June 18th, 2009
11:48 AM ET
9 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. walleye

    If anyone should get an apology it would be the FIRST Americans. The ones we stole all this land from.

    June 18, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  2. nadine

    Just another form of a hand out to keep people more down so that they can complain longer. What about the true people affected by this, Native Americans. How they still suffere today

    June 18, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  3. J in NJ

    This whole issue is a joke. As a person of European descent I want an apology from Africans. FACT-1: more Europeans were enslaved by Africans in Aftica than Africans were ensalved by Europeans in America. FACT-2: slavery was a global issue, every group of people on the face of the earth were, at one time or another, a slave.

    The historical facts are quite simple: any group of people who could have been taken advantage of were taken advantage of. Slavery was not a new concept and not invented by Americans. It had been happening world wide for centuries before anyone set foot on the North American continent. Why is it that we seem to think that the enslavement of Africans by Europeans on the North American continent is something special, it's not!

    Secondly slavery was not born out of racism. Racism was born out of slavery. Racism was nothing more than an excuse for slave owners to justify the continuation of slavery. The bottom line is this. In the USA we are all are equal in the eyes of the law and that equality is guaranteed by the constitution. No need for an apology or anything else.

    June 18, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  4. Abby

    LibertyQueen, all religious people voted against Prop 8. It is racist of you to point out black people as if they owe you something just because they were discriminated against. while it was mormons etc that paid the bill for it.

    June 18, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  5. Hakim in Frisco Texas

    Let's be clear African-Americans are not looking for a hand out. An acknowledgment and apology from the United States government is more than overdue. It's interesting how people say "move on", when it comes to 400 years of slavery, however, when it comes to the holocaust (which was absolutley terrible and a terrible stain on the world), no one ever says to move on. One can move on but still acknowledge the sins of the past. Think if a German person told a Jewish person to just move on. I look forward to the United States soon offering an official apology for slavery. I don't need reparations but doing the right thing is in order.

    June 18, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  6. FAYE, NV

    Racism will never die in America, we all will die at some point, however, racism lives on. Hatred is a disease and it eat at one soul make it impossible for us all the be treated equally. Many have been abused by someone of different skin color.

    There are still white who hate black and viz, this don't like that one. This country is better than other countries. And we are right they are wrong or they are right and we're wrong. Nothing is right in some eyesight.

    How can we be at the same peace, health, happiness, famiy and children etc and yet instill not respect each other? If you love yourself it should be easy to love others. Most of us believe in God but act as thou we are justisfied by Him to behave and treat one another like a scumbag. Shame on us and this country of people.

    June 18, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. Abby

    James, James, James! wow What can one say to such hate, such pure bile? nothing at all 🙂

    June 18, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. brian

    because africa is better?

    June 18, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  9. Gravitas

    It's ok to apologize to the Jews, Japanese but when it comes time to apologize to the Blacks for the most heinous crime in history they start throwing a fit. And they say America is post-racial, please.

    And you idiots who are all saying that your ancestors arrived here after slavery or did not own slaves, you all benefit from White Privilege, do I need to tell you that? But you won't acknowledge that, only when it seems that Blacks are the beneficiaries of any proposition you all of a sudden become very indignant. Why are you all so scared of an apology? Is it because it highlights what evil animals your ancestors (and most of you today) truly were and still are?

    BTW I'm not for reparations. an apology is way way overdue. Start preparing your speech. I'm all ears.

    June 18, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  10. Ron teller

    Wow, there are some real smart people in this section. Lynchburg was founded by German immigrants, do you not read or get that the name itself is of German descent? Lets not forget that democrats were the dominant party of the slave movement in the 1800's which cracks me up why so many blacks are democratic. The truth of the matter is that there were only approximately 300k slaves in the south and they were not mistreated as many are led to believe. If you had a workhorse would you beat it every day and starve it so it could do a worse job? Atrocities have occurred for all races, the chinese were among these with the railroad build up, what about the indians that were basically wiped out. But do you really think that this is going to further the black community by giving them yet another hand out to cash with their welfare check?

    June 18, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  11. james

    apologies have already been made. no money should be handed out unless there is an african american defying the laws of human life and is still alive from the slavery days. this is absurd. dont we have more important issues to deal with?!

    June 18, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  12. Frank

    Joey from San Diego,

    Where did you learn your history? The Civil War was not about slavory was about the deep-seated economic, social, and political differences between the North and the South.

    June 18, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    Here's the thing:

    "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."

    Yeah, and some members of the white and hispanic and asian and alien and gerbil and MSM communities blabber stupid nonsense too. I don't see anywhere in the apology bill or anywhere else that the Senate or House are even remotely considering doling out reparations. Everyone who responded to this overly general baiting statement stuck in there by CNN to ramp up the Ticker Commentary is a silly fool.

