Emancipation and Liberation

U.S. History in January

Passing of the 13th Amendment  

On January 31, 1865, with a vote of 119 to 56, the 13th Amendment was officially passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The passing of the amendment was an important step towards ending the institution of slavery in the United States. Even though the 13th Amendment was passed during a time when none of the southern states were represented within the federal government, the amendment still had a difficult time being pushed through the House of Representatives.

In April 1864, the amendment was passed in the U.S. Senate with relative ease by a vote of 38 to 6. When it moved on to the House of Representatives in June 1864 it did not receive the two-thirds approval needed, falling by a count of 93 in favor to 65 opposed. President Abraham Lincoln and the Republican Party had to reinvigorate the effort to pass the amendment, and it was once again sent to the House of Representatives in January 1865. After the amendment was finally passed by the House of Representatives, it was sent to the states for ratification. The states ratified the 13th Amendment in December 1865.

Learn more about the passing of the 13th Amendment at: 


Research Question (8th Grade):
England and France almost came to the aid of the Confederacy during the Civil War, but after the issue of slavery became a part of the war they decided not to intervene. Why, after the issue of slavery was introduced, did they not come to aid of the Confederacy?

Research question (8th-9th grades):
Why did the 13th Amendment pass through the Senate with ease, but have a hard time being passed by the House of Representatives?

World History in January

“Arbeit macht frei”

On January 26, 1945, Soviet Russian soldiers entered the gates of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp located in Nazi occupied Poland. As the Russian troops moved through the camp they remained vigilant for a German ambush, but they encountered no Germans. Instead, the Russians came face-to-face with roughly 7,000 malnourished and diseased camp prisoners who were either too weak or too injured to make the forced march to a different camp when the Nazis fled the area. Along with the survivors, the Russians also discovered the moldering corpses of about 600 murdered prisoners, hundreds of thousands of men’s suits and women’s clothing articles and over seven and a half ton of human hair. As startling as these discoveries were they still did not expose the entire scope of the horrific events that happened at Auschwitz-Birkenau from 1940 to 1945.

The Auschwitz concentration camp opened in the spring of 1940, shortly after the annexation of Poland. It was initially built as a detention center for Polish political prisoners, but after Adolf Hitler officially imposed his “Final Solution” policy in 1941 Auschwitz was chosen as a location for a death camp given its central location in the German Reich and for the large network of railways in the area. From 1941 to 1945 Auschwitz and its surrounding camps of Birkenau and Monowitz operated as both extermination camps and as forced labor camps for Jews, political prisoners, Romani, Poles, homosexuals, intellectuals and Soviet prisoners of war. Death toll estimates from Auschwitz-Birkenau and its surrounding camps range from 1.1 to 1.5 million, with the vast majority being Jewish.The true number of people who perished at Auschwitz-Birkenau may never be known.

Learn more about the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp at:

Learn more about the “Final Solution” at:

Learn more about the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau at:

Discussion Question (9th-12th grades): 

The German phrase “Arbeit macht frei” was scrolled across the front gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, it translates to “work will set you free.” What are the implications of this phrase? Why do you think the Nazi’s put this on the front gates?

Posted January 26, 2017

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