(Senate - June 11, 2009)

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[Pages S6568-S6569]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. HARKIN (for himself, Mr. Brownback, Mr. Levin, Mr. Durbin, Mr. 
Kennedy, Mr. Lautenberg, Ms. Stabenow, Mr. Bond, and Mr. Cochran) 
submitted the following conrurrent resolution; which was ordered held 
at the desk:

                            S. Con. Res. 26

       Whereas, during the history of the Nation, the United 
     States has grown into a symbol of democracy and freedom 
     around the world;
       Whereas the legacy of African Americans is interwoven with 
     the very fabric of the democracy and freedom of the United 
       Whereas millions of Africans and their descendants were 
     enslaved in the United States and the 13 American colonies 
     from 1619 through 1865;
       Whereas Africans forced into slavery were brutalized, 
     humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the indignity of 
     being stripped of their names and heritage;
       Whereas many enslaved families were torn apart after family 
     members were sold separately;
       Whereas the system of slavery and the visceral racism 
     against people of African descent upon which it depended 
     became enmeshed in the social fabric of the United States;
       Whereas slavery was not officially abolished until the 
     ratification of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the 
     United States in 1865, after the end of the Civil War;
       Whereas after emancipation from 246 years of slavery, 
     African Americans soon saw the fleeting political, social, 
     and economic gains they made during Reconstruction 
     eviscerated by virulent racism, lynchings, 
     disenfranchisement, Black Codes, and racial segregation laws 
     that imposed a rigid system of officially sanctioned racial 
     segregation in virtually all areas of life;
       Whereas the system of de jure racial segregation known as 
     ``Jim Crow'', which arose in certain parts of the United 
     States after

[[Page S6569]]

     the Civil War to create separate and unequal societies for 
     Whites and African Americans, was a direct result of the 
     racism against people of African descent that was engendered 
     by slavery;
       Whereas the system of Jim Crow laws officially existed 
     until the 1960's--a century after the official end of slavery 
     in the United States--until Congress took action to end it, 
     but the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day;
       Whereas African Americans continue to suffer from the 
     consequences of slavery and Jim Crow laws--long after both 
     systems were formally abolished--through enormous damage and 
     loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of 
     human dignity and liberty;
       Whereas the story of the enslavement and de jure 
     segregation of African Americans and the dehumanizing 
     atrocities committed against them should not be purged from 
     or minimized in the telling of the history of the United 
       Whereas those African Americans who suffered under slavery 
     and Jim Crow laws, and their descendants, exemplify the 
     strength of the human character and provide a model of 
     courage, commitment, and perseverance;
       Whereas, on July 8, 2003, during a trip to Goree Island, 
     Senegal, a former slave port, President George W. Bush 
     acknowledged the continuing legacy of slavery in life in the 
     United States and the need to confront that legacy, when he 
     stated that slavery ``was . . . one of the greatest crimes of 
     history . . . The racial bigotry fed by slavery did not end 
     with slavery or with segregation. And many of the issues that 
     still trouble America have roots in the bitter experience of 
     other times. But however long the journey, our destiny is 
     set: liberty and justice for all.'';
       Whereas President Bill Clinton also acknowledged the deep-
     seated problems caused by the continuing legacy of racism 
     against African Americans that began with slavery, when he 
     initiated a national dialogue about race;
       Whereas an apology for centuries of brutal dehumanization 
     and injustices cannot erase the past, but confession of the 
     wrongs committed and a formal apology to African Americans 
     will help bind the wounds of the Nation that are rooted in 
     slavery and can speed racial healing and reconciliation and 
     help the people of the United States understand the past and 
     honor the history of all people of the United States;
       Whereas the legislatures of the Commonwealth of Virginia 
     and the States of Alabama, Florida, Maryland, and North 
     Carolina have taken the lead in adopting resolutions 
     officially expressing appropriate remorse for slavery, and 
     other State legislatures are considering similar resolutions; 
       Whereas it is important for the people of the United 
     States, who legally recognized slavery through the 
     Constitution and the laws of the United States, to make a 
     formal apology for slavery and for its successor, Jim Crow, 
     so they can move forward and seek reconciliation, justice, 
     and harmony for all people of the United States: Now, 
     therefore, be it
       Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives 
     concurring), That the sense of the Congress is the following:
       (1) Apology for the enslavement and segregation of african-
     americans.--The Congress--
       (A) acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, 
     brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws;
       (B) apologizes to African Americans on behalf of the people 
     of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them 
     and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow 
     laws; and
       (C) expresses its recommitment to the principle that all 
     people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights 
     to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and calls on 
     all people of the United States to work toward eliminating 
     racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our 
       (2) Disclaimer.--Nothing in this resolution--
       (A) authorizes or supports any claim against the United 
     States; or
       (B) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United