Apology For Slavery Derailed In Albany

Robert J. McCarthy, Buffalo News, June 25, 2007

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Sen. Dale M. Volker, R-Depew, co-sponsored the measure that would made New York the first northern state to offer such an an apology.

The bill passed the Assembly but died in the Senate along with negotiations over several other higher-profile bills. Volker said it got tangled in other legislation regarding police matters opposed by some African-American legislators.

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The bill “acknowledging the tragedy of slavery” from the 1620s until statewide emancipation in 1827 passed unanimously in the Assembly under the sponsorship of Assemblyman Keith Wright, D-Harlem, and was cleared for passage by Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, according to Volker.

The proposal followed the lead of other states extending official apologies, which Volker said addressed the issue without venturing into the controversial topic of government reparations.

A separate bill has been introduced to study what would be owed the descendants of slaves should reparations be approved, but it is thought to have little chance of passage.

“That would be ridiculous,” Volker said. “And besides, a lot of people from New York died in the Civil War [attempting to end slavery].”

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But the rancor gripping the Capitol in recent days, which left several even more substantive issues with no resolution, caught the apology bill, too.

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He added that an unfortunate result of the bill’s failure is that the Legislature has never rescinded an 1817 law recognizing slavery.

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