Union, in January 1863, but 13th Amendment widened its scope to include the entirety of United States.

Speaking about slavery during his Presidency, Lincoln had told in a speech in 1864 ‘Slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature – opposition to it is in his love of justice. These principles are an eternal antagonism; and when brought into collision so fiercely, as slavery extension brings them, shocks, and throes, and convulsions must ceaselessly follow. Repeal the Missouri Compromise, repeal all compromises, repeal the declaration of independence, repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature. It still will be the abundance of man’s heart, that slavery extension is wrong; and out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will continue to speak.’

United States was one of the last leading Western nations to abolish slavery and the effects of country’s brutal past are still felt to this day.

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