Repentance for slavery has a long way to go, say advocates

Convention resolutions would extend process
By Janet Kawamoto, July 12, 2009

[Episcopal News Service — Anaheim, California] Efforts to deal with the Episcopal Church’s legacy of complicity in slavery have been difficult and slow, and the church needs more time to deal with the issue, say several resolutions pending in the Social and Urban Affairs Committee.

In recent hearings at General Convention in Anaheim, members of the committee have considered resolutions A142, A143 and C050, which would extend and expand the Episcopal Church’s exploration of its role in the institution of slavery and its modern-day repercussions.

General Convention 2006 passed several resolutions on the subject of the church’s complicity in slavery as well as other forms of exploitation and abuse of non-white peoples. The resolutions called on dioceses to explore the history of slavery and its aftermath and to find ways to seek reconciliation and healing.

“The reality is that the two resolutions [on slavery] that were passed in 2006 have elicited a paucity of response,” the Rev. Canon Ed Rodman, a retiring member of Executive Council, told ENS. “Only 12 or 13 dioceses began to do the work.”

On July 9, representatives of several of those dioceses — New York, Mississippi, North Carolina and Maryland — outlined how they have worked to study racism and the repercussions of slavery.

The dioceses explored the legacy of slavery and racism in various ways, many of them involving screenings of “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North,” a film created by Katrina Browne, a descendent of the DeWolf family of Rhode Island, longtime Episcopalians who were slave traders in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The film follows Browne and members of her extended family on journeys to Ghana and Cuba and into their own hearts and minds as they wrestled with how they continue to benefit from the buying, selling and labor of enslaved people.

In addition, dioceses created study guides, video programs and other resources for congregations to delve into their own histories and confront the legacies of racism and slavery. (According to Deputy Diane Pollard (New York), chair of the Social and Urban Affairs Committee, the presentations will be made available on the website of the Episcopal Church archives in the future.)

The idea of “reparations” for slavery is a sticking point for many people. However, reparations means more than money, according to a definition prepared by the Diocese of New York: “Reparations is the process to remember, repair, restore, reconcile and make amends for wrongs that can never be singularly reducible to monetary terms. The process of reparations is an historical reckoning involving acknowledgement that an offense against humanity was committed and that the victims have not received justice.”

Dioceses that have begun the process have found creative ways to connect the study and repentance called for in the resolutions with social action in the present day. Nell Bolton, chair of the church’s anti-racism committee, said that her home diocese of Louisiana “had the mask taken off its perennial racism after [Hurricane] Katrina,” which pushed the diocese to examine both history and present-day reality.

It’s a difficult journey for dioceses, congregations and individuals to undertake, said several speakers. The Rt. Rev. Chip Marble, retired bishop of Mississippi, now assisting in North Carolina, said that in his diocese, some congregations have embraced the process, and some are not even thinking about it. “It varies,” he said. “There’s a lot of denial, people asking, ‘Why do we need to visit our past — they did it.’ The attitude is certainly prevalent. Some are taking it very seriously.”

But it’s a vital process, he said. “The only healthy past is the one that is acknowledged, confessed, repented and forgiven.”

A new addition to the conversation is “Repairing the Breach: The Episcopal Church and Slavery Atonement,” a new short documentary created by Browne as a companion to “Traces of the Trade” that was screened on July 11 in Anaheim. The new film, which is narrated by Rodman, outlines the Episcopal Church’s complicity in slavery — for example, churches constructed by slave labor and with money made by slave owners — and features reactions and comments from a number of prominent Episcopalians, including former Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold.

“Repairing the Breach” also features footage from the November 2008 Service of Repentance and Reconciliation for slavery, during which Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, representing the Episcopal Church, knelt in the nave of St. Thomas’ African Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, to pray for forgiveness for the church’s historic complicity in slavery.

A painful legacy: a difficult conversation

Advocates for the continuation resolutions say that the work of addressing the legacy of slavery, racism and exploitation is barely begun. Rodman, who is African-American, addressed the matter of response in “Issues,” a General Convention newsletter published by the The Consultation, a coalition of 13 diverse peace and social justice organizations, organized following the General Convention of 1982 (not to be confused with the Chicago Consultation).

“I would hope that we all would be alarmed at the total lack of response to … resolution A127 [from General Convention 2006] that called the church to address the stories of pain and marginalization of the many other groups whose oppression also benefited the church,” Rodman wrote.

