Abraham Lincoln is the biggest action hero in Hollywood these days, with his character starring in such recent blockbusters as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the Steven Spielberg movie about Lincoln’s quieter side, and probably Django Unchained. As so often happens when a film captures the heart of America, a neurobiology professor at the University of Mississippi saw Lincoln and wondered if slavery was still allowed where he lives and works.
Dr. Ranjan Batra immigrated to the United States from India and became a U.S. citizen four years ago. With the zeal typical of the new citizen, Batra asked somebody to look on a website, which led to the discovery that Mississippi had never ratified the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery. But things move more slowly in the South, so why should an outsider doctor bother the great state of Mississippi just because it ignored the 13th Amendment it was supposed to ratify 148 years ago?
Mississippi’s legislature first got around to voting on the 13th Amendment in 1995, with several elected politicians in the southern state actually abstaining from the vote because aren’t black people supposed to be slaves? But the state never filed the proper paperwork with the federal government, and it probably would’ve stayed that way forever if not for Dr. Batra seeing Lincoln and having the obvious thought that probably Mississippi was not really on board with the whole 13th Amendment thing from 1865.
Mississippi is one of nine southern states—including honorary southern states Arizona and Alaska—where the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is in force, because of persistent racism. An overwhelmingly white and Republican county in neighboring Alabama is currently trying to overturn the Voting Rights Act. The Supreme Court will hear this case at the end of February. And in the cold wet ground beneath Lincoln’s Tomb, a long-dead hero begins to stir ….