Congress Apology for Slavery

Or, at least one half of Congress.

The U.S. House of Representatives joins the “apologize for slavery” bandwagon, passing what AP calls, “an unprecedented apology to black Americans for the wrongs committed
against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim
Crow segregation laws.”
(AP)

Apology Index has covered several of the state apologies for slavery. For those keeping score at home Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey have issued official apologies for their role in legalized slavery.

While apologies are nice, and probably do more good than harm, really they can’t compare to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Resolution sponsor Rep. Steve Cohen explained the resolution.

Here is the text of the resolution: (H Res 194):

H. Res. 194

In the House of Representatives, U. S.,

July 29, 2008.

Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved
in the United States and the 13 American colonies from 1619 through
1865;

Whereas slavery in America resembled no other form of
involuntary servitude known in history, as Africans were captured and
sold at auction like inanimate objects or animals;

Whereas Africans forced into slavery were brutalized,
humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being
stripped of their names and heritage;

Whereas enslaved families were torn apart after having been sold separately from one another;

Whereas the system of slavery and the visceral racism against
persons of African descent upon which it depended became entrenched in
the Nation’s social fabric;

Whereas slavery was not officially abolished until the passage
of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865 after
the end of the Civil War;

Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery,
African-Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, and economic
gains they made during Reconstruction eviscerated by virulent racism,
lynchings, disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws
that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial segregation
in virtually all areas of life;

Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as `Jim
Crow,’ which arose in certain parts of the Nation following the Civil
War to create separate and unequal societies for whites and
African-Americans, was a direct result of the racism against persons of
African descent engendered by slavery;

Whereas a century after the official end of slavery in America,
Federal action was required during the 1960s to eliminate the dejure
and defacto system of Jim Crow throughout parts of the Nation, though
its vestiges still linger to this day;

Whereas African-Americans continue to suffer from the complex
interplay between slavery and Jim Crow–long after both systems were
formally abolished–through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and
intangible, including the loss of human dignity, the frustration of
careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and
opportunity;

Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure segregation of
African-Americans and the dehumanizing atrocities committed against
them should not be purged from or minimized in the telling of American
history;

Whereas on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island,
Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush acknowledged
slavery’s continuing legacy in American life and the need to confront
that legacy when he stated that slavery `was . . . one of the greatest
crimes of history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end
with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that still
trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times. But
however long the journey, our destiny is set: liberty and justice for
all.’;

Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the
deep-seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism against
African-Americans that began with slavery when he initiated a national
dialogue about race;

Whereas a genuine apology is an important and necessary first step in the process of racial reconciliation;

Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and
injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs
committed can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help
Americans confront the ghosts of their past;

Whereas the legislature of the Commonwealth of Virginia has
recently taken the lead in adopting a resolution officially expressing
appropriate remorse for slavery and other State legislatures have
adopted or are considering similar resolutions; and

Whereas it is important for this country, which legally
recognized slavery through its Constitution and its laws, to make a
formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, so that it
can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, and harmony for all
of its citizens: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved, That the House of Representatives–
      (1) acknowledges that slavery is incompatible with the
      basic founding principles recognized in the Declaration of Independence
      that all men are created equal;
      (2) acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow;
      (3) 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; and
      (4) expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering
      consequences of the misdeeds committed against African Americans under
      slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights
      violations in the future.

Enough with the apologies already!

Commentator Don Surber says, enough with the apologies already. He’s fed up with both demands for apologies and apology as spectacle by politicians:

I am tired of the politicization of the apology. Phony apologies
water down not only the meaning of an apology, but also the political
discourse.

Some apologies are necessary and sincere. The apology was quick and
private after Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller denigrated the military
experience of Republican Sen. John McCain last week.

But too often, political apologies are public spectacles.

When the Florida legislature apologized for slavery, it came decades
after the last slave had gone to heaven. It did no one any good, but it
sure made legislators feel morally superior.

Apologizing for someone else’s actions is stealing a little glory. How smug. How self-satisfied. The mea culpa is all about me.

Almost as bad is the call for an apology. Someone says something that
someone doesn’t like, and the offended party demands an apology.

Go read the rest.

