Virginia legislature issues apology for slavery

Monday, February 26, 2007

The State Capitol Building is the main seat of state government in Virginia.

The Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously Saturday in favor of a resolution apologizing for its role in slavery. The former center of the Confederacy during the Civil War became the first U.S. slave state to issue such a proclamation.

"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 Virginia House 96-0 and the Virginia Senate on voice vote. 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." The measure also expressed regret for "the exploitation of Native Americans."

"The resolution's wording was a compromise between House and Senate lawmakers who tweaked the language from issuing an apology, to expressing 'contrition,' to expressing 'profound regret,'" according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Prior to the cessation of slave importation, Virginia was a central hub in the slave trade. Historians estimate that more than 100,000 slaves passed through ports on the James River at Richmond, the state's capital.

Missouri and Maryland are considering similar resolutions.