Representative Steve Cohen (D; Tennessee) introduced House Resolution 194 in February 2007. The bill, if passed, would result in the House of Representatives apologizing for the enslavement and racial segregation of African-Americans. To date the bill has 120 co-sponsors.
According to CNN this morning:
The House of Representatives was poised Tuesday to pass a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and the era of Jim Crow.
The nonbinding resolution, which is expected to pass, was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white lawmaker who represents a majority black district in Memphis, Tennessee.
While many states have apologized for slavery, it will be first time a branch of the federal government will apologize for slavery if the resolution passes, an aide to Cohen said.
By passing the resolution, the House would also acknowledge the “injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow.”
Jim Crow refers to a period after slavery was abolished in 1865 to the 1960s when African-Americans were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties and were legally segregated from whites.
The resolution states that “the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day.”
“African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow — long after both systems were formally abolished — through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity,” the resolution states.
The House would also commit itself to stopping “the occurrence of human rights violations in the future,” if it passes the resolution.
The resolution does not address the controversial issue of reparations. Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendents of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.
The resolution will not be the first time lawmakers have apologized to an ethnic group for past injustices.
In April, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, that apologized to Native Americans for “the many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect.”
In 1993, the Senate also passed a resolution apologizing for the “illegal overthrow” of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.
In 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed a law apologizing to the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were held in detention camps during World War II. The 60,000 detainees who were alive at the time each received $20,000 from the government.