June 18th, 2009
11:48 AM ET
5 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. citizenjane

    Reaching out and treating each other as equals would in my opinion solve more than a simple apology ever could.

    June 18, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  2. joey from san diego

    Didnt tribal chiefs sell out there own people? I think the apology should come from the tribes in Africa who sold out there people. They were selling, we were buying.

    June 18, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Meh. Nothing wrong with it as long as it doesn't take up too much time from more practical matters.

    June 18, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  4. rich

    Slavery was abolished in 1865, 134 years ago. Get over it. Reparations paid to whom. All slaves or direct offspring are dead. Compared to what the average citizen of a black African nation has, the decendants of formaer slaves, now at least 3 generations removed, have had ample opportunities and vast sums of money already spend. GET OVER IT. Germany abolished serfdom in the mid 19th century, other eastern european countries were after that. Japan and China even later.

    June 18, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  5. Don

    Forget it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 18, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  6. Jeff Thorn

    Slavery was the best thing that ever happen to the Africans. Your ancestors paid a heavy price years ago and I agree it was horrible, but look where you are at now. The greatest country in the world, true racism still exist but every African American born has the opprotunity to live the American Dream. Would you rather be back in Africa? How many white Americans died to help free the slaves and change the history of evil? Maybe its time to start holding your own accountable for their actions instead of blaming everything on something that happened many many years ago. A fat person in this day and age is discriminated as much as anyone for the color of their skin. No more excuses.

    June 18, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  7. Greg

    No way should any payments be made. No African-American alive today can prove they have been directly harmed by slavery, a reprehensible practice of this country that ended in 1864. All African-Americans in this country today are free, and therefore apparently remain here by their own choice.

    June 18, 2009 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  8. Chuck in Minneapolis

    Everyone wants something for nothing. Maybe if these people put as much effort into getting a job and contributing to society as they do trying to get a free handout they'd stop worrying aobut it.

    Also, one shouldn't forget that it was the Republican Party that freed the slaves. Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican.

    June 18, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  9. Fair is Fair

    sjhwd June 18th, 2009 12:22 pm ET

    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.
    ________________________

    I'm going to have to respectfully disagree. The Germans apologized for the holocaust. Further, I don't believe this will encourage racism. In fact, it may just be a step towards healing our racial differences.

    June 18, 2009 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  10. Another point

    What's wrong with our American society? Every time we turn around some special interest group wants to take, take, take. On one hand we have the gays wanting to take away the deffinition/meaning of "marriage" from those of us people gays refer to as "breeders". Answer.....NO. You want equal rights acept "Civil Union". That doesn't take away from others. Slavery Was wrong. (Key word WAS). it was wrong in the U.S. and throughout the whole planet. There was a time it was a way of life. That time is gone. Be thankful. And for the Stokley Charmichael followers I do NOT owe you for 300 years of oppression. I never did anything to you. I haven't even known you for 300 years. If you want to be equal in this society act it. Stop your whining and roll up your sleeves as did every other race/ethnicitity in America. Don't draw others down but yourselves up. Earn respect and the rest will follow. Take example from the respected African Americans who made it. There are lots. It could be you if you change your ways.

    June 18, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. greenluv1322, Cerro Gordo

    It is apparent that so many of you are clueless!

    June 18, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  12. Hell yes the GOP should be against it!

    Why do we have to keep apologizing over and over again for something that we've taken care of. Slavery has been abolished and apologized for. I refuse to agree that they should get a handout, or ANY special treatment because their ancestors were slaves. My ancestors were tortured because they were Asian Americans in the US when Pearl Harbor happened. Where's my compensation? Where is my special entry into college because my ancestors were mistreated? Why should I have a sense of entitlement to everything without working for it just because someone, who is no longer alive, mistreated and tortured my ancestors. This is ridiculous! Move on!

    June 18, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  13. DJJ

    The largest and loudest not even no, but no possible way on this earth NO will I ever offer up an apology for slavery. Never. My grandparents came to this country in 1903, worked their way to Ohio from New York, started to farm and worked and sweated themselves with utterly nothing to do with slavery in the process. Then or since.
    When the Russian government offers up an apology and reparations to me for the 1956 invasion of Hungary when some of the rest of my family were literally smuggled out from under Russian tanks and Russian rule in Budapest, I will still never offer up an apology for slavery.
    Never.