Others expressed doubt that the resolutions would do much good. Even the service of repentance failed to help, according to R.P.M. Bowden, an African-American Episcopalian and retiring Executive Council member from Atlanta, Georgia, representing Province IV.

“The liturgy they used was not appropriate,” he said. “It was written by a white person who had no empathy for the pain that we went through.” He said he conveyed his disappointment in many aspects of the service to Executive Council. “It’s a matter of planning for us instead of with us.”

Reacting to the film, Deputy Mitzi Roy of Milwaukee said she was uplifted by the jubilation of the repentance service, but also doubtful that it had changed anything. “It was too easy,” said Roy, who is white. “We’re good at ritual.”

Several people in the post-screening discussion pointed out that racism — especially racism aimed at African-Americans — is still pervasive, in spite of the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

Katrina Browne says that her nine-year journey of discovery that culminated in “Traces” made her deeply aware of the matter of white privilege and institutional racism. Her own family’s story illustrates the involvement of the northern states in slavery through the “triangle trade” from Africa to Cuba to the North. Every part of the United States, she said, is involved, even areas where neither slave trading nor slaveholding took place, because the legacy of slavery, especially inequality in education, still causes inequality. “The playing field has not been leveled,” she said.

“I am still humbled every day by my blinders,” Browne said, “and by what I still have to learn right now, in the midst of absorbing how my sense of entitlement impacts how I walk in the world.”

On July 11, she said, she was deeply moved to see news reports of President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama visiting Cape Coast Castle in Ghana, where her ancestors traded in African men and women to bring to America as slaves.

“It was striking that Presiding Obama remarked on being impacted by the sight of a church built over the slave dungeons,” said Browne. “Christian churches played a central role in condoning and justifying slavery. There is much reckoning to do in Protestant and Catholic churches, and the Episcopal Church has courageously taken on that work for the last several years, and will hopefully continue to do so.”

Even though the progress towards repentance and reconciliation is slow, said Rodman, it’s essential that resolutions calling for this work be passed. “If you don’t have this mandate on the books,” he said, “there’s no chance that anyone will do anything about it out of the goodness of their own hearts.

“General Convention has the responsibility to face this, for the soul of church.”


Quakers show value of looking hard at history

They reexamined their role in slavery and abolition.

By William C. Kashatus
Apologizing for slavery has resurfaced as a controversy in the national dialogue on race. Last summer, Congress passed non-binding resolutions doing so. More recently, the Episcopal Church issued a formal apology.

Some argue that such apologies are a mistake, misreading history and distracting from the real work of race relations. Others insist they’re a necessary first step to coming to terms with an issue that still haunts the nation’s soul.

Philadelphia’s Quakers seem to have reached a compromise. Instead of issuing a formal apology, the Society of Friends is taking a hard look at its historical role in slavery and abolition. In the process, it’s discovered some unpleasant truths and published a revisionist history correcting previous accounts that glorified Quaker abolitionism.

To be sure, Philadelphia’s Quakers were pioneers in the struggle to abolish slavery. In 1688, the Germantown Meeting wrote the first antislavery petition in North America. Acting on the denomination’s most fundamental belief – in an “Inner Light,” or presence of God, in every human being – the Germantown Friends reasoned that if God manifests in each individual, then all humans are of equal value in his eyes. Accordingly, they urged their Quaker brethren to “stand against the practice of bringing slaves into this colony, or selling them against their own will.”

But the leaders of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting ignored the petition. Many Quaker elders were the richest and most powerful merchants in Pennsylvania, and their wealth came from dealing in the African slave trade. Some even owned slaves themselves. This contradicted the Quakers’ belief in equality, but they refused to admit it.

So the struggle to end slavery within the Religious Society of Friends rested with the more independent-minded and compassionate Quakers. Not until 1758 did the yearly meeting forbid members from involvement in the slave trade. Eighteen years later, in 1776, slaveholding was made a cause for disownment from the faith, making the Friends the first sizable Christian denomination to abolish slavery among its members.

Though late-19th-century histories suggest Philadelphia Yearly Meeting unconditionally supported the antislavery movement, most Quakers were not involved in it. Instead, individual Friends focused on the broader society and appealed to the consciences of slave owners. Some worked with non-Quakers and free blacks despite the yearly meeting’s warnings to “avoid activities with those not of our religious profession.”

