Daniel Day-Lewis in 'Lincoln'

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln has been criticized in some quarters for inaccurately showing Connecticut congressmen voting against the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. Now the movie can take credit for Mississippi finally officially ratifying the amendment – this month.

That’s right, Mississippi never got around to it until now, a century and a half after the events depicted in the much-lauded film. The movie was instrumental in getting the ball rolling.

An associate professor at the University of Mississippi Medical Center saw Lincoln in November and wondered what happened after Congress ratified the measure in 1864, according to a story in the Jackson Clarion-Ledger on Sunday. The professor, Ranjan Batra, did research and learned that the measure could not become law until the legislatures of three-fourths of the states voted to ratify the amendment.

The amendment received the necessary number of state ratifications in December, 1865, but Mississippi was one of a handful of states that voted to reject the amendment.

As a symbolic gesture, every state eventually voted to ratify the amendment, including Mississippi, which finally ratified the 13th Amendment in 1995. But Mississippi was the only state to never officially notify the U.S. Archivist of the ratification. Until that happens, the ratification is not official.

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A former state official said a 1995 “error in filing” was to blame for the mishap. But the power of Lincoln can be credited for correcting the error.

Batra told a colleague at the university about what he’d learned. The colleague, Ken Sullivan, still hadn’t seen the movie. He took his wife to see Lincoln that weekend and, according to the newspaper story, he was so overwhelmed by the story of how the 16th President struggled to get the anti-slavery measure passed that he grew teary.

“People stood up and applauded at the end of it,” Sullivan said of Lincoln. “That’s the first time I ever saw an audience do that.”

Sullivan decided then to do everything he could to make his state’s ratification of the amendment official.

“I felt very connected to the history,” he told the newspaper.

Sullivan contacted the secretary of state’s office. There was no resistance. The office did the paperwork and sent it in to make Mississippi’s ratification official.

When contacted by the Clarian-Ledger, Dick Molpus, who was secretary of state in 1995, said Mississippi’s ratification of the anti-slavery amendment was never made official until now because of  a clerical error. “What an amendment to have an error in filing,” he said.

Molpus said that he, too, had been moved by Spielberg’s movie.

“It was one of the most inspirational movies I’ve ever seen.”

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  • About Eric Harrison

    Eric Harrison reviewed movies and covered film for a decade for the Los Angeles Times and Houston Chronicle. His movie coverage continues here on InsideMovies.net. You also can read Eric's movie coverage geared to Houston, the nation's fourth largest city, on MovieHouston.com. Find out more at EricHarrison.org.
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