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. For Susie

    Have you already identified who owned your IRISH family? $1000 check? You are dumb. Fin.

    June 18, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  2. Trade Freedom for Security, Lose Both

    Let's just have a National Apology Day when everyone can apologize for everything that they or their ancestors may or may not have directly or indirectly been involved in or had knowledge of.

    June 18, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  3. Jon

    Aren't there more important issues to worry about? Ridiculous.

    June 18, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  4. CNN = Moveon.org

    Democrats seem to always be sorry for things. I guess they are taking their orders from their leader who has traveled the globe apologizing for everything under the sun. I'm sure there are a lot more pressing matters to deal with than voting on an apology, that is just words and won't mean anything to anyone. However, if it truly changes your life, get on here and tell us.

    June 18, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  5. KKK's Offspring

    Likewise resolution to apologize must be made by the King of Spain & the royal colonial rulers on their past actions during its occupation Mexico, the Philippines, and other colonized territories; likewise from the Japs (Japanese Imperial Army + Emperor of Japan) to the citizenry and their ascendants. Likewise from Hitler's and his co-horts; Genghis Khan; Napoleon; and King Arthur. Now what. Compensation? Are you kidding me.

    June 18, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. Henry Miller


    I'm the first place, no one alive today had anything to do with slavery.

    In the second place, while slavery was being practised in the US, it was being practised just as much all over the world. It was a perfectly acceptable thing. I see no reason at all for the remote descendants of people who were just doing things that were perfectly acceptable things in terms of their own societies to apologise for anything.

    June 18, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  7. sailorman

    Agreed that slavery and everything associated with that institution was wrong, cruel, evil, etc. However, if any human race of people in this country deserve an apology and related true social programs it is the NATIVE AMERICANS.

    At least African-Americans can move about and live where they want and seek opportunities to better their lives. How many African-Americans, Latinos, etc. are living in reservations???

    June 18, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  8. George

    Between welfare for the poor (free lunch, food stamps, services for illegal immigrants) and welfare (tax breaks, tax loopholes, and offshore tax shelters) for the rich, the middle class is getting squeezed to death. Or is a return to the feudal state the idea?

    June 18, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  9. J Johnson

    I don't believe there is any right thinking person in this world who thinks slavery was morally right. But, certain wrongs cannot be righted and history cannot be undone: the major players are no longer with us. The result of slavery will always be with us, for good or evil. It will remain a defect in our collective unconscious eternally if we do not bring it to the light and deal with it honestly, letting the chips fall where they may.

    June 18, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  10. Michigan Jim

    And the point of this is what, exactly?

    Tell you what - go back, do your research, and identify your direct ancestors who suffered under slavery. Then learn who enslaved them and trace their direct descendents to the present day. Tax those people to pay slave descendents. Sound fair? I didn't think so, but you won't find any of my ancestors in the slave-owning ranks.

    June 18, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. P. Y.

    I never believed in slavery. Always though it was wrong. At this point though, we are not responsible for what was done so many years ago. No one is alive today that was responsible for it and no one is alive today that suffered under it. We, the current citizens of this country do not owe apologies nor is anyone alive today owed reparations. The time of slavery is long over and what we are responsible for today is to make sure that EVERY citizen of this country is treated equally. Truly equal in every respect.

    June 18, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Buzz

    Apology?????For christ sake we have an african american president

    June 18, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  13. Proud DHS radical

    Let's make it up by giving any Black American wish to, a one-trip back to the land of their roots as compensation.

    June 18, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  14. Gerry Layne

    Blacks have recieved more than their share from the good white people of America. Case in point Affirmative Action a.ka. Inadequate Education, Equality a.k.a. Broken Families, and lets not forget self hatred.

    If 'old' Ben Franklin could molest his child black slave girls and prostitute them for his tip drill, then America can apologise to African Americans for slavery!

    June 18, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  15. former republican

    I am african american and I do understand that there needs to be an apology. Bot not any compensation. This is another valuable history lesson that we will learn from. Does this mean we are going to compensate every nationality throughout history. How about the Japanese that were held on our soil during WWII. How about the native americans that we kicked off their lands...then decided we would give them reservations. How about the chinese that built our railways and committed suicide to do it. Our government promised to pay the families back in China, but we never did. We all know that this part of history is something that we ALL are ashamed of, but we are long overdue to put it in its place...which is the past! Leave it be...why keep opening up old wounds? Lets come together as a nation and learn from ALL our mistakes.

    June 18, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  16. Once You Vote Black: PUMA where are you?

    which have had the reverse effect of hurting rather than helping them move forward as a community. Well then how about doing something that will help them?

    And Liberty Queen Prop 8 is the right thing to do. A man cannot marry a man! Thats just nuts. Come on what will the children think. You can do what you want in the clubs, or at resorts, or behind close doors but don't expect us to accept and say its all the same.

    June 18, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  17. American

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would turn over in his grave if he could see the what the black community has become. They need to apologize to themselves for allowing such a great man's work become what it is today.

    June 18, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  18. Barbara Dismukes

    This is Bull Crap! I am Sick and Tired of everyone Apologizing for Slavery ! If the African American's had not been sold into Slavery (BY THEIR OWN TRIBAL CHIEFS), the Black Americans in the USA would still be in Africa, most of them probably dying of AIDS! They should Be PROUD and GRATEFUL that their Relative was chosen to come to this Country!

    June 18, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  19. ray ray

    Since this Administration is on an eternal Apology Tour – perhaps I could get a few apologies for:

    1. My tax dollars being WASTED on Obama's date-nights with Michelle while America suffers during the recession.

    2. My tax dollars being WASTED on rewarding bad behavior (bailout of poorly managed corporations, irresponsible homeowners, etc).

    3. The financial SLAVERY we are being sold into by Obama and Democrats who are exponentially blowing up the debt and deficit so large it will take GENERATIONS of taxed labor to payoff.

    June 18, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. You win

    OK you have your apology. I say yes to reperations. I say each person of color is to receive $1.00 think about it we will spend at least that amount wasted in discussions by our government. It will be over then. Now we can remove equal opportunity and get back to awarding people on their merit not their color!

    June 18, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. renea

    Not a lot of people is going to agree with this because there is still a lot of racism going on. Yes even in Washington.

    June 18, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  22. Independent

    It is about time. If Germany can do it relating to the Jews why not America

    June 18, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  23. John Baldridge

    All those oppressed people are now dead. What's the purpose of all this? The blacks now living in the US should consider themselves to be very fortunate as the alternate would be that they would be living somewhere in Africa. My ancestors likewise came from a different continent and I am very fortunate to be an American (and proud of it too).

    June 18, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  24. Salas

    Apology -yes,compensation-no.I read comments here saying african-americans are better off today because the continent is worse,but to a rational mind,the sheer number of young people,able bodied men uprooted from that continent is the cause of problems in africa today,had those guys remained in their homes,they would have made something good out of their continent.

    June 18, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  25. Miffed in Missouri

    It amazes me that this conversation is solely about slavery. Since slavery was so long ago and some of you need proof that slavery was a bad or that many Americans were involved in slavery. How many of you were around or know someone around in the 1960s? How many of you or your relatives accepted and/or supported Jim Crow (eg used a whites only restroom or went to a whites only school)? I'm sure you know someone. I believe that the government should apoligize for Jim Crow. And to all of you who think African Americans just want hand-outs and money, remember we are a minority (~13%). So most of the welfare checks that go to Americans homes...go to white american homes.

    June 18, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
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