Alabama Senate Considers Slavery Apology

Philip Rawls, AP, April 11, 2007

State Sen. Hank Sanders introduced a resolution Wednesday to express the Alabama Legislature’s “profound regret” for slavery, and legislative leaders predicted the Senate will pass it on Thursday.

“We were not involved in that awful practice, but the government officials of that day were involved in slavery. For us to express our disapproval of what they did as representatives of the state is very appropriate,” Senate Rules Committee Chairman Lowell Barron, D-Fyffe, said.

Sanders, D-Selma, has 12 fellow Democrats sponsoring his resolution, including Barron and Senate President Pro Tem Hinton Mitchem, D-Union Grove.

“Politically, the Senate as a whole will probably vote for the resolution,” Mitchem said.

Barron went further, saying he’d be surprised if anyone votes against it.

The Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina legislatures have passed similar resolutions in recent weeks, and Georgia lawmakers are considering one.

“When I heard about Virginia, I said we really need to do that because there is a great power in acknowledgment when you have hurt and injured someone,” Sanders said.

Sanders’ resolution recounts the history of slavery, including African families being ripped apart and slaves being brutalized, humiliated and raped.

The resolution says “an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of wrongs can speed racial healing and reconciliation and help African-American and white citizens confront the ghosts of their collective pasts together.”

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Sen. Larry Dixon, R-Montgomery, said he abhors slavery, but he can’t vote for the resolution because he considers the wording “extremely inflammatory.”

“My people did not have small minds and weren’t tyrants. My people didn’t own any slaves. My people didn’t brutalize and rape. I’m not going to vote for anything that says that about my ancestors,” said Dixon, who grew up in Washington state.

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Sen. Charles Bishop, R-Jasper, said he’s concerned the resolution might open the state to lawsuits seeking restitution for slavery, but proponents said that is not the intention.

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