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. Not interfering

    Should we really meddle in the affairs of others?

    June 18, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  2. Nicole

    I am a 34 year old African American woman.

    I could care less about an apology from the government regarding slavery.

    And I don't need government handouts. My parents (married 45 years now) taught my sisters and I to work hard, be responsible, and be accountable for our actions. We've all done well. I am a physician, one sister is a principal, the other teaches special education.

    I acknowledge that there is lingering racism and problems because of that but apologies and money are not the solution.

    June 18, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  3. Dawn in Pa

    I got it, lets apologize to my people, (The Native Americans) for taking their land, to try to eliminate them, but steal their ways of live. When the British landed at Roanoke they taught them almost everything. Lets the Christians apologize for slaughtering of the Celts and the Pagans to convert them to Christianity, let the Nazi's apologize to the Jews for trying to exterminate them. So did I miss anyone?

    I think that the United States have apoplgize for the stupitidy of lazy people to have slavery... I am not a bigot, not in the least, but they had done that a long time ago, The Emancipation Proclamation:

    June 18, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  4. Mcmallen

    I would say that the near economic destruction of the South and the 1million + white deaths and countless injuries and trauma physical, psychological and financial to the families of both Union and Confederate casualties are apology and reparations enough.

    June 18, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  5. eddie123

    Quite living in the past: Live for today and the future. Is these persons wanting more hand-outs?? Look at Karinta and the hand-outs and no thank-you to the taxpayers. The northern flooded areas got no help. period. Is because there were white.?? I did not have slaves nor my parents or siblings, and this apologizing has gone to far. My parents nor my self or siblings rioted, and have theses persons apologized for this?? But it has cost us as taxpayers to rebuild these areas. Live for now and the future and have peace in this nation. Don't keep looking in the past and making trouble.

    June 18, 2009 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    I think it's time to move on. Apologies were already given, multiple times in the past. Why keep dwelling on the past? If you are seeking money from the government for slavery, then you are about as low as it gets. You are taking advantage of a tricky situation, using your ancestors to get money.

    You were not enslaved. Times were different 200 plus years ago. That's what happened. We cannot hold our fathers accountable for that life because they are long gone.

    Move on

    June 18, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  7. VL- Chicago

    dutch/bad newz...another odd/dumb posting. 400 years of slavery?? what!! Go to school and get a job. Many African-Americans (or any americans) decide to succeed...and work hard. Try it some time!

    June 18, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  8. Neutralizer

    Next step for Democraps is REPARATION. Al Sharpton, NAACP, Jesse Jackson (Rainbow Coalition) Hussein Obama will be asking Congress and Senate to pass a bill paying money for blacks.

    I knew this is coming! Why these black organizations in USA ask reparations from SPAIN and Untied kingdom, they were the one engaged in SLAVE TRADING not the American people.

    June 18, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  9. JonDie

    Uh oh! Most Republicans, most white Christians and most white southerners don't think there was or is anything wrong with slavery so this is sure to create a firestorm. In fact, most white Republicans, most white Christians and most white southerners think that ending slavery was a BAD idea and contrary to the laws of the Loving God, who they feel enslaved Africans for good of both white and blacks.

    June 18, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  10. Ken in NY

    Why is Congress not spending it time fixing the immidiate issues facing all Americans. If the Sentate has the time to pass these types of bills they should have time to debate how to fix healthcare.

    For people who might not realize that some of the biggest corporations (mainly in texile and tobbaco) in America TODAY grew and prospered because of slavery of that era. Because of salvery this country had white and black bathroom just over 50 years ago. Some people grandparents might be able to tell explain what the 1915's-1960's were like in case people have forgotten.

    June 18, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. Neutralizer

    And there goes the DEMOCRAPS! Next step they'll ask for REPARATION. Are you ready to pay for it?

    When slavery was abolished, this country BOUGHT LIBERIA so free slaves have country to call their own, they were free to leave. But many blacks CHOOSE to live in America.

    Hey! USA was only a buyer, the traders of slaves was SPAIN and UK. They should be the one apologizing to blacks NOT the American people.

    June 18, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  12. Bruce

    This is pretty pittyful, congress is wasting time as usual and Blacks ever getting an apology from me is a waste of everyones time. White's are now the most descriminated people on Earth. Try being white and needing social services help they will put you behind 100 blacks everytime. Everything is for the blacks now,check out all the Martin Luther King Roads, bridges, etc.. Kissing there butts on EVERYTHING thats more than I would ever do but they keep getting gettting and getting. Im working for millions of them everyday paying the taxes so they can sit at home, thats apology enough. GET OUT AND WORK..

    June 18, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  13. barbara

    Do not apologize for me. I did NOT have anything to do with it, and have always treated my fellow man with the utmost respect. I will not have anyone apologizing for me when i did nothing wrong. When i make a mistake, I will apologize. My anscestors were indentured servents, wheres the apology? Oh they were not black but treated just as bad if not worse. MOVE ON people, stop living in the past. Oh and if anyone thinks this is going to make life better for all, it wont. Thats because words are never enough. Just watch.