Those Quakers who embraced abolitionism adopted a range of approaches, including colonization, or relocating freed slaves to Liberia; antislavery pamphlets; petitions to Congress; and boycotts of products made with slave labor. Only a radical minority of Quakers participated in the Underground Railroad, the clandestine network of abolitionists who illegally guided slaves to freedom in the North.

In fact, divisions over theology, social reform, and politics led to a schism between Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and its radical abolitionist members, who established a yearly meeting of Progressive Friends near Kennett in 1853. These radicals saw themselves as operating according to a “higher law” that superseded federal law, consistent with Christian principles set forth in the Bible.

Several members of this splinter group were active Underground Railroad agents, including Thomas Garrett of Wilmington, Elijah Pennypacker of Phoenixville, and Lucretia Mott of Philadelphia. They admitted that their efforts would not have succeeded without the assistance of William Still, the African American director of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society’s General Vigilance Committee, and Philadelphia’s free black community.

On June 20, 1862, a delegation of Progressive Friends met with President Abraham Lincoln and implored him to free the slaves. In so doing, they said, he would not only secure a favorable place in history, but also “secure the blessing of God.” Delegations like these, along with changing political circumstances and Lincoln’s own spiritual transformation, helped inspire him to issue the Emancipation Proclamation less than six months later.

After revisiting its past, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting cannot rightfully take credit for the heroic efforts of individual Quakers who jeopardized their livelihoods – and, in some cases, their lives – to end slavery. Many of these abolitionists were in fact alienated or disowned by the meeting leadership. To admit that historical fact is a necessary first step in thoughtful discussion and constructive action on race.

This was the goal of Donna McDaniel and Vanessa Julye, whose recent work, Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice, offers a refreshingly candid revision of the history of Quaker abolitionism. Let’s hope the book serves as a starting point for Philadelphia Yearly Meeting and a model for other denominations as this country moves forward on race relations.

After the Apology: Pass the Conyers Bill

By Julianne Malveau

I am not sure how I feel about the United States Senate unanimously passing a resolution apologizing the historic mistreatment of Black people.

The resolution “acknowledged the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery” and “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.” Unanimously passed!

Could that have happened a decade ago? Part of me is appreciative for the apology. Part of me says too little, too late, and what’s next? The apology is especially tainted by the refusal to deal with the issue of reparations, but the apology is a step forward.

A North Carolina friend and colleague, Lenora Billings Harris, sent an email to her list that says “acknowledgement … the first step for healing and change. “

There is a necessary next step. It is not to pay out reparations. It is to understand exactly what the Senate (and Congress) are apologizing for. Congressman John Conyers has, since 1989, introduced legislation to simply study the impact that slavery had on contemporary African-American life. Last time I checked the cost of the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act had a modest price ticket, something around $12 million. Lots in a recession? When do we settle up? How long do we let this simmer?

I know that there are those who say, “Just get over it!”

Last time I checked the descendents of slaves are the only ones asked to get over our history. Of course this is a history about which so many Americans have much ambivalence. How can we, on one hand, tout education while accepting the fact that more than 15 Southern states actually had the temerity to pass laws that prevented slaves from learning to read?

“To teach a slave to read is to excite dissatisfaction to the detriment of the general population,” reads the 1831 law that passed in North Carolina. The excitement of mass dissatisfaction, then, was perhaps postponed for 135 years until cities sizzled in response to the injustice that had base discrimination at its roots.

Even if we could “get over” slavery, what about contemporary disparities, such as the growing wealth gap? Are we supposed to get over that, too?

The Conyers Commission would “examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies.”

What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with getting it all out? The remedy might not be reparations as in write a check to every African-American. The remedy might be community repair, as in upgrade inner city high schools and HBCUs. An apology without a remedy is only symbolic, which is possibly why it garnered a unanimous vote.

Let’s get past the symbolism to really review and repair aspects of our history.

Congressman John Conyers is to always be commended for his tenacity. He keeps introducing his bill, every legislative session. He keeps talking about it.

He can’t even get the full support of the Congressional Black Caucus, and that’s some kind of a shame. For him, though, it does not matter. He believes in this study.

The Senate apology represents growth for the United States Senate and the possibility of healing for our nation. It does not close the door, however, on a history that can only be described as shameful. Passing the Conyers legislation brings us closer to closing the door.

