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. David

    Miffed in Missouri: I am not doubting what your grand parents told you just the facts of it. Lets look at the numbers: Your grabd parents are in the there 80's. Lets say they were born in 1929. Lets say slavery ended in 1865. If your grandparents, Great Grandparents were born at the very end of the war then they would have been 65 when your grand father was born. Your Grand Fathers Great grandparents were 5 at the end of the war and yor grand father can remember talking to them when he was 5. How much of slavery could they have remembered? More likely they remember what it was like living with all the racism after slavery and not actual slavery. Very rare in the late 20's-early 30 that people lived into ther 70's.

    June 18, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  2. Madelity

    Recently visited the Underground Railroad Musuem in Memphis, TN – the Burkle Estate and was overcome by spirits, and/ or emotions if you will, that surfaced from just approaching this plantation house. Our ancestors are still crying out for freedom to this day and we cannot begin to heal or allow those spirits to rest until we have acknowleged the problem and start the healing process. I hope the resolution offers an apology and designs a way to move forward for African Americans.

    June 18, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  3. Bonnie

    To Lee, get it easy, get it easy, just shows how ignorant you are,we are American citizens, we are human beings, we work just as hard for what we have as you(assuming you work), Get it easy, you and others like you are a Joke, you would be laughable if you weren't so patheticly sad, and ignorant.

    June 18, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  4. Win the Lottery

    Hey, maybe I should try and win the lottery too! I should demand reparations from the Japanese Gov't for shooting down and killing two of my uncles in WWII. And I should demand money from the German Gov't for the four years of my father's life that was wasted by having to serve in the war for four years. Never mind that I was born 14 years after WWII ended.

    With a little luck, I may be able to retire early!

    June 18, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. Bob in Pa

    I believe the apology has been given several times over.
    It is time to get on with the rest of your life here and now people.

    June 18, 2009 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. PFFT

    Enough already.

    Looking backwards at the past isn't going to fix a thing. Instead, it will focus on the wrong of the past generations withough looking for a solution for the future. What happened was wrong, but rehasing it won't change it. Instead we need to learn and move forward.
    Congress, stop dragging America backwards.

    June 18, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. dennisk

    Hang in there, GLBT community: just another hundred years and you, too, will receive an apology from the Senate.

    June 18, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  8. Angus McDugan

    This is about votes not setting things right.

    June 18, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  9. JC from SC

    Felicia. Go home. Get it? There's 40 acres of dry, parched desert in Western Africa waiting for you, if that's what you want. There aren't any mules though. They've been eaten.

    June 18, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  10. Takeshi

    WOW the HATE is amazing. I am Japanese! and even i know blacks were NOT free untill around 1965. and yes the grandparents are still alive 29% of the popu;lation is aged. I pray you realize how all white men benefit from slavery and jim crow laws!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for a LONG LONG TIME>

    June 18, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Willy Brown

    Pressing issue. Gald the dummycrats are avoiding real issues.

    June 18, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. Jim Stafford VA

    They should pass a resolution apologizing to all the American people for the Senate's continued incompetence, squandering the nations wealth, and their total failure in displaying any foresight or leadership for say the last 45 years. They could agree to work for a $1 a year and pay for their own junkets too and go home permanently if they can't get the job done. There's a good resolution.

    June 18, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. Karon

    We have alot of real important issues before Congress especially Health Care and we take up an apology? Yes, we are sorry about it but do we really need to take time to do this now?????

    June 18, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. john

    Everyone needs to get over it. There are no apoligies needed to be given to the blacks. I sorry, African americans, if you wnat an apoligy go ask your brothers and sister in Africa for it. They are the ones that sold your ancestors. Actually you are a lot better off for being here so instead of asking for an apology you should be thanking the white man for his purchase. Base on the return on investment the decendants of the slaves owe me money

    June 18, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. Hugo

    Absurd, descendants of slaves should thank their lucky stars that their forefathers suffered for them and got them here. Otherwise, they would be in Africa, most possibly impoverished, dying of AIDS or being discriminated against by another tribe. Get over it! You can't get anymore free hand outs, we don't owe you a thing!

    June 18, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  16. Resolution

    The government should offer to send everyone who is the descendent of slaves back to West Africa. They could have 1 free plane ticket to any country where a large share of slaves came from (Ghana, Sierra Leone, etc.). That would bring them back to where they would have been without slavery and make things right.