Charleston Daily Mail

New Jersey Apology for Slavery

Recalling one of the first apologies that Apology Index covered, the New Jersey legislature has adopted a resolution apologizing for that state’s role in slavery.

What’s that, you say? Isn’t New Jersey a northern state? New Jersey didn’t have slaves, what are they apologizing for?

You are correct! New Jersey is, in fact, the first northern state to issue a formal slavery apology, joining Southern states Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.

But if you think slavery was limited to the South … bzzzt! Thanks for playing, but you need to review your American history:

According to the resolution, New Jersey had one of the largest slave populations in the Northern colonies and was the last state in the
Northeast to formally abolish slavery, not doing so until 1846.

The state didn’t ratify the constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery until January 1866, a month after it had already become federal law. (Washington Post)

As usual, some in New Jersey think it is a meaningless gesture. Well, it is in the sense that any actual slaves are not around to receive the apology. But it is not meaningless in recognizing that institutionalized and legally sanctioned slavery was the single worst stain on a nation founded on the principles of liberty and the proposition that “all men are created equal” (and women, I would add, but that’s another whole topic). The consequences of that wrong continue to affect our nation today. In that sense, to whatever extent an apology helps people recognize that history (didn’t know about slaves in New Jersey, did you?) and move toward greater reconciliation, it strengthens America. And that, my friends, is a good thing.

(Although, conceptually, I do think the resolution is incorrect in identifying contemporary racist ideas and action as vestiges of slavery. I think that is backwards. Slavery did not cause racism. Racism is the older evil, of which slavery as practiced in the Americas was one particularly bitter fruit. But racism today is caused by the same things that cause racism in any place or time: ignorance and arrogance being chief ingredients. That’s just how it seems to me, though I could be wrong.)

Good job, New Jersey. Still waiting to hear from Massachusetts …

More coverage:

Philadelphia Inquirer

International Herald Tribune

Jersey Blogs

Read the resolution at Slate

Here is the resolution in full (I know it’s long, but I love “whereas” clauses):

A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION apologizing for the wrongs of slavery and expressing New Jersey’s profound regret for its role in slavery.

WHEREAS, Slavery has been documented as a worldwide practice since antiquity, dating back to 3500 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia; and

WHEREAS, During the existence of the Atlantic Slave Trade, millions of Africans became involuntary immigrants to the New World, and millions more died during passage; the first African slaves in the North American colonies were brought to Jamestown, in 1619; and

WHEREAS, The Atlantic Slave Trade was a lucrative enterprise, and African slaves, a prized commodity to support the economic base of plantations in the colonies, were traded for tropical products, manufactured goods, sugar, molasses, and other merchandise; and

WHEREAS, Some African captives resisted enslavement by fleeing from slave forts on the West African coast and others mutinied aboard slave trading vessels, cast themselves into the Atlantic Ocean, or risked the cruel retaliation of their masters by running away to seek freedom; and

WHEREAS, Although the United States outlawed the transatlantic slave trade in 1808, the domestic slave trade in the colonies and illegal importation continued for several decades; and

WHEREAS, Slavery, or the “Peculiar Institution,” in the United States resembled no other form of involuntary servitude, as Africans were captured and sold at auction as chattel, like inanimate property or animals; and

WHEREAS, To prime Africans for slavery, the fundamental values of the Africans were shattered; they were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage; women and girls were raped, and families

were disassembled as husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons were sold into slavery apart from one another; and

WHEREAS, A series of complex colonial laws was enacted to relegate the status of Africans and their descendants to slavery, in spite of their loyalty, dedication, and service to the country, including heroic and distinguished service in the Revolutionary War, Civil

War, and all other conflicts and military actions involving the United States military; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey, with as many as 12,000 slaves, had one of the largest populations of captive Africans in the northern colonies; and

WHEREAS, In 1786, the State of New Jersey enacted a law that prohibited the importation of slaves into this State and made owners punishable for the mistreatment of slaves; and

