Thu 21 May, 2009
Tags: Apologies, Connecticut, Legislation, Racial discrimination, Slavery
The Connecticut House of Representatives voted unanimously today in favor of a resolution declaring “profound contrition” for the state legislature’s historic role in slavery and racial discrimination.
Connecticut would become the second northern state, after New Jersey, and the first state in New England, to apologize for its role in slavery and discrimination.
In the last two years, seven states have issued such apologies, and other states have been considering their own apologies. The U.S. House of Representatives apologized for slavery and discrimination last July, and senators from both parties have announced their intention to introduce a similar apology in the U.S. Senate.
The joint resolution of the Connecticut General Assembly was the subject of a committee hearing in March, and had been awaiting action by the full House. The resolution must now be taken up by the state senate before the legislative session expires on June 3.
State Rep. Kenneth Green (D-Hartford), a sponsor of the resolution, emphasized the importance of acknowledging our history:
When I talk to people today, and they say, “Why today, what does an apology mean?”, one of the things that I particularly [point out] is that in order to move on sometimes you have to acknowledge that mistakes have been made.
State Rep. Ernest Hewett (D-New London), who bears the last name of the family who owned one of his ancestors, explained that the apology is being issued on behalf of the state legislature, and not of any individuals alive today:
There is no one living in this state of Connecticut that I blame for what happened to my ancestors, no one in this chamber … but this body allowed something to go on that they knew was wrong, and all I’m asking for is a simple apology.
While the unanimous vote was followed by a standing ovation, legislators also inserted a provision, often found in other state apologies, indicating that the apology is not intended to provide support for legal actions, including those claiming reparations for slavery.
Connecticut took up slavery in early colonial times and did not abolish the practice until 1848.