    June 18, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  14. donttreadonme

    LibertyQueen June 18th, 2009 1:00 pm ET
    Remember, is wasn't that long ago that a black could not marry a white and yet blacks seem to think Separate Is Equal…unless you are black. ------------------------

    I fail to make your connection??? That is a ridiculous argument to compare gay-marriage to the struggle for freedom?
    If the will of the people vote to change the sacred custom of marriage to include two dudes, then fine.

    You libs use of the courts to force these changes has hurt your cause. Believe that!

    June 18, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    @ Me in Big D

    You people huh? I see what names get called around at your dinner table. Plus if you read my comment and comprehended what I said, I said I don't need a handout. How about looking up The Lost Tribe of Shabazz and then get back to me. Idiot!

    June 18, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  16. Keith CO

    Were African Americans included in the The Homestead Act? No!
    Were they given 160-640 acres? No!
    After the reconstruction of the south many were hung and pinned to trees
    by hate groups.
    Just 50 years ago they couldn't vote.There churches were bunt to the ground, Sometimes with children still inside. That's the short story!

    The way I see it we can't payback what we owe but we can try.
    I hope we never forget our dark past because we can learn from it.

    June 18, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  17. Trenden

    Have these senators not heard of the Civil War? Didn’t we settle the slavery thing a long time ago? What is the point of this?

    June 18, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. Antonio from Chicago

    Most of you that commeneted on here ar IDIOTS. You have no clue about what slavery has done to the Afircan American community. Being slaves for nearly 400 years has had adverse effects including education. If they weren't slaves, then maybe you wouldn't have been "mugged" as one of you put it.

    Some of you need to pick up a book and read it.

    June 18, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. Jc of Ohio

    Americans did not invent slavery!

    It was around for T-H-O-U-S-A-N-D-S of years before America was even discovered.

    I'm curious, has or will the African Nations that captured and sold their own people into slavery appologized?

    Have the African nations or any others that are still involved in the slave industry agreed stop the practice? And appologized?

    I have never owned a slave ... nor has any of my family that I'm aware of!

    So why should I appologize?

    June 18, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  20. All for it

    I'm a white male in Missouri and think this is long overdue. Reparations are pointless unless monetary/economic loss can be directly proven (as done with Holocaust survivors), but an apology is appropriate. My family came to the US in the 1920s and never owned slaves, however I acknowledge the 'privileged' life white people have been allowed would not have been possible without the exploitation of African Americans–and for that reason I PERSONALLY apologize.

    June 18, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  21. Ken in NC

    An apology would be nice but there has been talk for many years of 40 acres and a mule. Well I can't afford the property taxes on the 40 acres and I'm hungry so just give me the mule.

    People, what was done in the times of slaverly was wrong and we have evolved beyond that I thought until I saw how some people were acting after President Obama was elected. Our evolution has allowed me the wisdom to understand that the racism and hate towards minorities I am seeing is not from the White Race. It is from ignorant people. That is the difference between the days of old and the times of today.

    June 18, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  22. Capt. Snarky

    I did NOT enslave the Blacks. I did NOT steal the Indians land. I have NOTHING to apolgise for. If they have a problem with that, screw 'em.

    June 18, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  23. elizabeth

    After that apology, there should be one to indigenous peoples of the Americas, women, homosexuals, the parents of starving children in other nations, etc.. While we're at it, let's apologize to the middle class who got laid off, demoted, took a cut in pay & now are being asked to work for a month without pay because Wall St., bankers & corrupt politicians sold us all down the river. What hypocrites we are. Let's slam Iran for how they treat protesters, but ignore China's human rights violations because they OWN us. If this planet acted with integrity we could straighten out the mess we're in & we'd be too busy celebrating to demand apologies.

    June 18, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  24. Sharon Kitchen

    This is good to do.

    Way past time to oppologize to Native Americans.............for stolen lands, deaths.............and to thid very day...in california....just so one Non-Native person fould have a casino........he tried to steal the land away from the Miwak Nation(Federaly recognized)....just so he could get the land and put "his" casino.

    Men,women and children and elders in their tribal house(locked up) so that he can not take this also.......................................

    See this copntinues......................in the land of the "free".......................

    June 18, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  25. What!

    Apologies for what, I don't own slaves! I mean this has been done and over with for awhile! Why should our country even apologies it was part of our society before and we moved on. Yes it was cruel but come on this is pointless.

    On another note if you think about it those slaves that were brought over actually were helping their future generations by sacrficed their well being and giving their future generations a better life by avoiding AIDS and other diseases as well as creating oppotunities for them (such as becoming presidient of the free world and creating all sorts of history and invovations) that their ancestors sacrificed for and would not have happened it they would have not been forced to leave their country. I'M NOT JUSTIFIING SLAVERY I"M JUST SAYING THAT FUTURE GENERATIONS OF ALL CULTURES IN THE USA ARE BETTER OFF BECAUSE OF IT.

    June 18, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
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