WHEREAS, Although the State of New Jersey passed a gradual emancipation law in 1804, it was the last northern state to emancipate its slaves, and required all children of slaves born after July 4, 1804 to remain the “servant of the owner of his or her mother” until they were twenty-one years of age for women or twenty-five years of age for men; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey had one of the severest slave codes in the northern colonies and was one of the few northern states to sanction the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which permitted authorities in free states to return runaway slaves to their owners, with the result that Underground Railroad passengers had to proceed with utmost caution in this State; and

WHEREAS, In 1846, New Jersey passed a law officially abolishing slavery; and

WHEREAS, The system of slavery had become entrenched in American history and the social fabric, and the issue of enslaved Africans had to be addressed as a national issue, contributing to the Civil War from 1861 to 1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude on December 18, 1865; and

WHEREAS, New Jersey adopted the Thirteenth Amendment on January 23, 1866 only after originally rejecting it on March 16, 1865; and

WHEREAS, After emancipation from 246 years of slavery, African-Americans soon saw the political, social, and economic gains they made during Reconstruction dissipated by virulent and rabid racism, lynchings, disenfranchisement of African-American voters,

Black Codes designed to reimpose the subordination of African-Americans, and Jim Crow laws that instituted a rigid system of state sanctioned segregation in virtually all areas of life and lasted until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting

Rights Act; and

WHEREAS, Throughout their existence in America and even in the decades after the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans have found the struggle to overcome the bitter legacy of slavery long and arduous, and for many African-Americans the scars left behind are unbearable, haunting their psyches and clouding their vision of the future and of America’s many positive attributes; and

WHEREAS, Our nation acknowledges the crimes and persecution visited upon other peoples during World War II lest the world forget, yet the very mention of the broken promise of “40 acres and a mule” to former slaves or of the existence of racism today evokes denial from many quarters of any responsibility for the centuries of legally sanctioned deprivation of African-Americans of their endowed rights or for contemporary policies that perpetuate the existing state of affairs; and

WHEREAS, In 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush stated, “At this place, liberty and life were stolen and sold. Human Beings were delivered and sorted, and weighed, and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises, and loaded as cargo on a voyage without return. One of

the largest migrations of history was also one of the greatest crimes of history…. For 250 years the captives endured 1 an assault on their culture and their dignity…. Small men took on the powers and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished brutality and bullying and rape produced a dullness and hardness of conscience. Christian men and women became blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice…. We can finally judge the past by the standards of President John Adams, who called slavery ‘an evil of colossal magnitude’…. My nation’s journey toward justice has not been easy, and it is not over. The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation … and many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of other times …; and

WHEREAS, In New Jersey the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a home, seeking quality public

education and college admission, and enduring pretextual traffic stops and other indignities; and

WHEREAS, European and African nations have apologized for their roles in what history calls the worst holocaust of humankind, the Atlantic Slave Trade, and racial reconciliation is impossible without some acknowledgment of the moral and legal injustices perpetrated upon African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, An apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help African-American and white citizens confront the ghosts of their collective pasts

together; and

WHEREAS, The story of the enslavement of Africans and their descendants, the human carnage, and the dehumanizing atrocities committed during slavery should not be purged from New Jersey’s history or discounted; moreover, the faith, perseverance, hope, and

endless triumphs of African-Americans and their significant contributions to the development of this State and the nation should be embraced, celebrated, and retold for generations to come; and

WHEREAS, The perpetual pain, distrust, and bitterness of many African-Americans could be assuaged and the principles espoused by the Founding Fathers would be affirmed, and great strides toward unifying all New Jerseyans and inspiring the nation to acquiesce might be accomplished, if on the eve of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in the New World, the State acknowledged and

atoned for its role in the slavery of Africans; and

WHEREAS, Acknowledging that there is a difference between wrong and right, and that slavery as an American “institution” was a wrong committed upon millions of African Americans and that their descendants continue to suffer from the effects of Jim Crow

laws, segregation, housing discrimination, 1 discrimination in education, and other ills inflicted upon African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, The State of New Jersey, the Governor, and its citizens are conscious that under slavery many atrocities and gross violations of human rights were imposed upon African-Americans, and that acknowledging these facts can and will avert future tragedies, be they in the Sudan, or other parts of the world; now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the General Assembly of the State of NewJersey (the Senate concurring):

1. The Legislature of the State of New Jersey expresses its profound regret for the State’s role in slavery and apologizes for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its after effects in the United States of America; expresses its deepest sympathies and solemn regrets to

those who were enslaved and the descendants of those slaves, who were deprived of life, human dignity, and the constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States; and we encourage all citizens to remember and teach their children about the history of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and modern day slavery, to ensure that these tragedies will neither be forgotten nor repeated.

