Ky Commission on Human Rights

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights’ governing board wants to see a change to a section of the state constitution that allows slavery as criminal punishment.

Section 25 of the Kentucky Constitution's Bill of Rights reads, “Slavery and involuntary servitude in this State are forbidden, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” The text was ratified in August 1891.

The commission unanimously passed a resolution Thursday urging Kentuckians to get rid of the provision and issued a statement saying its removal would be another step toward expunging “all vestiges of the cruel and immoral institution of slavery" following this summer's racially-motivated church killings in Charleston, S.C.

Commission executive director John J. Johnson says he was recently surprised to learn of the provision’s presence in the state constitution.

“Someone called it to my attention a few months ago and I almost thought surely slavery is not still referenced in the Kentucky constitution and we looked it up and, sure enough, it was,” Johnson said.

“Why not remove it? There’s no need for it to be suggested that slavery is even legal as a punishment for a crime," Johnson said.

WKU History Department

WKU History Professor John Hardin, who specializes in African American History, will appear tonight on the NBC television network program, "Who Do You Think You Are?"  Dr. Hardin helped to research the family history of former Pittsburgh Steeler running back Jerome Bettis, the family story that will be traced in tonight's program.  The story has roots in slavery in western Kentucky.  Dan Modlin has more.......