Virginia apologizes for role in slavery


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. Some communities created exclusive whites-only schools.

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


  1. The only thing I want to know is if the racial bigotry still is in force today? Is this one of those states who also refuse to accept the fact that our gay members of society would like to live as equals to the rest of us? America seems determined to stay safely in her individual sections of society. The problem is when they claim to have no bigotry but in fact are filled with it. Actions speak louder than words.

    I learned at the age of 16 to never live in any southern state. I went to an all girl’s boarding school and picked up some racism that was shocking from several southern belles.

    I will stay in the west with the rest of the eastern rejects.

  2. Ray

    Who will apologize at some future date for the enslavement of america? Along with apology should come learning and recognition of the signs that lead to abominations that fill history. Today we as a nation are sliding on an ever increasing slippery slope to that same end of enslavement. If one counts the lost guarantees once held in reverence, they will see how close we are. Freedom is becoming more of an illusion than a reality. Tighter and tighter the chains are becoming. The war on terror is the mask used to hide the true agenda. Seen any terrorists lately. Where is Osama. Who cares, his image served the purpose of PNAC. Bush now has total control of americans with no limit on punishment if you are suspected of anything he doesn’t like. Chains were used on the first black people transported here for use by the elites to provide labor. Food and basic shelter was the slaves only benefit for inhumane servitude. The new method to be used by the elites to achieve the labor for basic needs, is already been initiated. Freedoms are systematically being removed. Control is being introduced as innocent ID cards and microchip implants. With those little tools comes 24/7 tracking capability. Exacting monotary accounting, personal history records attainable in miliseconds, chemical secretion ability to alter mental processes and termination capability if you really screw-up. Who will apologize for allowing this to happen when we all are classified as being “with them or against them” This will becoming to a neighborhood near you soon. And you won’t have to worry about missing it. Fact is you won’t miss it. Of course if you are one of the three percent who are priveledged in the USA, you have little to worry about. You are “One of Them” not one of ” us ” commoners.

  3. Carl Nemo

    Virginia apologizes for it’s role in slavery…?! Oh…how politically correct we have all become as “we the people” collectively sleep at the wheel of life, accommodating the enactment of the Patriot Act, the Military Commissions Act, and all future acts to come that will insure the absolute and total enslavement of “all” Americans regardless of their race…!

  4. Though long over due, the fact that Virginia is now apologizing for its role in slavery is a strong step to overcoming strong racial stigmas of the South. It appears that despite the fact that the measure is apologizing for the establishment and fostering of inhumane and degrading labor system and the resulting horrific segregated society, the document is nothing more then an apology note. Will this request for forgiveness truly help Virginia in “overcoming its segregationist past” or is it really just that: a document? What I find most intriguing, and would like to call attention to, is that fact that this apology comes on the heels of another decision that was made by the Virginia State legislature in which they decided not to celebrate the bicentennial of President Abraham Lincoln in 2009. There appears to be strides in reconciling the racial history of Virginia, but celebrating a man who was instrumental in laying the ground work for that shift in history look to be contradictory acts. The post was extremely informative and induced a deliberation of ideas.

  5. SEAL

    One side of my ancestory is Native American and the other is English slave owners. Consequently, I view all of this sort of thing as self serving political horseshit. I’m amazed that the public tolerates it.

  6. Rocket

    An apology. How grand. What exactly is the state apologizing for? That there were slaves? That the state allowed slavery? I agree with Seal, political horseshit. Apologize to the native americans, England for the revolution, really where to you start and where would you end. Apologize for all the wrong that has been done since the begining of time. None of us here today had anything to do with what occured over a hundred years ago.