Connecticut has become the first state in New England to apologize for its role in centuries of slavery and racial discrimination.

Late last night, as the 2009 regular legislative session was about to end, the state Senate voted unanimously to approve the joint resolution of apology which was passed by the state’s House of Representatives two weeks ago.

Connecticut thus becomes the eighth state to apologize for slavery in the past two years, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and New Jersey. Expressions of apology have also been considered in a number of other states, and Connecticut is not expected to be the last state to offer an apology.

Connecticut’s history is typical of northeastern state: Connecticut practiced slavery from the earliest colonial days until the eve of the Civil War, formally abolishing slavery only in 1848. In addition to this history of more than 200 years of slavery, Connecticut’s colonial economy was heavily dependent on supplying slavery plantations in the American South and in the West Indies, as well as carrying out the slave trade, and its industrialization in the 19th century depended on the exploitation of southern slave labor. At slavery’s peak in Connecticut, one in four households owned at least one slave, making the practice truly a widespread, middle-class phenomenon. Finally, far from being a hotbed of abolitionism, the state resisted ending slavery long after the practice had become economically insignificant within the state itself.

While the House approved the resolution by voice vote without dissent, the Senate went a step further, taking a roll-call vote in which all thirty-six senators voted in favor of the apology.

State Sen. Toni Harp (D-New Haven), said that an apology “is something that will go a long way in making things different” for her and other black citizens, and that even as a “symbolic move,” the apology demonstrates  “a renewed commitment” to ending racial inequality in our society.

State Sen. John McKinney (R-Fairfield) said that it was “an honor to speak on behalf of this resolution,” noting that despite our progress towards racial equality, “we must not forget our history” and that there is a “constant need to look for equality.”

As with most state apologies, the resolution was amended, prior to adoption in the House, to specify that the apology does not create a legal right to sue for reparations.

6 Responses to “Connecticut apologizes for slavery”

  1. Traces of the Trade » Connecticut issues apology for slavery says:

    […] For more information about the apology and the historical role which Connecticut played in slavery, please click here. […]

  2. Inheriting the Trade | Connecticut becomes 1st New England state to apologize for slavery says:

    […] to apologize for its role in slavery. I refer you to my cousin James DeWolf Perry’s blog, The Living Consequences, for his excellent coverage of this legislative […]

  3. JamesD says:

    Thanks for the useful info. It's so interesting

  4. Eva Storrs says:

    I have spent an interesting day researching your website. Well done. The formal apologies from all states are a significant step in what I hope to become a healing process for most African American and all citizens in general.

  5. stella antley says:

    My name is Stella Antley and the Connecticut legislature’s Apology for Slavery, in Connecticut, presented to me on behalf of a Slave, my Great,Great Grandmother who lived to be 111 and hold me as an infant in a rare 5 Generation Black History Family Portrait. The Apology will be on display at the Wadsworth Antheum Museum, on June 14th 12noon for all to see, during “Juneteenth” a celebration of the freeing of the Slaves. The exhibit is free to the public. Happy “Juneteenth” Stella for the Slave

  6. Suzette Pinckney says:

    Stella it was a pleasure speaking with you and we at Hartford's Best look forward to your speaking at our event on June 7th at Jumoke Academy in Hartford. I wasn't aware of this resolution and I think that we have a long way to go but this is most definitely an accomplishment and is a stepping stone towards a day of atonement as you mentioned. Keep up up the fabulous work and congratulations.

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