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U.S. Lawmakers Apologize for Slavery

Chains of Slavery

Tuesday marked the first time the federal government has ever offered up a formal apology for the "fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity" of the legal slave trade and segregation of African Americans.

The man who introduced the resolution in 2007, Congressman Steve Cohen, lauded the event:

"This is a historic moment in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and I hope that this legislation can serve to open the dialogue on race and equality for all," he said in a statement.

"Apologies are not empty gestures, but are a necessary first step towards any sort of reconciliation between people," said Cohen, who represents the area of Memphis, Tennessee.

Click here to read the full transcript of Rep. Cohen's formal resolution.

Cohen won his seat in 2006, after beating the younger brother of former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. He now represents a largely black district and is up for reelection.

What do you think of the apology and of Cohen's motivation for seeing it through?



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Canada and Australia recently apologized to their indigenous populations for treating them as less than human. Do you think these actions possibly went some way towards embarrassing the U.S. Congress into finally making the apology resolution -- not that African Americans were indigenous, but because the majority population treated them as less than human?

Sent by Liz Cooksey | 7:45 PM | 7-30-2008

Here's my response. So what. Its 232 years too late--from when this country was born. It was 143 years since the Emancipation Proclamation. Tell the woman whose son dies in a drive-by in Detroit or Chicago or Roxbury tonight that Congress apologized. It means nothing but the absolution of white guilt. And most whites have no idea that this was done today. That is how insignificant it is. I promise you Obama will ignore it. He can't speak to is. So much for the first black president. In fact, Obama needs fo rhtis apology to go away so that anti-black white racists (not all whites) don't use this to scare the country that Obama would apologize as President--now THAT would be more significant, because EVERYONE would hear about it. But some little congressman with a good heart doing this is akin to a woman being raped 231 years ago, having the rapist's baby (analagous to blacks and whites being "stuck" with one another as fellow citizens after the rape of slavery) only to have her great,great, great, great grandaughter walk down a street one day and hear the descendant of the rapists whisper "sorry." If America, as a nation was ever serious and took seriously the damage which slavery has done to Native Americans, Blacks and whites, it would create institutions, scholarships, job training--a G.I.. Bill for ghetto poor. Heck, most whites today condemn affirmative action which is aimed to fix the inequality of THIS lifetime created by Jim Crow--and millions of those blacks are alive--so what makes us think that they give a damn about how slavery impacted black americans
of four generations ago? For European Jews after their holocaust it is "never again." for American blacks much longer holocaust, we are urged, "don't mention it again. It has nothing to do with the whites of the day or for modern blacks--who we are reminded, "have never been slaves." Slavery was the DEATH of Black Americans as a people (not as individuals). For whites, its abolition was the END. For Blacks, Slavery was the BEGINNING of their struggles with racism. If I am wrong, what do we think the whole phenomenon of 21st century blacks calling themselves "Nigger/nigga/the 'N' Word"? ANd the fact that the modern descendants of slaves think its meaning has evolved. Hariett Tubman once said, "I saved 300 slaves and never lost one traveler; I would have saved many more if they only new they were."

Sent by massai | 1:26 AM | 7-31-2008

I doubt that the apology given by the federal government to the fifth generation decendents of the black slaves will do anything for them. It might ease the present day white elitist's conscience a little. While we are at it, let's apologize to the indigenous peoples of North America for the genocide and destruction of their culture with the attempted indoctrination of their children into the European culture.

Sent by Dan Bowlds | 6:41 AM | 7-31-2008

White people don't owe Black people an apology for slavery, the government of the United States of America DOES... is simply called repentance.

We should not be bound by the past, but we definitely should not forget it. The apology is too ALL Americans, White, Black and other for a sin permitted by and to some degree committed by their government, maybe if we saw it that way, people would understand.

A wise man, poet and philosopher George Santayana, once said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

That being said, I am glad the Congress of the United States lived up to the expectation of corporate repentance.

Further, African Americans have an obligation to honor the struggle of our ancestors as well as celebrate their endurance, without which, we would not be here.

I'm just saying...

Sent by DJ Black Adam | 11:59 AM | 7-31-2008

Blogger massai mentions "the inequality of THIS lifetime created by Jim Crow." I would like to add that reparations for human rights violations in this lifetime are more practical than reparations for violations against ancestors. Likewise, reparations for violations committed yesterday are more practical than reparations for violations committed 50 years ago. If something is more practical, it has a better chance of occurring.

The U.S. government is still committing human rights violations against African Americans. These include incarceration for victimless "drug war" offenses, outright false imprisonment, and murder (an example is the recent murder of Baron Pikes). My hope is that African Americans aggressively seek reparations for current violations. This may be the best hope for ending the violations.

Sent by Reparations | 6:46 PM | 7-31-2008

Now what difference will this make in my life as a young brown skin male in an endless battle against the ever present racism that looms even from my own kind due to an ingenious systematical hate plan as history has shown me. It's not fair to apologize for legalized terrorist violations done centuries ago when there aren't any reparations for even the injustices of today like the Sean Bells and Rodney Kings and Nelson Mandelas. As the world's greatest country complete with many resources for aid, it's a hot iron being thrown at my face to apologize and do nothing about it. And their was absolutely no media coverage either.

Sent by Tie Ginn IV | 6:41 AM | 8-5-2008