(Julianne Malveaux is president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. She can be reached at

Rothschild and Freshfields founders had links to slavery, papers reveal

By Carola Hoyos

Published: June 26 2009 23:32 | Last updated: June 26 2009 23:32

Two of the biggest names in the City of London had previously undisclosed links to slavery in the British colonies, documents seen by the Financial Times have revealed.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild, the banking family’s 19th-century patriarch, and James William Freshfield, founder of Freshfields, the top City law firm, benefited financially from slavery, records from the National Archives show, even though both have often been portrayed as opponents of slavery.

Far from being a matter of distant history, slavery remains a highly contentious issue in the US, where Rothschild and Freshfields are both active.

JPMorgan, the investment bank, set up a $5m scholarship fund for black students studying in Louisiana after apologising in 2005 for the company’s historic links to slavery.

The archival documents have already prompted one of the banks named in the records to take action in the US.

When the FT approached Royal Bank of Scotland with information about its predecessor’s links with slavery, the bank researched the claim, updated its own archives and amended the disclosures of past slave connections that it had previously lodged with the Chicago authorities.

But it is the disclosures about Mr Rothschild and Mr Freshfield that are likely to prompt the biggest stir.

In the case of Mr Rothschild, the documents reveal for the first time that he made personal gains by using slaves as collateral in banking
dealings with a slave owner.

This will surprise those familiar with his role in organising the loan that funded the UK government’s bail-out of British slave owners when colonial slavery was abolished in the 1830s. It was the biggest bail-out of an industry as a percentage of annual government expenditure – dwarfing last year’s rescue of the banking sector.

The chief archivist of the Rothschild family papers, Melanie Aspey, reacted with disbelief when first told of the contents of the records,
saying she had never seen such links before.

Niall Ferguson, Laurence A.Tisch professor of history at Harvard and author ofThe World’s Banker: A History of the House of Rothschild, said the documents showed “how pervasive slavery was in the structure of British wealth in 1830”.

In Mr Freshfield’s case, the records reveal that he and his sons had several slave-owner clients, mostly based in the Caribbean. The lawyers acted as trustees of the owners’ estates and in one case tried to claim unpaid legal fees for the firm through the government scheme set up to compensate owners after abolition.

Nick Draper, a University College London academic who examined the documents, which will now form the basis of a comprehensive British slavery database at UCL, said the records would hopefully promote a better understanding of of the significance of slavery in Britain.

“We need to fill the gaps between those who deny slavery’s role and those who believe Britain was built entirely on the blood of slaves,” he said.

Both Rothschild, the bank, and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer were quick to point to their predecessors’ anti-slavery credentials.

Rothschild said Nathan Mayer Rothschild had been a prominent civil liberties campaigner with many like-minded associates and “against this
background, these allegations appear inconsistent and misrepresent the ethos of the man and his business”.

Freshfields said James William Freshfield was an active member of the Church Missionary Society, “which was committed to … the abolition of the slave trade”.

Apologies and acknowledgements

Several institutions have apologised for, or acknowledged, their links to slavery including:

●In March 2002, Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann, a lawyer and activist, launched an unsuccessful legal action against Aetna , a healthcare
benefits company, and others for unjust enrichment through slavery. Legislation in California and Illinois prompted several companies to research their past and some to apologise and make atonement gestures.

●In mid-2000 Aetna, prompted by Ms Farmer-Paellmann, was one of the first to apologise for insurance policies written on slaves 140 years

●In 2002, New York Life, the insurer, donated documents about the insurance it sold to slave owners in the 1840s to a New York library. It
also backed educational efforts.

●In 2005 JPMorgan, the investment bank, apologised that two of its predecessors in Louisiana – Citizens Bank and Canal Bank – had mortgaged slaves. The bank made its research public and set up a $5m scholarship fund for African- American pupils.

●Lehman Brothers apologised in 2005 for its predecessors’ links to slavery, while Bank of America said it regretted any actions its
predecessors might have taken to support or tolerate slavery.

Wachovia Bank, since acquired by Wells Fargo, also apologised for its predecessors having owned and profited from slaves. It set up a
programme offering $1bn in loans for black car dealerships.

●In October 2001 students at Yale University pointed out its past links with slavery. The university noted it had already founded the
Gilder-Lehrman centre for the study of slavery.

