New Jersey Apologizes for Slavery

Tom Herster Jr., AP, January 7, 2008

New Jersey became the first Northern state to apologize for slavery, as legislators approved a resolution Monday expressing “profound regret” for the state’s role in the practice.

The Assembly and the Senate 29-2 both voted overwhelmingly to approve the resolution, which expresses the Legislature’s opinion without requiring action by the governor.

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The resolution offers an apology “for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its aftereffects in the United States of America.”

It states that in New Jersey, “the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens, from the overt racism of hate groups to the subtle racism encountered when requesting health care, transacting business, buying a home, seeking quality public education and college admission, and enduring pretextual traffic stops and other indignities.”

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According to the resolution, New Jersey had one of the largest slave populations in the Northern colonies and was the last state in the Northeast to formally abolish slavery, not doing so until 1846.

The state didn’t ratify the constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery until January 1866, a month after it had already become federal law.

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[Editor’s Note: Readers can learn more about the debate before the vote here.]

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