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U. S. Slavery

The following Resolution, H.Res.194, apologizing for slavery in the United States, was introduced in the United States House of Representatives by Representative Steven Cohen, a Democrat from Tennessee on February 22, 2007.  H.Res.194 passed the House on July 29, 2008, by a voice vote.

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.

Attest:

Clerk.

Congressman Steven Cohen's statement after passage of H.Res.194:

"I am very proud that my colleagues in the House of Representatives passed our resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow in the United States.  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.  Apologies are not empty gestures, but are a necessary first step towards any sort of reconciliation between people. I thank Congressman John Conyers (MI-14), whose assistance in moving this resolution forward was indispensible, for his strong support for this bill."

American Medical Association has issued a formal apology to African-American physicians for past racism in excluding African-Americans from the AMA.  Dr. Otis Brawley, the African-American Chief Financial Officer of the American Cancer Society said, "It is true that what the AMA did historically was awful.  There were AMA local chapters that actually had rules against black members well into the late 1960s, and policies that made blacks not feel comfortable well into the 1980s."  Said Dr. Clive Callender who was met with silence in the 1970s when he pleaded for transplants for African Americans, "My attitude is not one of bitterness, but one of gratefulness that finally they have seen the error of their ways."  The AMA's immediate past president, Dr. Ronald Davis, said, "to the extent that our practices may have impeded the ability of African-American physicians to interact collegially with white physicians, that would certainly be another reason why we would have profound regret for our past practices," because this lack of interaction - discussing patient care - may have caused African-American patients to be afforded a more limited menu of health care options.

 

 

 

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