Brown University has set up a commission to look into links with slavery and how it should make amends.

●In 2006 Tony Blair, prime minister, expressed “deep sorrow” for the UK’s role in the slave trade.

●Last week the US Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologising for slavery and segregation.

US Senate votes formal apology for slavery

by Olivier Knox

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US Senate approved a fiercely worded resolution Thursday formally apologizing for the “fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery” of African-Americans.

The unanimous voice vote came five months after Barack Obama became the first black US president, and ahead of the June 19 “Juneteenth” celebration of the emancipation of African-Americans at the end of the US Civil War in 1865.

House of Representatives approval, which could come as early as next week, would make it the first time the entire US Congress has formally apologized on behalf of the American people for one of the grimmest wrongs in US history.

The bill, which does not require Obama’s signature, states that the US Congress “acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws” that enshrined racial segregation at the state and local level in the United States well into the 1960s.

And the Congress “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.”

It also recommits lawmakers “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 society.”

Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa and Republican Sam Brownback of Kansas led the debate as both major US parties banished their deep differences on subjects like the economy to come together on the measure.

“We pledge to move beyond this shameful period and we officially acknowledge and apologize for the institution of slavery in this country what many refer to as ‘the original sin of America,'” said Brownback.

“Let us make no mistake: This resolution will not fix lingering injustices. while we are proud of this resolution and believe it is long overdue, the real work lies ahead,” said Harkin.

In a step that has angered some African-American lawmakers, the measure takes pains not to fuel the push for the US government to pay reparations to the descendants of African slaves.

“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 States,” it says.

That has drawn “serious concerns” within the Congressional Black Caucus, though the group has yet to decide on a formal position towards the legislation, a source close to the group said Thursday.

It was unclear whether opposition from those lawmakers could force a change to the language or otherwise hinder the measure.

And Harkin said a “fitting ceremony” to mark final passage would occur in early July. Supporters hope Obama will attend the event.

Former president Bill Clinton expressed regret for slavery during a March 1998 trip to Africa, while his successor, George W. Bush, called slavery “one of the greatest crimes of history” during a July 2003 visit to Goree Island, Senegal, a former slave-trade port.

Some US states have officially adopted resolutions expressing regret or remorse for slavery.

The debate came as the United States marked the 80th anniversary of civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr’s birthday, and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, who formally declared blacks in secessionist states free during the civil war in 1863.

And 2009 is also the hundredth year since the founding of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) civil rights group.

The US Congress has apologized for other wrongs over the years: In 1988, it apologized for the World War II-era internment of people of Japanese descent, and 20 years later for the treatment of Native American peoples as the United States grew.

British government to publish profits from slave trade

The British government will embark on an in-depth study to measure how monies accrued from the slave trade were spent. The government announced recently that it will set up an online database of all slave owners in the country during the abolition of slavery in 1833 and will trace how the wealth was spent.

Monday 15 June 2009, by Muritala Bakare

The study will look into those British companies and institutions established from the profits of slavery and this, the government say will also highlight how the owners were involved and contributed to the provision of social services such as building the railways.

The Church of England is noted as having particularly benefited from the slave trade.

Indeed, at a synod in February 2006, the Church of England decided to issue an apology for their involvement in the slave trade. The Right Reverend Tom Butler, Bishop of Southwark, United Kingdom, also at the same time noted that “The profits from the slave trade were part of the bedrock of our country’s (Great Britain) industrial development…” and “no one who was involved in running the business, financing it or benefiting from its products can say they had clean hands.”

Mixed reactions

There have been mixed reactions towards such study. Mark who lives in London writes in the morning Metro criticising the initiative saying: “British companies founded using the profits of slavery are to be exposed. What a pointless exercise. What will this achieve? Slavery was abolished almost 200 years ago and that is a good thing but it should be left in the past.”

But Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 2006 said : “To speak here of repentance and apology is not words alone; it is part of our witness to the Gospel, to a world that needs to hear that the past must be faced and healed and cannot be ignored … by doing so we are actually discharging our responsibility to preach good news, not simply to look backwards in awkwardness and embarrassment, but to speak of the freedom we are given to face ourselves, including the unacceptable regions of … our history.”

The study which is financed by the Economic and Social Research Centre will cost over £600,000 pounds and people are concerned what the benefits of such study will bring. “Such an amount is just too much for a mere study that will only look into how the gains from slavery were used. Are there no other causes the money can serve? That money could serve African students wanting to study on such related courses,” said Saheed Muyanga.

