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. SUNSHINE

    you know an apology would be nice but reparations dont have to come in the form of giving money back to individual people. how about they take that money and go to every inner city and fix it up, repair the roads, repair and rebuild homes, open and maintain community centers and program, give on the job training, free or subsidized clinics and child care, school vouchers give underpriviliged African- Americans what they always wanted, respect and a fair chance!

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  2. Daniel, Atlanta, GA, ex-republican

    After the apology to African Americans, Georgia can apologize to gays as well! Mean-spirited Christianity and the GOP need to apologize for bigotry.

    June 18, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. CitizenAJ

    Brian G., the only people looking for compensation, a handout, are the typical lazy people of ALL cultures, societies, and ethinicities. Diligent people just want EQUAL opportunity. Slavery, the first holacaust, maybe one day it will be recognize for what it is. No concentration camps, plantations. No train rides to oblivion, boat rides that were fatal for many. The conditions on the ride over from Africa on this ships were horrible. I encourage EVERYONE to go visit the Black American museum in Baltimore where they depict slavery as it was. Combine that with the REAL history of slavery and you will understand why I refer to it as the first holacaust.

    June 18, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. Pat, CA

    How about apologizing to women, who were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties - and STILL continue to be defamed by people like David Letterman!

    June 18, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  5. Chris from Buffalo

    I'm for reparations: Let's stop denying African Americans (and other minorities) the opportunities required to pursue the American Dream. All children should have access to quality housing, education, and health care. For too long we have denied equity to disadvantaged groups and then turned around and blamed them for the conditions we created. This has nothing to do with the "white guilt" (a favorite conservative phrase) – this has to do with fairness and decency.

    June 18, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  6. Glennis

    Could we all just stop living the past? I am not responsible for slavery, I do not apologize for something in which I had no part. Further, if the spectre of reparation begins to loom large, I will be first in line to protest. Just stop fanning the flames of racism! (Oh wait a minute. It's so lucrative for some people!)

    June 18, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  7. Big red shoes

    Don't apologize give us our due respect and stop lying about us once and for all. We are never given credit when it is deserved. Like Obama the bright one Palin the dummy these two people should never be mentioned in the same sentence.

    June 18, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. Jamie H.

    Why are we apologizing for everything? Not all of the country consisted of slave owners. It's time to just let it go!

    June 18, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  9. greenluv1322, Cerro Gordo

    The reason for compensation is the wealth that the slave holders made at little or no expense to themselves. Slavery was about two things: racism and capitalism. So sorry an apology will not do. Lastly, Barack Obama is NOT a descendant of slaves...therefore please don't include him in your analysis. His people are white...please don't forget that.

    June 18, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  10. Brian Kaye

    I think I need money too, because:
    I'm of Polish descent and Polish people were mistreated.
    I'm 58 years old and don't get any respect.
    I have to work for a living.
    I'm a white male.
    I like golden retrievers.
    I read CNN.
    The planets are in line.
    But what about the Irish or the Latino's or Italians? Don't they get something too? A message needs to be sent to Washington. Do the RIGHT job for the American people, or we'll replace you in November. Have a nice day.
    (mutters to self "compensation, indeed")

    June 18, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  11. RunAmok

    Kills me that we're still apologizing for crap that happened centuries ago.

    This is why racisms will always be a live and well – you've got someone somewhere with nothing but time on their hands who has been brainwashed into believing they got a raw deal or they need money and see dollar signs – STOP DREDGING UP JUNK FROM THE PAST, stuff like this only helps to keep minorities "down" nd unfortunately, they do it to themselves.

    Let's not ever forget, but for goodness sakes let's move forward!

    June 18, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  12. Middle O'the Road

    Mr. Bush: Here a few things I know (1) a war based on false pretenses certainly didn't help build any wealth for the nation as a whole either. (2) the economy fell apart under your watch, not BHO's. (3) representing the "conservative" party in America, your admin. ran up record-setting deficits. (4) You and Mr. Cheney decided the Geneva conventions didn't apply to America anymore. And lastly....put it in print! We'd love to read all about the "lots of ways" to fix healthcare in this country.