2. It is the intent of the Legislature that this resolution shall not be used in, or be the basis of, any type of litigation.

3. Duly authenticated copies of this resolution, signed by the President of the Senate and Speaker of the General Assembly and attested by the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the General Assembly, shall be transmitted to the New Jersey Secretary of State,

all New Jersey branches of the National Association for the Advancement for Colored People, Garden State Bar Association, the Amistad Commission, and the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education.

STATEMENT

This concurrent resolution issues a formal apology on behalf of the State of New Jersey for its role in slavery and discusses the history of racism and inhumane treatment toward African-Americans in the United States from the arrival of its first settlers to the present day. It calls upon the citizens of this State to remember that slavery continues to exist and encourages them to teach about the history and legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws

Alabama Legislature Apologizes for Slavery

Yesterday, Alabama joined Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina in adopting an official apology for the state’s historic role in slavery.  See: Alabama Legislature approves slavery apology

Yes, all the trendy states are apologizing for slavery now. Sure, they’re about 140 years too late to apologize to anyone who was directly affected by slavery —  that is, anyone who was an actual slave — but better late than never.

Actually, the article cited nicely sums up the the many ambiguities and cross-currents laced through this recent spate of official apologies for slavery. Long overdue gesture of reconciliation? Certainly. Groundwork for a renewed push for official reparations? Probably. Another example of the culture of victimhood? Maybe. Complete waste of time? Some might think so.  All about race and politics? In the South? You betcha.

State legislatures are, after all, full of politicians. And, for better or worse, questions of racial identity and race relations are never far from the surface in the South (or in the United States as a whole). It is easy to find ulterior motives and not-so-hidden agendas in an act of this nature. And perhaps they are there.

But it is also possible to suspend cynicism for a moment and say this is a good thing. Alabama was, in many ways, the epicenter of the struggle to secure the civil rights of African-Americans. For a long time the weight and might of Alabama’s government was on the wrong side of that struggle, epitomized by the brutal attack on the marchers at Selma on Bloody Sunday and Governor George Wallace vowing “segregation forever.” So for the Alabama Legislature to adopt this apology and acknowledgment of past wrongs as an official act is, whatever else it may be, a sign of progress and positive change over the last 40 year or so.

And it is simply the right thing to do.

Which is not to say we’ve reached the Promised Land of racial harmony:

“The University of South Alabama/Press-Register poll
conducted Monday through Thursday shows 45 percent of people
would support such an apology, while 44 percent would not.
The margin of error is 5 percentage points.

More than half of whites polled — 56 percent — were
opposed to the state apologizing, while 84 percent of blacks
were in favor.”  (Poll: Alabama conflicted on
apology for slavery)

The full text of the apology is worth reading. It is full of fascinating little rhetorical land mines and a few ahistorical assertions, reflecting some obvious tension in the drafting process.  The resolution is HJR 321. The Alabama Legislature site is a bit tricky to navigate and you apparently must use Internet Explorer to get full functionality, so I’ll paste the full text at the end of this post.  For now, let’s focus on the actual apology:

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES
THEREOF CONCURRING, That we express our profound regret for the State of
Alabama’s role in slavery and that we apologize for the wrongs inflicted by
slavery and its after effects in the United States of America; we express our
deepest sympathies and solemn regrets to those who were enslaved and the
descendants of slaves, who were deprived of life, human dignity, and the
constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States; and we
encourage the remembrance and teaching about the history of slavery, Jim Crow
laws, and modern day slavery, to ensure that these tragedies will neither be
forgotten nor repeated.

That’s about as solid an apology as you can ask for. No “mistakes were made” here. No ducking and bobbing. No “sorry if anyone was offended”  Here we’ve got profound regrets, a straight up apology, deepest sympathies for those harmed, some solemn regrets to go with the profound regrets … and a promise to never do it again. This is a solid 9 as apologies go. It would be a 10, except the text of this apology never explicitly says to whom it is directed. We know what they meant, but by its terms this apology is just flung out there to whom it may concern. A minor quibble.