President Obama Confronts Holocaust Evil, Now What About the Slavery Evil

by earl ofari hutchinson

President Obama spoke forcefully, passionately and correctly at the Buchenwald death camp on the evil of the Holocaust. He implored nations to confront those who would deny its horror. Obama should do the same about the evil of slavery. There are two arguments against him doing that though. Then Presidential candidate Obama raised one on the couple of occasions when he was asked about reparations. He tersely said that the best way to address racial disparities is to provide more resources and programs for education, employment and health care. Blacks would be the greatest beneficiaries. The other argument is that slavery ended nearly a century and a half ago. The obliteration of legal segregation, oceans of civil rights laws, voting rights, affirmative action programs, Oprah, Colin Powell, Eric Holder, Tiger Woods and a big, prosperous black middle class, has erased the stain of slavery. Neither argument will wash.

Two years ago Virginia apologized for slavery. The apology was not just a matter of doing the morally right thing. The U.S. government, not just a handful of evil Southern planters encoded slavery in the Constitution, and protected and nourished it for a century. Traders, insurance companies, bankers, shippers, and landowners, made billions off of it. Their ill-gotten profits fueled America’s industrial and agricultural might. For decades after slavery’s end, white trade unions excluded blacks and confined them to the dirtiest, poorest paying jobs. Though many white and non-white immigrants came to America after the Civil War, they were not subjected to the decades of relentless racial terror and legal segregation as were blacks. Through the decades of slavery and Jim Crow segregation, African-Americans were transformed into the poster group for racial deviancy. The image of blacks as lazy, crime and violence prone, irresponsible, and sexual predators has stoked white fears and hostility and served as the standard rationale for more than 4,000 documented lynchings, as well as the countless racial assaults, and acts of hate crime violence.

Many blacks earn more and live better than ever today, and have gotten boosts from welfare, social and education programs, civil rights legislation, and affirmative action programs. But that does not mean that America has shaken the hideous legacy of slavery. The Urban League in its annual State of Black America reports finds that young blacks are far likelier than whites to be imprisoned, serve longer terms, and are more likely to receive the death penalty even when their crimes are similar. Blacks continue to have the highest rates of poverty, infant mortality, violence victimization rates, and health care disparities than any other group in America. They are still more likely to live in segregated neighborhoods, be refused business and home loans, their children attend failed public schools than any other group, and are more likely to be racially profiled on America’s urban streets.

There is nothing new about state and federal governments issuing apologies and even payments for past wrongs committed against African-Americans. The U.S. government admitted it was legally liable in 1997 to pay the black survivors and family members of the two-decade long syphilis experiment begun in the 1930’s by the U.S. Public Health Service that turned black patients into human guinea pigs. The survivors got $10 million from the government and an apology from President Clinton They were the victims of a blatant medical atrocity conducted with the full knowledge and approval of the U.S. government. The state legislature in Florida in 1994 agreed to make payments to the survivors and relatives of those who lost their lives and property when a white mob destroyed the all-black town of Rosewood in 1923. This was a specific act of mob carnage that was tacitly condoned by some public officials and law enforcement officers. Florida was liable for the violence and was duty bound to apologize and pay. The Oklahoma state legislature has agreed at least in principle that reparations and apology should be made to the survivors of the dozens of blacks killed, and the hundreds more that had their homes and businesses destroyed by white mobs with the complicity of law enforcement in the Tulsa massacre of 1921.

A bill by Michigan Congressman John Conyers has kicked around Congress since 1989 would establish a commission to study the impact of slavery and the feasibility of paying reparations to blacks. The brutal truth is that the mainstay of America’s continuing racial divide is its harsh and continuing mistreatment of poor blacks. This can be directly traced to the persistent and pernicious legacy of slavery. Nearly a century and a half later, that legacy is still very much alive and well. President Obama condemned the monstrosity of the Holocaust six decades after it ended. In doing that he recognized that there’s no time frame or statue of limitations on evil. It can still affect generations born years after the horror officially ended. There’s nothing wrong with recognizing the same about slavery.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His weekly radio show, “The Hutchinson Report” can be heard on weekly in Los Angeles Fridays on KTYM Radio 1460 AM and live streamed nationally on

Senate Unanimously Endorses Apology For Slavery In Connecticut


Hartford Courant


The state Senate unanimously gave final legislative approval late
Wednesday night to a joint resolution with the House that formally
apologizes for slavery in Connecticut.