    June 18, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. sjhwd

    Apology? I'm sorry, but this country does not need to apologize for something that the current citizens had no part in or control over. It's history, it's done, it's over, we've learned from our mistake now for crying out loud MOVE ON and quit encouraging racism.

    We all agree that slavery was wrong, we don't need Congress to waste time, energy and money on this issue telling the world it is so. Good grief! And reparations? When pigs fly.

    Congress is a complete joke and what scares me is that there are so many blind followers.

    June 18, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  14. girlymen love the GOP

    They are the same rednecks that want to destroy the unions and make everyone slaves again.We will never be slaves to republicans.

    June 18, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  15. Typical Republican

    Why are we apologizing for the wonderful policies of my fellow republicans? Oh, great! All this guy is going to do is apologize for republicans being racist. I don't care if it's TRUE that we are racist, but we aren't sorry about it! Darn it! You don't speak for us republicans.

    Send out another email with the President's picture...let's make it just a set of eyeballs! hee he...that should be funny!

    June 18, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  16. FAYE, NV

    An apology nation wide would do, black should not want a handout for the wrong some or most whites did in slavery. I personally feel a handout is do demean ones character in this case. It would show that black are to be bought as it did when blacks were sold into slavery.

    I am speaking as a black working poor lady and we are not for sell in any means. Giving any type of monies or token is inappropriate. Maybe if there was records showing that a black family owned a piece of land it is was stolen that is another thing.

    Apology is acceptable.

    CNN please post.

    June 18, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  17. Common Cents

    This is the DUMBEST thing I have ever heard....and I'm a BLACK guy!

    June 18, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  18. Vince, Southern California

    The apology is what is necessary. We can and need to make our own money.

    June 18, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  19. franco

    Apologize for slavery? Why??? No living American was part of that cruel period. What an apology accomplish? Absolutely nothing, except, waht will follow is reparations. Imagine the average lower-middle-class American's taxes supporting the likes of Oprah, Jackson, Sharpton!!

    We have become so rabid politically-correct. Why not apologize to the Japanese to drop the big one on Hiroshima? Or let's apologize to the Indians for taking their territory? While we are at it, let's apologize to the Italians. Let's apologize to the world for not liking us. How about apologizing to the world for MSNBC for being in the tank for the Chosen One? hey, here is a good one...let's apologize to Sadaam Hussein for invading his country?.

    June 18, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  20. barry in las vegas

    This is just more catering to the black vote by Democrats.

    Why should we apologize for something we didn't have anything to do with.

    Our generation helped push threw Civil Rights legislation that we can all be proud of.

    With an apology will come the arguement of an admission of wrongdoing that needs to be compensated with cash. I don't think so.

    June 18, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  21. Once You Vote Black: Mute Newt

    Joe, you and your family benefited from Slavery. The eastcost would be 100 years behind the rest of the world if not for Black Labor. No one is asking for a cash hand out, how about 10 extra points on a civil service test form, or admissions for some into a school or two. Anyway, if we say to do it, it will be done, we have the House and Senate, you guys can repeal the apology when you get back in congress, but for now the ship is ours.

    June 18, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  22. Amanda

    Why should we compensate African Americans and not the Asian Americans who were put into concentration camps and had their possessions taken from them during WWII? Not to mention the fact that Asians were barred from immigrating to the US at a certain point? I've never heard any apology from the government for that. Where is my apology and compensation? I don't think the current American people should have to foot any financial bill for what happened in the past. It's in the past. Were there any slaves or Asians that were put in concentration camps alive today, I'd be all for compensating for them. It's too late now. Giving people money for what happened to their ancestors is not going to solve anything. It's just going to put our nation more in debt!

    June 18, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  23. Nichole, Tulsa, OK

    Are they planning to do the same for Native Americans??

    June 18, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  24. Annoyed

    My great grandfather was an immigrant from Italy....killed b/c of his nationality! Where is my reparations! I agree about the apology, but enough is enough! Why is everyone always looking for a handout! I can see the actual people who were slaves getting a small handout, but not to the relatives....you don't deserve it! You didn't suffer like they did!

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

    This is a waste of our time and our money. It serves no real purpose to appologize for things that were done long before any of us were born.

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