    I think it'd debatable whether this should be mandatory, that all blacks should have to leave, or optional. Maybe some people would want to stay here, I don't know why since its so terrible and the legacy or slavery is so overbearing, but its possible I suppose.

    June 18, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  17. Dutch in Ks

    As an African American, i feel that yes an apology, but it isn't that crucial and there are more important problems in our face right now, rather than apologizing for something generations ago. I won't say it's inappropriate or unwarranted, but given the state of our country, our people, homelessness and so many other things staring us in the face. Is it really neccesary to waste time, and tax dollars on this, when that energy and money could be better put to use elsewhere.?

    June 18, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. Jimmy the Greek


    Of course no "reparations" will be paid – that would be a political suicide. Instead we offer:

    1) Affirmative Action. The kind of "fairness" that stops firman applying for a promotion from getting it because no "minorities" passed the test.

    2) Homeowner Bail-out. The FACT is – we're partly in this whole mess because Congress (under Clinton) decided lendors should be pressed to use more "lenient" lending practices helping low-income people get into houses & mortgages they otherwise could not afford.

    3) Universal Healthcare.

    4) Funding (through pork projects) ACORN and special interest groups.

    But let's all yell loudly about reparations and insisting nothing gets paid.

    Baaa Baaaaaa sheeple.

    June 18, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  19. Zola

    To Jeff:
    Don't say that slavery was the best thing that happend to black people, even though the descenabts of slave live in this great country, that doesn't give you licence to make of slavery a good thing.
    And just for your knowledge, yes some Africans have sold others into slavery, it wasn't everyone, how do you think those mothers, fathers, brothers an sisters felt when their loved ones were kidnapped by slave traders never to be seen again?
    Slavery anywhere is a crime, regardless of the perpetrators being white, black, arab, yellow..... By the way it's still exist in other forms, have you heard of sex slavery happening even here in the US, I don't think that's the best thing that happened to those who are enslaved as we speak.
    be blessed.

    June 18, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. Americana

    It only makes sense that the least the government can do is apologize. We condemn those who've had affairs, but we hide the fact that our founding father had a slave child and had slaves. Perhaps, some of us really need a history lesson because there is not alot taught about real American history. To apologize for a wrong only shows decency. For those who don't see anything wrong with America's past, your lack of decency is evident.

    June 18, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  21. walleye

    I dont think the people living today should have to apologize for something (which admittedly was wrong) that was done by people living 200 years ago. We need to move on by eliminating bigotry and providing opportunities for everyone.

    June 18, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  22. Real Change

    My great great great great grandparents were whilte and middle class. My great great great grandparents were white and middle class. My great great grandparents wrere whilte and middle class. My great grandpearents were white and middle class. My grandparents were white and middle class. My parents are white and middle class. And I am white and middle class. ANY OF YOU DUMB ASS "I DIDN'T OWN SLAVES" TYPES SEE A LITTLE TREND HERE?

    Let's just be real plain here....if you think you live in a vacuum, immune from you socio-cultural history, YOU ARE STUPID !! That's not how it works.

    June 18, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  23. m cella

    No apology required. We have adopted policies in support of diversity, amended laws and written new legislation to promote equal rights for all. The idead of reparations is ridiculous. Reparations are generally paid directly to living victim's of a terrible wrong. The victim's here are no longer with us. Put this issue to rest. There are much more critical and urgent issues to focus congressional time and taxpayer $ on.

    June 18, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  24. Ledbetter

    Ok, so I demand an apology from Scotland since it ran my ancestors off to Ireland. Then, they had the horror of eventually coming to the US for a better life. If not for those evil Scots, I would not even be here today, but still living as a nomadic riding clan in the Northern Scotish Highlands. Oh wait, maybe the whole deal wasn't so bad. It sure didn't affect me.

    Wake up people and grow some thick skin. I didn't do anything to Black Americans. Correct. I have only met a few African-Americans in my life, mostly from Kenya and Somalia.

    Enjoy inflation this fall!

    June 18, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  25. Dustin Jones

    I think the apology isn't so much implying that modern White people are guilty for slavery, but rather, it is an apology from this COUNTRY, which has been around for hundreds of years.

    Granted, modern-day White people aren't responsible for slavery. However, all godly-acting countries and people would be wise to acknowledge the evils of the past, set forth some type of small restitution measures to help make up for what should have happened long ago, and then commit to making sure justice and godliness are pursued for this generation in which we live.

    June 18, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
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