    June 18, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    The senate really knows how to waste time and tax payers money. Thoughs times are over and done with move on, our country has more to worry about now with the economy. We owe them nothing. It was the african tribes that were enslaving other tribes in their own country and selling them to the Americas.

    June 18, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    @ LibertyQueen, who pointed out "Blacks in California as a race voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8 which denies the Civil Rights of Lesbians and Gays. "

    Indeed. Homophobia is rampant in the African American community. Look back on American history and you'll see it's not so suprising though. Historically, groups who immigrated here and suffered at the hands of those who had already arrived, turned around and leveled the same crap at the next group. "No Irish Need Apply" ring a bell?

    June 18, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  16. pt

    To all those who thinks anyone owes them. Get over it. You will never be satisfied even if you get it. Will these same giveme people now demand Africans to say sorry as well? No, they just love the power over some people.
    Many groups of people were enslaved but are not attempting to pull a "power grabbing guilt trip" on others. If I owe anyone's descendants an apology for the slavery my ancestors and I did not commit, then these same descendants owe me a heartfelt thank you for freeing them. Blacks were not the only ones to be enslaved and were not allowed to own property, vote, etc. in American history.
    For all those who were abused with "you owe me because my family were slaves," check out you local, state, and federal historical records. You can prove or disprove your ancestors were slaves and owners. However, many blacks were never slaves since they came to America with their freedom. Some people just assumed the slave descendent title to play little power head games.

    June 18, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  17. New Age Democrat

    I wish I had heard of this prior to the vote so I could ask my representatives to abstain. This, along with the other "non-binding" resolutions are a complete joke, not to mention a waste of time and money. It's not for I or anyone else to apologize for the inhuman actions in which we played no part.

    It's time to be rid of this political foolishness. Harkin needs to go.

    June 18, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  18. Johnny DC

    That's right, demand compensation. From whom? From the modern-day US Government budget, which is comprised of tax money collected from the hard-earned wages of Hispanics, Jews, African-Americans, Native-Americans, and recent immigrants from India, Pakistan, Europe, South America, etc... oh yes, and of course the 10% of Americans that are actually descendants of white 1700's American Protestant families.

    So lets take all of those people's money, and filter them all to the families of African-American descendants of American slaves. But not the wealthier African-American families. There has to be a cutoff based on need. We'll give the money to the needier families that haven't put forth the effort to free themselves from their surroundings.

    That sounds fair. Good idea.

    June 18, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  19. RepubliKLANs Are Stupid As Stupid Does

    apology on paper, PUHLEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!

    June 18, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  20. Darth Vadik, CA


    Two wrongs don't make a right, because the majority of Blacks voted for prop 8 does not mean that they were right. They were wrong, one day, they, like most people that voted for prop 8 will be and feel no beter than the anti-segregationists of the 50's and 60's. But that is no reason not to do the right thing today, and yes appologize for slavery.

    June 18, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  21. Confused in Neb.

    I agree slavery is and was WRONG should not have happened.

    But the is the typical crap that goes on, thats what is wrong with the House and Senate... rome is burning and they fiddle. Just something else they can to to get on the books before they break for summer, so if and when they come up for reelection they can say "look what I did".

    June 18, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  22. history repeats


    why would obama apologize to the irish for the way the english treated them in their own country? and the irish were OPPRESSED not forced into slavery for 400+ yrs

    June 18, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  23. Alex Badme, Albuquerque, NM

    BO will love this . MORE APPOLOGIES NO ACTION. The lawyers will get lost more money to give to BO and his cronies

    June 18, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  24. ss

    The evilness of slavery lives on just look at some of these comment. Black American still live with seperation, disparity, haterd and bitterness. It still one sided Blacks will always be judge by the color of their skin. People think it's okay to have humility for the Japanesse, the Native American, the immgrants, the early white settlers, but when it comes to blacks. At work a black person always has to do more. In the stores black people have to produce twice as many piece of id to write a check. Whites can committ a crime. People say oh he was a good girl or boy don't know where he went wrong. Let get him/her some help; blacks it to be excepted. To forget slavery is to forget the blood sweat and tears; that have brought black this far. It should never happen. Blacks should be compensated and respected.

    June 18, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  25. Rob

    I personally don't have any problem appologizing to the Black community for something that is a very dark stain on our history as a nation. However, lets think about this a minute; this is an apology coming not from the White people of America but from our Congressional body that the majority of the AMERICAN people currently do not approve of (check the current congreesional approval rate). That being said, this appears to be just another hollow gesture to when votes.

    Buttom line is that it makes no difference whether the actual words are spoken or not. Until all AMERICANS learn to treat each other as equals it is just that, words.

    June 18, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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