    June 18, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  14. VAisforLovers

    Me in Big D – please, continue to show your ignorance. There are, indeed, people alive today that still endured slavery. Here in the South, slavery just turned into something else. It was called Sharecropping… and many blacks in the south turned into sharecroppers, just to have the same lifestyle that they had under slavery; complete with whippings, rape, unfair wages (if any). Only this time, they were “allowed” to leave the plantation if they wanted to – but the conditions were often the same. And there are folks still alive that are only a hop, skip and a jump away from still remembering this b/c they and their family lived it. Get over yourself, or better yet, step outside of your bubble.

    June 18, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  15. munchmom

    I wondered how long this would take–apologizing all over the world for what us "bad" Americans have done, and now in our own country, for something that was done hundreds of years ago. We presently had nothing to do with it, and I don't like this idea. But then with our current leadership in DC, I am surprised it didn't happen on January 21st!!!

    (will you post this one, cnn?)

    June 18, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  16. TCM

    @ ESCO -

    You're right. There is a catch. This is it: Once the black, white-hating," community get their apology, then they'll have a confession of wrong doing; setting a precedent for a civil suit. Once that occurs, every black in the country will suddenly be related to slaves because they had some cousin or "aunty," that picked cotton way down near the bayou......corruption of funds will run rampant, and Obama will win votes for ending slavery....

    June 18, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  17. Kathy

    Get over it!!! Move on to more important issues. There's not one person still alive that was around in the slave days!!!! With all the problems the USA has now, we need to move on!!!

    June 18, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  18. Beny

    Its about time. Sure is funny the US govt saw fit to apologize to the Japanese first, but not Americans who have been here longer than the japanese.

    June 18, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  19. Charles

    Fair is Fair June 18th, 2009 12:18 pm ET

    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.
    ---------

    This is only going to make the idiots who preach racism come out. Just look at some of the comments here.

    My ancestors from Texas (or Mexico) had the line redrawn over them and land taken to become part of the U.S. I/we don't want an apology...Better than being a Mexican citizen.

    June 18, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  20. rich

    How about reparations to all Mexicans for stealing half their country? Especially them Mexicans still held captive in the USA, Yeah right that what we ought to do. They are the fastest growing block in the USA.
    Either pay them or give them back Texas or New Mexico or Colorado, how about Illinois?
    Who is going to pay reparations, the son of an Italian or Polish or Irish immigrant who came to the USA in 1900? How about we make those countries who Caught and SOLD them into slavery? Get the ones who started them into slavery FIRST!!

    June 18, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  21. Too True For You

    I think we should apologize and make reparations to the Irish, Italians, Native Americans, Mexicans, Chinese, and Japanese too, since we discriminated against them, imprisoned them without due process, and forced them into what constituted slave labor for their times. We should probably also start a genome project to find out what prehistoric peoples lived here so we can apologize and pay them, too, for something I am sure we did.

    Get over it – no one alive today has been personally harmed by slavery. There have been countless programs and affirmative action plans out the wazoo that constitute more than fair reparations if any where even called for.

    June 18, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. Mark

    Look at the stats of slave owners. Very small percentage. This was generations ago. (I'm not responsible for what happened hundreds of years ago.) In addition, are the African descendants who captured the people that became slaves apologizing? Slavery and human "trafficing" exists today. What about apologizing for reverse discrimination?

    As far a cash, this is a joke. The amount of money would have to go back to those days and then the amount broken down for each person since then. In other words, my will when gets distributed, each heir gets a fraction of the amount. How would that be done going back over a hundred years, especially when records are difficult to obtain?

    June 18, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  23. John

    Well, my ancestors were northerners and never owned slaves, so I guess I'm exempt from having to pay anything...

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  24. Melinda S. Smith Independent Voter

    Are you kidding me? The economy is in the toilet, North Korea is threatening to shoot missiles to Hawaii, Iran is falling apart while working to manufacture nuclear bombs, we have unresolved wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, unemployment is rising despite the so-called stimulus package, and I could go on and on and on. And THIS is how the Congress wants to spend their time? No wonder our country is falling apart around us. I SAY-GET RID OF ALL IMCUMBENTS REGARDLESS OF POLITICAL PARTY IN 2010. We must demand better representation, as obviously this group is a bunch of losers. I really cannot believe their stupidity.

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  25. fella from Chicago

    I thought electing a black president was apology enough. This gesture is going to do more harm than good. It will fester resentment among other ethnic communities who have been persecuted in this country. No I'm not talking about white persecution, I'm talking about black persecution on Latinos as an example. We're a mixture of races where one color has gone after another color at one time or another. If we're going to mend fences,then mend all the fences and not just one.

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
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