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. Me in Big D

    @Dutch – you people make me sick. Always with your hands out! There is no living person that had slaves or condoned slavery for that matter. We, as white people, do not owe any black an apology for slavery! I'm sick to death of this. Your own people sold your people into slavery! Get over it!

    June 18, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. Once You Vote Black: Mute Newt

    How about apologizing to women, who were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties

    Great idea, first the blacks and then the women, or at the same time. What do you say?

    June 18, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  3. Esco

    I wonder if there is a catch to this...i mean its not like they just woke up one days and decided it was an awesome idea to apologize to the black community for slavery? Yes, it happened years ago and even though there is still hatred among races, we are far enough in the future to be mature; understand it is the past and lifting up the people we already have today is better than just giving someone a prize. Compensation should come in the form of promise that our black americans will not sleep in trailers from hurricane katrina, and they can have a home they can call home. And have jobs for their childrens well being. The past was a lesson to those who do not think every persons life is precious...no matter the color of your skin.

    June 18, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  4. VAisforLovers

    This country has apologized to many different groups for a variety of things… why are some people so up in arms over an apology to Black Americans for slavery?

    June 18, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  5. dick

    I apologize for NOTHING!!! I don't own slaves, never did, never will. That was done during a different era and, right or wrong, IT'S OVER!!

    June 18, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. J

    How much you wanna bet the GOP will be against it??

    June 18, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. Al Russell

    Listen people need to get over this. I have not owned any slaves and the people today are not slaves regardless of the past. This african-american stuff needs to stop. If you are born in this country you are and american if not you are something else. You can not be both. I am not Engilish/Irish/German/American. I was born in this country I am an American. Get over it and move on. Get off welfare and get a job like the rest of us.

    June 18, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  8. Andre from NJ

    I assume that the reparations will be paid out from the taxes of all the people whose families were here prior to the 1860's, and not take money from the descendents of immigrants who showed up about 60 years later.

    June 18, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  9. Phil

    Get over it! As far as giving money, get real! Why should anyone today be paid for something that happened hundreds of years ago!??? Ridiculous!!! I can almost bet this whole payment thing was initiated by the blacks!

    June 18, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. rand

    I am thinking the Senate might have a few more pressing issues to deal with right now. An apology for something that happened over 150 years ago seems a bit trivial.

    June 18, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  11. susie

    Will Obama apologize for the way the Irish was treated, and if so, will we beable to get some money for it? Waiting for my check along with the $1,000 that was promised to everyone who voted for Obama in November.

    June 18, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  12. AJ

    As a lifelong democrat, this is enough to make me gag. Obama knows that without the black vote he couldnt get elected trash collector so he and congress will waste hours debating this useless issue at the same time they are continuing Republican policies of gay hatred and descrimination. Obama is a disgrace.

    June 18, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  13. joey from san diego

    uhh, I think our apology to African Americans was the civil war. More white people died for the rights of black people in that war, than any other war in history. If anyone should have to apologize, it should be the south, and like that would ever happen.

    June 18, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  14. Oregon calling

    Apology, yes. Compensation, no.

    And while you are at it, what about the NATIVE AMERICANS, we are the LOST people in all of this............. so tragic

    Peace 🙂

    June 18, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  15. The lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    What is the Senate doing? We are arguing the oppression of slaves of over a century ago, when today the gay community continues to be oppressed? When the freedom to smoke a joint is still oppressed? Or the freedom to smoke a cigarette is still oppressed? When over half of your hard earned money is paid out in taxes?
    What I do not understand why our government will not stand by the ideals of the Constitution?
    And after the debate we will all meet at the campaign fund raiser. And get our pockets filled by our fat cat rich buddies.

    June 18, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. FLP

    Chris from Buffalo – America is the land of opportunity. Anyone can work hard and get ahead. Everything is available for anyone who wants to work for it...............Or did you mean we should just GIVE everybody everything?

    June 18, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  17. MOVEON

    There is too much going on right now than to spend time on this. Why is no one talking about fixing all of the corruption in Washington. Slavery is part of history that we learned from and made us stronger. But, let us look to the future and show what we can accomplish and not dwell on the past. I guess it could be considered a blessing in disguise since living in America is far better than the plight of the African nation even to this day. Be greatful for what we have been blessed with and look to the future. (I am an African American )

    June 18, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  18. RNC = DNC = politics as usual

    I am for compensation. Any actual living slave owners should immediately give some of their money to any actual living slaves they have.

    June 18, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  19. jAYjAY

    We can historically go around the world being a beacon of hope to all who have suffered until its time to look into the mirror. I and most of us want nothing from you,.. but to attack a simple apology for healing is an example of deep seated bigotry.
    You don't push back against any other Americans we honor or heal with for man made atrocities

    June 18, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  20. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    mainly the south should , but also america should apologize to Japanies,Chinese,and everyone else that was subject to slavery. and the mormons should apologize to the white people that moved west during the 1800's and they dressed up like american Indians and killed them while passing through the Utah valley, also apologize to the Irish for treating them like second class people in the early 1900's,
    also anyone from India and the list goes on and on.
    so why don't we just let it go and live for the now and learn from the past .and not let things like Hitler and other sick people be allowed to hurt anyone


    June 18, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  21. Chris

    Find me a living man who was once a slave and I will tell him I am sorry for what other people did to him over 100 years ago.

    Pander, pander, pander...afterall, that is what keeps you in office.

    June 18, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  22. Once You Vote Black: Mute Newt

    Brian Kaye June 18th, 2009 12:21 pm ET

    I think I need money too, because:
    I'm of Polish descent and Polish people were mistreated.

    Written like a true Poloc.

    June 18, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  23. Keep your apologies and cut the check!

    (I doubt CNN will post this) but the reality is that the slave "trade" was a business enterprise. The traded slaves were used for the sole purpose of farming crops for profit and wealth. So if you acknowledge that what you did was wrong, naturally, just like any other criminal – you must forfit your possesions and pay restitution to the victims and their families as part of your punishment.

    June 18, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  24. Fed Up

    Well Folks, with all the problems we are facing today, this is what your hard working Democrats are wasting their time and our money on.

    June 18, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  25. Mel of Alexandria

    When the slaves were sold in the New World much of the money went to European powers. Will we be asking the British to apologize and the monarchy to send back some of that old money?

    It is time to move on and demonstrate some grace and forgiveness towards those who did wrong.

    June 18, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
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