Saturday, March 28, 2009

Your Black News: Tennessee May Apologize for Slavery

Tennessee could join the list of Southern states that have apologized for slavery and racial discrimination under a resolution introduced by a Nashville lawmaker.

The General Assembly has started debate on a resolution that would express "profound regret" for enslaving African-Americans and setting up the Jim Crow segregation system. The resolution is meant to draw attention to the legacy of racism in Tennessee.

"This is a step toward racial healing," said the measure's sponsor, Rep. Brenda Gilmore, a Nashville Democrat.

The measure passed its first vote Wednesday in a state Housesubcommittee. One representative, Chattanooga Republican Gerald McCormick, opposed the measure, saying that it would cause division within the state.

"There's no one left alive today who either had slaves or was a slave," McCormick said. "I just feel like we're opening up a wound, and I'd rather move forward rather than look backward."

Five former slave states — Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama and Florida — have passed legislation in recent years apologizing for slavery. New Jersey has also passed legislation apologizing for its role in the slave trade.

Tennessee lawmakers have tackled the issue as well. Last year, Memphis Congressman Steve Cohen sponsored a resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives apologizing for slavery, and earlier in this decade, former Democratic state Rep. Henri Brooks of Memphis tried to get the Tennessee legislature to apologize.

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