|AP article wrote:|
|RICHMOND, Virginia (AP) -- Meeting on the grounds of the former Confederate Capitol, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously Saturday to express "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery.
Sponsors of the resolution say they know of no other state that has apologized for slavery, although Missouri lawmakers are considering such a measure. The resolution does not carry the weight of law but sends an important symbolic message, supporters said.
"This session will be remembered for a lot of things, but 20 years hence I suspect one of those things will be the fact that we came together and passed this resolution," said Delegate A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who sponsored it in the House of Delegates.
The resolution passed the House 96-0 and cleared the 40-member Senate on a unanimous voice vote. It does not require Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's approval.
The measure also expressed regret for "the exploitation of Native Americans."
The resolution was introduced as Virginia begins its celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, where the first Africans arrived in 1619. Richmond, home to a popular boulevard lined with statues of Confederate heroes, later became another point of arrival for Africans and a slave-trade hub.
The resolution says government-sanctioned slavery "ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history, and the abolition of slavery was followed by systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding."
In Virginia, black voter turnout was suppressed with a poll tax and literacy tests before those practices were struck down by federal courts, and state leaders responded to federally ordered school desegregation with a "Massive Resistance" movement in the 1950s and early '60s.
The apology is the latest in a series of strides Virginia has made in overcoming its segregationist past. Virginia was the first state to elect a black governor -- L. Douglas Wilder in 1989 -- and the Legislature took a step toward atoning for Massive Resistance in 2004 by creating a scholarship fund for blacks whose schools were shut down between 1954 and 1964.
Among those voting for the measure was Delegate Frank D. Hargrove, an 80-year-old Republican who infuriated black leaders last month by saying "black citizens should get over" slavery.
After enduring a barrage of criticism, Hargrove successfully co-sponsored a resolution calling on Virginia to celebrate "Juneteenth," a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Do you think this was the right thing to do? I personally would have voted against it, not because I believe slavery was right, but simply on the principal of apologizing for something that took place so long ago and for which we as individuals are not responsible.
In fact, arguably it worked out for the better.
The United States is better and stronger for the black men and women in her history. And I doubt that many of those citizens today would have rather grown up in Africa than the United States, as they may very well have had slavery not existed 400 years before they were born.
This does not justify slavery, but illustrates how in the long run past wrongs can work for the better (such as the story of Joesph in the Old Testament).
Where do we draw the line? Should Constantine (or even Gordian III) have apologized on behalf of the Roman Empire for the execution of Jesus Christ?
Should the British government apologize to the United States for impressing U.S. citizens into the British Navy for service in the Napoleonic Wars?
Should the United States apologize to Spain for rushing to judgment over the USS Maine and declaring war in 1898 against the Kingdom of Spain?
I simply believe we should spend our time looking forward and working together for the future, rather than making apologies for immoral activity that none of us personally did or for which none of us personally suffered.