The resolution did not allow for reparations or payments to anyone who might have been harmed by events during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The Senate’s bipartisan support for the measure, in the 36-0 roll-call vote, echoed the House’s overwhelming approval in a voice vote on May 21.

State Sen Toni Harp, D-New Haven, said Connecticut had “the largest number of slaves in New England” at the time of the American Revolution,” and its legislature rejected emancipation bills in 1777, 1778, and 1780.

Even today, she said, “many African-Americans, as myself, wear the brand of slavery internally,” she said, and an apology “is something that will go a long way to making things different.” She said she hoped the “symbolic move” reflects “a renewed commitment” to eliminating racially related disparities in society.

Senate Republican leader John McKinney of Fairfield called it “an honor to speak on behalf of this resolution,” adding that in spite of “tremendous progress, … we must not forget our history” or cease to recognize the “constant need to look for equality.”

Overwhelming majority of UN member countries adopt draft final document

Overwhelming majority of UN member countries adopt draft final document of the World Conference against Racism

GENEVA, April 21.— Cuban Vice Minister of Culture Rafael Bernal addressed the Durban Review Conference being held in Geneva, stating that the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action of the World Conference against Racism continues to be the most transcendental document in efforts by the international community to fight racism and racial discrimination.

Bernal recalled that in Durban, in 2001, the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, said that “Racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia are not naturally instinctive reactions of human beings but rather a social, cultural and political phenomenon.”

Rafael Bernal spoke about the importance of eradicating all types of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, reported Prensa Latina. He said that the descendents of the victims of slavery and the transatlantic African slave trade deserve reparations and compensation for these crimes against humanity.

Bernal said that it is deplorable that a reduced number of countries have decided to unilaterally isolate themselves from the joint action of the international community in the struggle against racism and are trying to boycott the onference. “We regret that the negotiation of the final document of this Review Conference has been carried out in the midst of a negative environment of artificial pressures and the non-participation of some Western powers.”

The Cuban vice minister of Culture said that racial discrimination and xenophobia become worse with the widening gap between the rich and the poor as result of neo-liberal globalization and centuries of slavery.

“There still are foreign occupations, such as the case of the people in the Occupied Palestine Territories by a power that does not value justice, morals or international law,” he said.

Bernal also spoke about Cuba’s efforts to offer support to the Third World, despite being a victim of a cruel and criminal economic blockade that has lasted more than 50 years.

The final declaration of the Durban Review Conference was passed by 182 countries and rejected by the following 10: the United States, Germany, Israel, Canada, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Poland, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic.

The official confirmation will take place at the final session of the conference on April 23 when the document will be discussed again. The early adoption of the final document, calling for an end to intolerance and discrimination, is probably a result of fears that the text could be modified in later debates.

The 143 articles of the new declaration call to protect vulnerable minorities, especially certain groups such as the Gypsies and people infected with HIV.

Durban Review Conference: U.S. Position

Robert Wood

Acting Department Spokesman, Office of the Spokesman

Bureau of Public Affairs

Washington, DC

April 13, 2009

The United States welcomes the recent progress that has been made through the efforts of many delegations, governments and officials in the formulation of the draft outcome document for the Durban Review Conference on April 20. As the United States noted on February 27, the previous draft text contained objectionable language in several areas. Since then, substantial improvements have been made, including shortening the document, removing all language that singled out any one country or conflict, and removing language that embraced the concept of “defamation of religion” and that demanded reparations for slavery. We commend those who have worked to effect these changes.

There remain, however, elements of the current draft text that continue to pose significant concerns. The U.S. believes any viable text for the Review Conference must be shortened and not reaffirm in toto the flawed 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action (DDPA). In addition, while references to “defamation of religion” have been removed from the current draft text, we cannot support restrictions on freedom of expression that could result from some of the document’s language related to “incitement” to religious hatred — a concept that the United States believes should be narrow and clearly defined and made consistent with human rights obligations ensuring freedom of expression.

We appreciate that many delegations continue to work hard in good will to improve the current text. We hope that these remaining concerns will be addressed, so that the United States can re-engage the conference process with the hope of arriving at a Conference document that we can support.