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. Vivian

    The IDIOTology of white supremacy dictated then as it does now that white people and culture are superior to any other. People commenting about their folk or themselves not being responsible for slavery or owning slaves: White folk benefited (and still do) from white privilege. Own up to that. People against any apology given to Blacks for the horrors of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, institutional racism, segregation, etc. simply cannot take the fact that white people could commit such horrors to other human beings. Slavery did exist in other parts of the world before Europeans came to Africa during the slave trade. However, please know that NOWHERE in the world were enslaved people treated so HORRIFIC as the Europeans treated the Africans. Do your own research. All slavery is wrong, no question. The slavery inflicted by the Europeans to the Africans was fathomless.

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  2. contrarian

    I don't agree with this at all. Either apologies or compensation, for the most part. The people who were impacted by slavery and legalized segregation are largely dead. Only the ones directly impacted should be candidates for apologies and/or compensation. Slavery is not something we should be proud of. But it occurred in a different time. Legalized segregation is also reprehensible, and the survivors who were impacted by it should be the only ones considered for apologies or compensation. To apologize or compensate people because of their ancestry is ridiculous.

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  3. Miffed in Missouri

    How silly of you, Rich, to believe that descendents of slave do not know their anscestors. Both of my grandparents are well into their 80s and remember their great-grandparents who were slaves. Just becasue they were slaves does not mean that they are not remembered in history or by their relatives and loved ones. I don't agree with reparations however I do believe that the government owes an apology for slavery and especially Jim Crow, of which my parents remember very clearly because they lived it until their late twenties. You see Jim Crow is where the real apology is needed. Most countries had slavery at some point in history. But the US is one of very few that LEGALIZED segragation. Learn your history. You may need it.

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  4. Mike

    No one in my family had anything to do with a slave, yet my government is apologizing for something no one alive did? this is truly pathetic, any one who wants reparations is just lazy, anyone who is drafting up a resolution to apologize for something that happened over 100 years ago and no one alive had anything to do with is just wasting time and tax payer money, Ever since Obama has become president this country has taken a nose dive and those of you who can’t see it are blind

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  5. James

    No apologies, no money, just a free boat ride back to where they came and then they can take it up with the ones that sold them into slavery.

    June 18, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  6. ThinkAboutIt

    My ancestors never owned slaves; they arrived in this country (except for my Cherokee great-great-grandmother) during the 1890s. That said, I think this is a good idea.

    It's called making amends. There's something very powerful and healing about publically acknowledging wrong doing. Our government made an apology to the Japanese-Americans who were interned during World War II; it is appropriate to also do this.

    June 18, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. LibertyQueen

    Separate Is Not Equal. Blacks in California voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8 which violates the Civil Right of Lesbians and Gays to Marry. So, no Justice for Lesbians and Gays, no apology for blacks. Separate Is Not Equal...Get it?

    June 18, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  8. Task

    Why must we keep wasting time with this crap. The government is broke and in debt yet we are wasting time and money passing crap that is redundant and NON-BINDING resolution.

    The worst part is the people like "dutch" in these comments that think this has something to do with Obama. I guess some are just too lazy to read the article before commenting. Obama has NOTHING to do with this. It won't even go to his desk since it is non-binding.

    The morons who want reparations need to get over themselves and work for a living like the rest of us.

    June 18, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  9. Michael M, Phoenix AZ

    I think the Senate (the Treaty makers) should also apologize to the American Indians of whose land this country stole under the so-called treaties of the 19th century.

    June 18, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  10. LibertyQueen

    And no reparations either.

    June 18, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  11. Tonto

    This is the reason we still have racism. African Americans ( minority amount of them) see a way to get handouts. I say take a look around and see how many people have started with meager beginnings and have worked their butts off to make a living for themselves and their families. All minorities have more of a chance of going to college and doing so on a scholarship and making something of themselves. It is the young white male that gets no scholarships or handouts. Because we are white does not mean we are well off yet they are turned down simply because they are white males. There is the reverse discrimination!!! Maybe all white males should be looking for compensation for being discriminated against.

    June 18, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  12. Holly

    When you can prove to me that one of MY RELATIVES

    June 18, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  13. ann

    This is so silly. I shouldnt have to apologize for something that I had nothing to do with, and anyone who wants reparations, where do they think the money would come from? Get over it and move on. This kind of stuff just keeps all of this going forever with no end in sight. The emancipation proclamation was issued almost 150 years ago. I realize discrimination existed long after that and still does but let it go!
    Someone on here wanted extra points given to them on civil exams, just another handout the rest of us are supposed to give. How about acheivement and advancement based on your qualifications?

    June 18, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  14. Danny

    Aren't there more pressing current issues to be dealt with?

    June 18, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. Cheryl Kent

    I know and appreciate black's humiliation and fight for total freedom as American citizens. But I cannot help but stay amazed at the lack of outrageous indignation put upon the American Indian. Usurpers came in, told the Indian they had no right whatsoever to the land they've lived on for centuries, slaughtered women and children, slaughtered buffalo for sport and STILL to this day gives them prairie land no one wants to live on and treats them like 2nd class citizens. I see no marches in their defense. I see no protests for their humiliation. I just don't get it. I just don't get it.

    June 18, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  16. Cornell

    An apology to. Americans for the treatment of it's citizens is appropiate. It need come as an addition to the Consitution to acknowledge how we are to forever live as Americans. We must understand that slaves were both black and white in America. Slaveholders were both also. We must do proper research of our American history and understand how best to heal a country and not treat this as an issue of melanin. It was a dreadful part of the economics and politics of landowners in the New World which still impacts all aspects of our country.

    June 18, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  17. Holly

    When you can prove to me, without a shadow of a doubt that one of MY RELATIVES was a slave owner and exactly who the slaves kin are, then you can ask me for repartation. Otherwise leave my "working very hard for" money a heck alone.

    June 18, 2009 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  18. Matt in CT

    Atta boy, let's start on the most pressing issues first, leave all that other crap for later!

    June 18, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. Young African American

    Why are we still discussing this issue? It does nothing to promote or expand any serious dialogue about current policies and issues we face today. And quite frankly, reparations will do nothing–absolutely nothing–to promote growth and posterity. If you want to clamp down on degradations in the minority community, tackle issues like limiting welfare and push programs aimed at responsibility and accountability. Those values–those concepts–are what help people to become independent and self sufficient.

    June 18, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. LibertyQueen

    and let us not forget that Black Africans in Africa enslaved their own people and sold their sisters and brothers as slaves to the highest bidder.

    June 18, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  21. felicia

    To all you leadbelly racist animals, you do owe an apology and compensation. Until i get my 40acres and my mule i'll never want to forgive you people.

    June 18, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  22. joey from san diego

    Where is my apology from the black people that have mugged me?

    June 18, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  23. FYI

    Bill Clinton already apologized. Black people are not the only people to be enslaved....not sure if everyone knew that. Read a history book. We all need to move on. Most ethnicities have overcome their people being enslaved and are not looking for a modern day apology or free handouts from people that had nothing to do with slavery in the first place. I would be embarassed if I were to expect such a thing.

    June 18, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  24. dreamer

    You have alot more to worry about atm,shelf it tell we get things going again.

    June 18, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  25. No name

    Lee, Fortunately I was not born into slavery, but my ancestors were and that makes me a decendant, I have worked all my life since I was 12 yrs and never asked anyone for anything not even unemployment, I am Blessed to have been born an American in the land of opportunity, You need to watch your words, some of us has NEVER had it easy, you also need to know the Bible talks about Your SINS being passed from generation to generation, so you will apologize until the Lord so see fit.

    June 18, 2009 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
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