On the 150th anniversary of the December 6, 1865, ratification of the 13th Amendment—which abolished slavery in the United States—the state of Delaware announced plans to formally apologize for the role it played in the slave trade.
“For generations, our country denied and actively contested a basic fact of humanity: that nothing about the color of one’s skin affects that person’s innate rights to freedom and dignity,” Democratic governor Jack Markell told the congregation at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Wilmington on Sunday. “We must publicly and candidly acknowledge the lasting damage of past sins—damage that continues to reverberate more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery.”
The governor and state legislators have drafted a house joint resolution that, if passed by the primarily Democratic General Assembly (GA), would apologize for the state’s history of slavery.
Delaware Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry—who will co-sponsor the resolution when it goes before the GA in early 2016—explained the need for the resolution in a statement:
Slavery is the darkest chapter of our nation’s history. And while the page has long been turned, the scars from the whippings, the bruises from the shackles, the tears from the torment can still be felt all these years later in the continued struggle against racism, prejudice and the power of the privileged. Who we are as a state and nation is shaped by our history—the good and the bad. And who we can be tomorrow is predicated upon our ability to show empathy for each other today. In my view, an apology for slavery is just that: an act of empathy that won’t undo the past, but will once and for all acknowledge the experience of so many Delawareans who still feel its harsh effects.