June 18th, 2009
11:48 AM ET
6 years ago

Senate to take up resolution apologizing for slavery

Updated at 12:30 p.m. with Senate vote

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday was scheduled to consider a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for the wrongs of slavery.

The nonbinding resolution sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is similar to a House resolution adopted last year that acknowledged the wrongs of slavery but offered no reparations.

Several states have passed similar resolutions, but the House resolution was the first time a branch of the federal government did so.

Harkin's resolution "acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery, and Jim Crow laws," and "apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws."

Jim Crow, or Jim Crow laws, were state and local laws enacted mostly in the Southern and border states of the United States between the 1870s and 1965, when African-Americans were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties, and were legally segregated from whites.

Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendants of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.

UPDATE: The measure passed the Senate Thursday on a voice vote. While the House passed a similar resolution last year, the chamber will have to vote on it again this session. It is unclear if and when the House will take it up.

The measure will not go to the president because this is a non-binding resolution of the Congress.


Filed under: Senate • Tom Harkin
soundoff (267 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Apologize for 400+ years of slavery and no reparations. Something has to give. I don't need a handout, but why has this taken so long to do? I guess having an African American President makes a difference huh?

    June 18, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  2. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    Apology, yes. Compensation, no.

    June 18, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  3. Ken in Mt

    I would think that anyone who had been a slave under a system of state sanctioned slavery should be recompensed.
    However slavery was eliminated in the US in 1864 and all those kept in slavery have passed on so it's sort of a moot point

    June 18, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  4. Ted

    Gee, that should make everything okay. After all, 50 years after they were freed, my people were getting slaughtered, but Obama is afraid to recognize that atrocity.

    Sorry, I'm not sorry for anything I didn't do or my ancestors didn't do. I would think now that we have an African American president, all the top athletes, the top actors, the richest woman in the world, etc. that maybe some folks just need to move on. The vast majority of Americans have no connection to slavery whatsoever, other than their own people having been enslaved by someone a long time ago. When are those Romans going to apologize?

    June 18, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  5. Scott the Independent

    We know the republican party will vote NO on this one.

    June 18, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  6. Lee

    We should not apologize or give them reparations for something that was committed so long ago. They already get it easy don't throw more fuel on the fire.

    June 18, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  7. Tom

    Cash for suffering? How about they pay us for being bought by the Europeans, taken to the new world, and in the end educated and included in a higher standard of living than being a POW of their own peoples of Africa. Look at the Great Pyramids of Egypt, could they have been built without slavery? The world should not have to appologize, just recognize that it was wrong and not repeat it.

    June 18, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  8. Obama 2.0

    Say your sorry and move on.

    June 18, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  9. Chris from NY

    I am a black woman. But I say we don't need an apology from any one. Let by -gone be by-gone. Create an environment where every one has equal opportunity at success or faioure and the blacks will be okay. Otherwise no apology is ever going to feed their kids or pay for their education.

    June 18, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  10. Peoples Voice

    That's right, folks. We have nothing better to do in the Senate.

    June 18, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  11. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    I guess this is necessary. It could a tactic to keep people in Washington to keep working. Does it mean that there will be payments to go along with it? I can understand the need for an appology. Given that there are questions as to who would receive what, for how long and how much; these are some serious question about goes along with that "I'm sorry" declaration.

    June 18, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  12. Ken in Mt

    I would think that anyone who had been a slave under a system of state sanctioned slavery should be recompensed.
    However slavery was eliminated in the US in 1864 and all those kept in slavery have passed on so it's sort of a moot point.

    June 18, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  13. Enough

    Oh come on!! The past is the past, the present does not need to apologize for the past. Who are you apologizing to and who are you apologizing for? You weren't my slave and I wasn't your master.

    June 18, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    How about renaming some of these southern cities in the south. Prime example: Lynchburg, Virginia

    Jim Crow laws were unhumane, but not as unhumane as the law in place prior to it. I don't even want to get too deep in this, but an apology can't make up for slavery. There may be many African American christians in the U.S., but people from Africa, their primary religion is Islam. So not only were we enslaved, we were brainwashed, whipped, hung, killed. Need I go on?

    June 18, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  15. Once You Vote Black: Mute Newt

    Gr8! and I hope reperations will be next. This way I can get my money from Southern Cousin and Matt in Detroit! We paid reperations to the Japs, Jews, and Red Skins, why not for us?

    June 18, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  16. Fed Up

    Welfare seems to be making up for the wrongs of the past!!

    June 18, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  17. Joe

    I nor my family or ancestors benefitted from slavery just like millions of other white people in America and we shouldnt take part in any apologizing or compensation. I wont apologize for the actions of others.

    June 18, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. FLP

    Didn't Clinton apologize for this already?? The past is the past and it's time to move on. Those who had the slaves are the ones who should apologize to them, not you or me!

    June 18, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  19. David

    Acknowledgement and apology is a good idea. Cash payouts...NO. Maybe this gesture from our government can help us turn the page and move forward once more.

    The more energy focused on the past, only helps those stuck there, recreate that experience in their own lives again and again in different ways. Someone else will 'always' be responsible for their life experiences.

    Acknowledgement and apology is all that's needed.

    June 18, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. Fair is Fair

    Finally, an Obama administration apology I agree with.

    And yes, I'm caucasian. A caucasian who is thoroughly disgusted that racism, in every sense, is still prevalent.

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  21. Once You Vote Black: Mute Newt

    Suger Land TX was paved by Black Folks.

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  22. makesUwonder

    While they are at it I sure hope they thank all the WHITE AMERICANS that lost their lives fighting slavery. And since the slaves came from Africa shouldn't the African government give an apology? After all they did trade their people and put them them into slavery.

    As far as compensation, well, guess that's more money out of my paycheck. (taxes)

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  23. youhavetojoking

    I want an apology and handout cause my ancestors were mistreated as immigrants. Where can I get my check?

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  24. Lee W. in Raleigh, NC

    Do actions like this really help the lingering feeling of injustice or do they just serve as another reminder? No one who had anything to do with slavery is still alive. It's history. Maybe it'd be best if we left it as history.

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. ANGIE

    About time!

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
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