DATE OF APOLOGY: May 24, 2007*  (Date of final passage. Governor’s signature pending.)
APOLOGIZER: The Legislature of Alabama
APOLOGIZEE: Strangely, they never really say. Presumably all the victims of slavery and their descendants.

Full text of the resolution:

Rep(s). By Representatives Moore
(M), Dunn, Coleman, Hilliard, Kennedy, Hinshaw, Buskey, Gordon, Thomas (J),
Mitchell, Salaam, England,
Baker (L), Holmes, Knight, Scott, Robinson (O), Rogers, Bandy, Warren and Hall

HJR321

ENGROSSED

APOLOGIZING FOR THE WRONGS OF SLAVERY; EXPRESSING PROFOUND
REGRET FOR ALABAMA’S ROLE IN SLAVERY; AND EXPRESSING INTENT THAT THIS
RESOLUTION SHALL NOT BE USED IN, OR BE THE BASIS OF, ANY TYPE OF LITIGATION.

WHEREAS, slavery has been documented as a worldwide practice
since antiquity, dating back to 3500 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia;
and

WHEREAS, during the course of the infamous Atlantic Slave
Trade, millions of Africans became involuntary immigrants to the New World, and
millions more died during passage; the first African slaves in the North
American colonies were brought to Jamestown, in 1619; and

WHEREAS, the Atlantic Slave Trade was a lucrative
enterprise, and African slaves, a prized commodity to support the economic base
of plantations in the colonies, were traded for tropical products, manufactured
goods, sugar, molasses, and other merchandise; and

WHEREAS, some African captives resisted enslavement by
fleeing from slave forts on the West African coast and others mutinied aboard
slave trading vessels, cast themselves into the Atlantic Ocean, or risked the
cruel retaliation of their masters by running away to seek freedom; and

WHEREAS, although the United States outlawed the
transatlantic slave trade in 1808, the domestic slave trade in the colonies and
illegal importation continued for several decades; and

WHEREAS, slavery, or the “Peculiar Institution,”
in the United States resembled no other form of involuntary servitude, as
Africans were captured and sold at auction as chattel, like inanimate property
or animals; and

WHEREAS, to prime Africans for slavery, the fundamental
values of the Africans were shattered, they were brutalized, humiliated,
dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of being stripped of their names
and heritage, women and girls were raped, and families were disassembled as
husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons were sold into
slavery apart from one another; and

WHEREAS, a series of complex colonial laws were enacted to
relegate the status of Africans and their descendants to slavery, in spite of
their loyalty, dedication, and service to the country, including heroic and
distinguished service in the Civil War; and

WHEREAS, the system of slavery had become entrenched in
American history and the social fabric, and the issue of enslaved Africans had
to be addressed as a national issue, contributing to the Civil War from 1861 to
1865 and the passage of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution,
which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude on December 18, 1865; and

WHEREAS, after emancipation from 246 years of slavery,
African-Americans soon saw the political, social, and economic gains they made
during Reconstruction dissipated by virulent and rabid racism, lynchings,
disenfranchisement of African-American voters, Black Codes designed to reimpose
the subordination of African-Americans, and Jim Crow laws that instituted a
rigid system of de jure segregation in virtually all areas of life and that
lasted until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting
Rights Act; and

WHEREAS, throughout their existence in America and even in
the decades after the Civil Rights Movement, African-Americans have found the
struggle to overcome the bitter legacy of slavery long and arduous, and for
many African-Americans the scars left behind are unbearable, haunting their
psyches and clouding their vision of the future and of America’s many
attributes; and

WHEREAS, acknowledgment of the crimes and persecution
visited upon other peoples during World War II is embraced lest the world
forget, yet the very mention of the broken promise of “40 acres and a
mule” to former slaves or of the existence of racism today evokes denial
from many quarters of any responsibility for the centuries of legally
sanctioned deprivation of African-Americans of their endowed rights or for
contemporary policies that perpetuate the status quo; and

