June 18th, 2009
11:48 AM ET
13 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. jaylee

    I am white and I am a very distant descendant of a white man who died in the Civil War, fighting to free the slaves.
    Therefore,,,am I due a compensation check and an apology?

    People don't forget that WHITE men and WHITE women fought and DIED to WIN freedom for each and every slave.



    SO the next time you claim being descendant of a slave, and asking for an apology and a hand out, be careful who your talking to.
    Some families have already shed THEIR FAMILY BLOOD, for your ancestors freedom.
    And rightfully so.......

    June 18, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. w.l. jones

    Where I grew up it were a whole people who never did anything but held the palm of there hand while everybody else including six year old work. Said enough.

    June 18, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. Really

    Lets move on. The only compensation I would support is that if an ancestor wants to go back to Africa, we can give them a one way ticket and remove their american citizenship. Many American lost their lives fighting a war that lead to the end of slavery. African americans should pay these ancestors back too.

    June 18, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  4. Bev - NYC

    Apology accepted, can we get back to discussing healthcare now? Why any Senate time is being wasted on this is beyond me. There is no no alive in 2009 who was a slave in the 1800's. Enough with the reparations, 40 acres and a mule crap. Anyone who considers themselves emotionally attached to Africa is free to return no one is stopping you. If you're staying no more whining, this is a country of opportunity make the most of yours!

    June 18, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  5. Peter E

    Wow, and only 150 years late! Palin harped about Letterman apologizing six days too late, and the media is still going at it. Will the media spend as much time and effort chastizing America for its failures of Civil Rights for 100 years after the Emancipation?

    June 18, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |

    I have one question for you...

    How come everytime we bring up slavery you tell us to get over it, but we must NEVER forget about the holucost? How hyporcritical of you to say that. What just forget about the 350 years the your ancestors
    enslaved us? Forget about being treated worst that the family pet? we were not allowed to read, write, look at a white person, they were raped, had their familes torn apart, etc, need i say more. We don't even know who our ancestors are thanks to your ancestors never keeping adequate records of us (we were considered 1/5th of a person)and giving us only first names, hell you guys are able to trace your family pet back from those days. We have nothing. All we know is we are from Africa. What part though? what tribe? what was our culture? who did we worship? You guys are able to do that. Then you wonder why this is a sore subject with us.. CNN PLEASE POST!

    June 18, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Tennessee Libertarian

    Enough of the reparations already – no one who was a slave is around anymore to receive them, so why the waste of time on another "appeasement" – it seems like that is all the current administration is good for.

    We are the United States of America, and we ought to strat acting like it.

    I'm afraid our current president and his cronies are weak, small people.

    God help us!

    June 18, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. CAL

    LOL!! LOL!! LOL!!!!!!

    I knew this would bring all the bigots and it has proved me right. Just reading these blog is all that's needed to see that racist is still alive and well, not that I thought anything different. It's so easy for you bloggers to make the nasty comments you made, it wasn't you or your ancestors. You bigots are pathetic!!!!!!

    June 18, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. Limbaugh is a liberal

    'You're now free, therefore from now on I don't have to help you!' is what the republicans did in the Civil War. It's the equivalent of mugging and beating your neighbor, and burning down his house, and afterwards just say 'I've stopped doing it, therefore you being poor, bloody and homeless is now your own fault.' After hundreds of years of exploitation they didn't even have the courtesy to thank African Americans. All they did was pass the blame, but without repairing the damage and exploitation that the North itself was built on as well! No person in America is blameless, not even the North! The republicans had no plan on actually giving equality to blacks, only grand-stand with words and speeches, and pretend that just saying someone is free makes everything alright. Funny how little the GOP progressed since then.

    June 18, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  10. Esco

    If the Senate was to hand out money to every black american, and ensue apologies throughout the U.S., a few years from now or more if the same issue of race comes up, they will say "We Paid You Black Americans That Lump Sum, Remember," and then another tension will break out. So its either pay now, and pay again later...or just say we are all sorry that happened and recognize the tragedies from long ago, move on and call it even! At least thats just my 2 cents on the matter...

    Money will not solve anything! It will only up-root tension. So if they want to make an apology, just make it public and be done with it. There is no reason to continue this...

    But i have to say, the ones that really need the most respect, are the Native Americans that were here First! This is their land, as well as their ancestors. We should all honor that ^_^

    June 18, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  11. cedgar

    This is a waste of time. How about Congress get back to work!
    If, I or my family have done any thing, we are perfectly
    capable to apologize for our self ( when you have integrity)

    June 18, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. tedious898

    LibertyQueen June 18th, 2009 1:00 pm ET

    Blacks in California as a race voted overwhelmingly for Prop 8 which denies the Civil Rights of Lesbians and Gays. 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. Separate IS NOT Equal…get it?

    Queen....I'm a supporter of the LGBT community to a large extent. But they lose me when they equate their situation with that of African Americans (i.e. Civil Rights). I believe a person can chose whether they would like to engage in a homosexual relationship but a African American has no choice in their ethnicity.

    So calm yourself and don't lose supporters trying to make this a civil rights issues

    June 18, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  13. Mark

    The congress works for, represents and speaks for the people, not themselves. As a member of the people, I have nothing to apologize for!

    Slavery was horrible, and should be condemned. BUT, no one alive was ever a slave, and no one alive ever held anyone in slavery.

    My ancestors were murdered by the Germans in WWII, but the German people do not owe me anything, except those that perpetrated the crimes, which they have either been punished for, or have apologized.

    Nuff said. Move on, and get a life, stop using the past as an excuse. Stop using the past to get votes. This only perpetuates the issue, resentments and divisions amongst Americans of all ancestoral backgrounds.

    How can we all be the same, if all we talk about is our differences? How can we move forward if we just focus on the past? It has to stop.

    June 18, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  14. M - Pleeeeese!

    This is one sistah that doesn't need a pointless apology from any political entity. It is really rather insulting. Slavery is a part of this countries legacy, and it is certainly nothing to be proud of, but what I am proud of are the men and women, both black and white, slave and free man who worked tiredlessly to change an immoral and inhuman system. These individuals took up a battle, much like the men and women in Iran, and changed a society for the better, and that I am very proud of.

    Notice, I said better. We are not perfect, but there are still a lot of people who understand the continued need to make quality of life in this country better for everyone.

    June 18, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  15. Jason

    What about white endentured servitude.... why isn't this discussed in the history books and on the Senate floor?

    June 18, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  16. Keith, CO

    Everyday hate groups operate in the United States they get stronger.
    When those groups go away then we can pretend everything is all better.

    June 18, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  17. Al

    Not all BLACKS take advantage of the system. Quick question who created the handout system in America? It wasn't a black or asian or indian. In the end we all have to look in the mirror and hold ourselves responsible. We all hold some form of racist or prejudice views; we just have to communicate more with each other.

    June 18, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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