MEMPHIS, Tenn. — While many observe Juneteenth as the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans, it is not recognized as a state holiday in Tennessee, though it is a federal holiday.
Some lawmakers are working to change the language in the state constitution to fully celebrate being free.
Amendment Three has been on the books in Tennessee for the past 150 years.
It states, “slavery and involuntary servitude are forever prohibited in the state, except as a punishment for convicted crimes.”
State Senator and Memphis democrat Raumesh Akbari have created a resolution to end all forms of slavery.
“I think a lot of states are reexamining and realizing this exception occurs. While it’s not necessarily being used now, throughout the 1900s it was used as convict leasing — another way to enslave African Americans for petty crimes,” said State Senator Raumesh Akbari (D - Memphis).
So far, the resolution has been approved twice by the General Assembly. It will be on the electoral ballots across the state.
A group of Tennesseans has also enacted a campaign to vote “Yes on 3″ to raise awareness.
“My goal is for people to be aware of the exception and they will vote to make sure that it does not exist in our Constitution,” said Akbari. “It says a lot. It says a lot. As a state, we know that we have a dark history of slavery, but it says a lot for us as a state to enshrine in our Constitution that will never happen again.”
To read more about the campaign, click here.