WHEREAS, in 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, Senegal,
a former slave port, President George W. Bush stated, “At this place,
liberty and life were stolen and sold. Human Beings were delivered and sorted,
and weighed, and branded with the marks of commercial enterprises, and loaded
as cargo on a voyage without return. One of the largest migrations of history
was also one of the greatest crimes of history … Small men took on the powers
and airs of tyrants and masters. Years of unpunished brutality and bullying and
rape produced a dullness and hardness of conscience. Christian men and women became
blind to the clearest commands of their faith and added hypocrisy to injustice
… For 250 years the captives endured an assault on their culture and their
dignity … While physical slavery is dead, the legacy is alive. My nation’s
journey toward justice has not been easy, and it is not over. The racial
bigotry fed by slavery did not end with slavery or with segregation … and
many of the issues that still trouble America have roots in the bitter
experience of other times … We can finally judge the past by the standards of
President John Adams, who called slavery ‘an evil of colossal magnitude’
…”; and

WHEREAS, in Alabama, the vestiges of slavery are ever before
African-American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle
racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a
home, seeking quality public education and college admission, and enduring
pretextual traffic stops and other indignities; and

WHEREAS, European and African nations have apologized for their
roles in what history calls the worst holocaust of humankind, the Atlantic
Slave Trade, and racial reconciliation is impossible without some
acknowledgment of the moral and legal injustices perpetrated upon
African-Americans; and

WHEREAS, an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization
and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the wrongs can speed
racial healing and reconciliation and help African-American and white citizens
confront the ghosts of their collective pasts together; and

WHEREAS, the story of the enslavement of Africans and their
descendants, the human carnage, and the dehumanizing atrocities committed
during slavery should not be purged from Alabama’s history or discounted;
moreover, the faith, perseverance, hope, and endless triumphs of
African-Americans and their significant contributions to the development of
this state and the nation should be embraced, celebrated, and retold for
generations to come; and

WHEREAS, the perpetual pain, distrust, and bitterness of
many African-Americans could be assuaged and the principles espoused by the
Founding Fathers would be affirmed, and great strides toward unifying all
Alabamians and inspiring the nation to acquiesce might be accomplished, if on
the eve of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the first permanent
English settlement in the New World, the state acknowledged and atoned for its
pivotal role in the slavery of Africans; and

WHEREAS, acknowledging that there is a difference between
what is wrong and right, and that slavery as an American
“Institution” was a wrong committed upon millions of Black Americans
and that their ancestors are the beneficiaries of such wrongs, including, but
not limited to, segregation under Jim Crow, housing discrimination, discrimination
in education, and other ills inflicted upon Black people; and

WHEREAS, the State of Alabama, the Governor, and its
citizens are conscious that under slavery many atrocities and gross violations
of human rights were imposed upon Black people, and that acknowledging these
facts can and will avert future tragedies, be they in the Sudan, or other parts
of the world; and

WHEREAS, the State of Alabama has a long history of civil
rights involvement and is on the cutting edge of effective measures to promote
racial tolerance, such as the Birmingham Pledge; now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES
THEREOF CONCURRING, That we express our profound regret for the State of
Alabama’s role in slavery and that we apologize for the wrongs inflicted by
slavery and its after effects in the United States of America; we express our
deepest sympathies and solemn regrets to those who were enslaved and the
descendants of slaves, who were deprived of life, human dignity, and the
constitutional protections accorded all citizens of the United States; and we
encourage the remembrance and teaching about the history of slavery, Jim Crow
laws, and modern day slavery, to ensure that these tragedies will neither be
forgotten nor repeated.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That it is the intent of the
Legislature that this resolution shall not be used in, or be the basis of, any
type of litigation.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That this resolution shall be known
and referred to as the “Moore-Sanders Apology for Slavery Act.”

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That a copy of this resolution
be transmitted to each state elected official; the Executive Director of the
Alabama Commission on Higher Education; the Executive Director of the National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Alabama Chapter; and the
Executive Director of The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Alabama
Chapter; requesting that they further disseminate copies of this resolution to
their respective constituents so that they may be apprised of the sense of the
Alabama Legislature in this matter.