The U.S. Senate has approved a measure which would apologize to Native Americans, on behalf of the people of the United States, for a history of official misdeeds by the federal government and “many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect”by U.S. citizens.

The apology takes the form of an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill, and would require the House and Senate to concur on a version of the appropriations bill which includes the amendment before it would take effect.

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Katrina Browne at Cape Coast CastleMy cousin Katrina Browne has a commentary up this afternoon at CNN.com, entitled “Slavery needs more than an apology.”

Katrina is the director and producer of the Emmy-nominated PBS documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. The film explores the history and legacy of our ancestors, who were the most successful slave-trading family in U.S. history.

In her commentary, Katrina writes about the significance of the U.S. Senate’s apology this summer for the nation’s history of slavery and racial discrimination. She discusses how little most Americans understand about this history or its enduring significance today, and asks why we cannot embrace this history and address its consequences in a positive spirit today.

Katrina Browne is interviewed today on NPR’s “Tell Me More” about the recent passage of a Senate apology for slavery.

The interview, conducted by Michel Martin, can be heard online here.

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This morning, the U.S. Senate is scheduled to debate and vote on the apology for slavery and racial discrimination offered by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

Debate on the resolution should begin around 10:30am (Eastern time), following a period of morning business which begins at 9:45am and could last up to an hour, and will be broadcast live on C-SPAN2.

Update: The Senate is now debating the resolution, beginning with a reading of the full text, including its recitation of the dark history of U.S. slavery and racial discrimination.

Update 2: The Senate has passed S. Con. Res. 26. by voice vote and without dissent. The resolution will now move to the House, where Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) is expected to shepherd the resolution.

The Senate, operating under unanimous consent, has set aside up to an hour for debate on the apology resolution. No amendments will be permitted, and following the debate, the Senate is expected to pass the apology by voice vote.

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I’m often asked, when discussing apologies, reparations, or other proposals for addressing the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, whether or not such measures have been taken for other historical events.

In weighing how to respond to historic injustices, a problem for which we have no widely-accepted and time-tested solutions, it seems to help people to know what precedents exist. It matters, for instance, that the U.S. apologized and offered reparations for interning Japanese-Americans in concentration camps in WWII, even though it took a half-century—and, in some cases, reparations had to be paid to descendants of the original victims. There are other examples, including the 1993 congressional apology to native Hawaiians and apologies for slavery by the U.S. House and eight state legislatures in the last two years. Other apologies are currently being considered, including ones in the U.S. Senate for slavery and the treatment of Native Americans.

Today, another potential precedent has emerged: Next week, the California State Assembly is scheduled to consider a measure which would apologize for discrimination against Chinese immigrants and their descendants in the 19th and 20th centuries.

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U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has introduced a bipartisan resolution into the U.S. Senate apologizing for the nation’s history of slavery and racism.

The resolution, S. Con. Res. 26, would have the U.S. Congress acknowledge the nation’s long and brutal history of slavery and racial discrimination, and apologize “on behalf of the people of the United States” to black Americans “for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors” under slavery and Jim Crow.

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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.

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Yesterday, I wrote about the slavery apology passed by the Connecticut House of Representatives and, because it was a breaking story, had to settle for linking to the A.P. wire story on the site of the Hartford Courant.

This morning, the Courant has its own story about the vote, which begins:

More than 200 years after the fact, the state House of Representatives voted Thursday to formally apologize for slavery in Connecticut.

I think this opening line powerfully illustrates the importance of finally, and fully, acknowledging our society’s sordid history around slavery and race.

Just what does the reporter believe happened in Connecticut more than 200 years ago?

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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.

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On Monday, the State of Connecticut will begin debating an apology for its role in slavery and and racial discrimination.

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