Thu 4 Jun, 2009
Tags: Apologies, Connecticut, Legislation, Racial discrimination, Slavery
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.