House apologizes for slavery, Jim Crow

On Tuesday, July 29, the United States House of Representatives formally apologized for slavery and the oppressive system of segregationist laws in post-Reconstruction America known as Jim Crow.

The drafter of the bill, Rep. Steve Cohen, (D) Tennessee, had written a letter to President Clinton back when he was making noises about expressing “regret” for slavery suggesting that he apologize for slavery and Jim Crow both. Nothing came of it then, but once Mr. Cohen made it to the House, he decided he’d take matters into his own hands.

From Rep. Cohen’s introduction of the bill:

This Congress did the right thing in apologizing for the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and in encouraging the Japanese Government to apologize for the use of “comfort women.” But the fact that this government has not apologized to its own citizens, African-Americans, for the institution of slavery and for the Jim Crow laws that followed and accepted that fact and encouraged changes in our dialogue and understanding in the actions of this country to rectify that is certainly a mistake. And today we rectify that mistake. This is a symbolic resolution but hopefully it will begin a dialogue where people will open their hearts and their minds to the problems that face this country, from racism that exists in this country on both sides and which must end if we’re to go forward as the country that we were created to be and which we are destined to be. So it is with great honor that I speak on this resolution and urge the members of this body to pass this historic resolution, recognize our errors, but also recognize the greatness of this country, because only a great country can recognize and admit its mistakes and then travel forth to create indeed a more perfect union that works to bring people of all races, religions and creeds together in unity as Americans part of the United States of America. Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the time and I urge my colleagues to vote unanimously to pass this resolution today. Thank you.

I’m surprised by this story because I heard nothing at all about it on the news when it happened. A Google News search now confirms that this story has barely been published.

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